I had made a reservation to take a train after dropping off a car in Illinois. The agent I spoke to on the phone assured me that he would send an email confirmation, which was great because I was driving at the time and couldn't write it down. The reservation was made a full week before I'd be on the train so I felt good and secure about it.
But a few days before I was to arrive there, I still had not received that email. So I called the 800 number and waited on hold for a very long time until an agent answered. Finally, a lady answered "Yes, how can I help you?" I thought I detected a haughtiness in her voice, but ignored it and offered my usual cheerful greeting.
"Happy Saturday to you?"
"What did you say?"
"I said Happy Saturday. Just a friendly greeting."
"I'm not here to make friends, I'm here to do business. Do you have some business to take care of today?"
"Yes, ma'am. I'm calling about a reservation I made last week."
"Confirmation number, please?"
"That's the thing, I don't have it."
"You don't have it?"
"No, I'm sorry, you see --"
"How in the world do you expect me to find it if you don't have it?" She sounded bemused and not a little patronizing.
"That's the problem, ma'am. See, I made the reservation by phone, and--"
"Well then, you should have written the confirmation number down right then and there." There was most definitely a condescending tone creeping into her voice.
"The thing is I was driving at the time, and had one hand on the wheel and the phone in the other, so I couldn't write, and--"
"Oh no, you should never drive and talk on the phone. That's very dangerous. Next time pull over on the shoulder if you want to have a conversation."
I paused. "Well, you are right, I probably should not have been talking and driving, but--"
"You definitely should not have been. In many states, you'd be violating the law. Now we can't have that, can we?"
"No, I guess not."
"So, how can I help you today?"
"The agent I spoke to promised to email me a confirmation number, and--"
"He promised you? I sincerely doubt that. He may have told you that he would, and I'm sure his intentions were good, but that is no guarantee that you will receive an email."
"I promise you that he said he'd send it."
"He promised you, you promise me, where is all this leading, sir?"
I felt confused, for this woman sounded like my elementary school teacher challenging me on having understood the homework assignment. "He said he'd send it, but it never came."
"I'd say that's the fault of the Internet, you can't depend on modern technology. I'm quite sure that he sent it, but it's probably floating out there somewhere in the ether."
"OK, no argument there, but now I need to figure out a way to find my reservation number so I can confirm my trip."
"Well sir, you should have written it down."
"As I said, I was driving at the time."
"Remember sir, never drive and talk on the cell phone."
"Yes, right, OK, I will never do that again. But in the meantime, what information can I give you that will pull up my reservation?"
"I'll need your confirmation number."
I took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Right, but I don't have that. I can give you my name, the date of travel, the time and place of departure and arrival."
She sounded sugary sweet as she said, "I'm so sorry, but none of that will help me at all. Without a confirmation number, I'm afraid you are out of luck. May I suggest that next time you write it down."
"Because you were breaking the law and driving while talking on your cell."
"Are you kidding me? May I please speak to a supervisor?"
"I'm sorry sir, but it's Saturday. No supervisors are on duty."
"Oh, I am always serious. I take my business very seriously."
"Can I speak to a department to make an appeal for unusual circumstances or special cases?"
"Now sir, you know full well that we don't have anything like that. No such thing exists."
I was frustrated beyond belief. "Can I just please speak to someone else?"
"I'm so sorry sir, but I'm afraid I am the final word on this matter. I have explained things to you, and you'll just have to accept it. My suggestion to you is to wait until the day that you're traveling and go to the train station, and hope that your reservation is still there. Don't forget your ID."
"But I need to pay for the ticket. I called to give you my credit card information."
"And I'd be happy to take it. If only you have a confirmation number for me."
"What if I get to the station and they don't have my reservation?"
"Then I guess you won't be riding with us. Life is a gamble sir, a roll of the dice. Sometimes we just have to leave things to fate. Have a nice day." She hung up.
I was beyond stunned. How could this have happened. I called the number again, was put on hold for a half hour, and when a man answered I told him the whole story. He was laughing throughout my tale, and when I was done he said, "You know, if this happened in a movie, it would be hilarious. But I believe you, this truly happened to you, and its sad and pathetic that someone should treat you that way. I don't know how we can trace down this woman, but karma will come back and bite her in the ass. The good news is that I can help you with your reservation." And he did.