Ask. Just ask.
Do you ask for what you want? Seriously, do you ask for what you want?
Today, I flew back home to Northern California from New York. I’m establishing myself with a different airline, for a few reasons, and, so, am flying without status or the perks of an accumulation of many hundreds of thousands of miles. I am a commoner. An ordinary, traveler, an “occasional traveler” in the eyes of this airline. After years and years of business travel, I have developed very specific, very particular, likes, dislikes, desires, and preferences. It has been humbling and a little bit frustrating “starting over”, and flying without any frills or special treatment. I want things a particular way and I haven’t “earned” those rights just yet. For example, I like to sit as far forward in the airplane as possible, because I often have very tight connections and just want off the damn plane as soon as we reach the gate and the door opens. I also want an aisle seat, so I can easily get up and walk about if I need to use the powder room or ask for another beer or, or both. Because I am a no one with this “new” (to me) airline, I was “lucky” to have a seat on the plane at all, and, my assigned seat was two rows from the very tail of the aircraft, middle seat. Kill me.
I arrived at the airport, very early, which is my custom. I get there early to avoid the lines and the hassle at check in and at security and at the coffee shop and at the gate. I like to get there, get all checked in and through security and have a little time to relax and decompress before my flight. I like to grab breakfast at the airport and eat at the gate while I calmly wait for boarding. I hate rushing to make it to the gate as the plane boards, I really like that time to just sit and relax before a full day of travel. This morning, when the gate agent appeared (yes, I usually arrive before the gate agents even get there), I walked up to the counter, smiled, and asked if any aisle seats were available. I’d already checked on the app on my phone, and there were clearly, no aisle seats available, just a bunch of little x’s in the aisle seats, indicating someone else’s ass was destined to rest there. In fact, there were little x’s in all the seats on the diagram of the plane on the app on my phone, and on the monitor displayed over the gate. The gate agent smiled, tapped a few keys on her computer keyboard, and handed me a boarding pass with an aisle seat. I thanked her graciously, and returned to my seat in the waiting area, smiling from ear to ear. It was that easy. All signs indicated getting a better seat was not possible, which would deter most folks from asking, from even trying. Even a “no” wouldn’t have made asking all that big of a deal. I asked and the answer was “yes”. All I did was ask.
I slept the whole way from New York to Atlanta, where I had a pretty tight connection to switch planes. I didn’t have to just switch planes, I had to switch terminals. Atlanta is a pretty big airport, but, I made it to the departing gate with a bit of time to spare. Again, I was assigned a middle seat at the very back of the plane and there were x’s in all the seats on the plane. This was to be a four and a half hour flight and I couldn’t even imagine having to endure such torture; being sandwiched between two people, probably large people, who haven’t showered, have eaten garlic, and onions, and either have the flu, or Ebola, or both. I took a chair as close to the gate agent and the boarding lane as possible (another quirky little thing I do). I overheard the gate agent tell another inquiring traveler that there were no aisle seats. I walked up, smiled, and politely confirmed what I’d just heard, “did I hear you say there weren’t any aisle seats available?” I’m not sure how I phrased it differently than the previous traveler, or how I acted differently, or what, but, the gate agent assured me there were none, then, as I thanked her and began to turn, she asked what seat I was in. She said, “I’ll just jot that down on my “wish list” here, in case something comes up”. She didn’t offer to do that for the other traveler. I thanked her, again, smiled, and took my seat, feeling optimistic, sending all kinds of posi-vibes out into the universe. Ten minutes later, the gate agent called me over, quietly, by first name only. She asked if I’d like a window seat. I hesitated, but then reasoned, I’d have more shoulder room and I was going to have to ask folks to get up every time I wanted to get up anyway. She explained that the window seat she was offering me was the very first row in the coach area of the 757, and was an emergency exit, I would be right next to the galley, the bathroom, first class and the door. I’d have to throw open the emergency exit if the plane was plummeting to the earth, which I’d do no matter where I was sitting! I consented and had, at no extra charge, a premium seat on the plane. All I had to do was smile, ask, and be gracious. And send posi-vibes out into the universe. I don’t know which of those things actually works, but, heck, I figure doing all of them has worked pretty well up to this point, I’m not going to start eliminating steps.
The evening before, after a long, fun filled day of sightseeing in Long Island, I made my way to my favorite hotel near LaGuardia. I always stay at the same hotel because they are uber close to the airport and to my car rental agency. I check in, drop my car off at the car rental place the night before my early morning flight so I won’t have to mess with it at o’dark thirty. The hotel shuttle picks me up at the car rental place, and it all takes about ten or fifteen minutes, which means I can have a nice, relaxing evening finishing off any opened bottles of wine before packing my bags for the morning flight.
The next morning, I take the hotel shuttle to the airport and it’s just so easy peezy breezy. As I checked in at the hotel this time, though, I mentioned that I’d be dropping my car off and would be needing a shuttle to the airport in the morning, just to confirm what I already knew; the shuttles begin running at 4:00 AM and continue in fifteen minute intervals. I planned on taking the 4:00 AM shuttle (see above about getting to the airport really early to avoid lines and hassles checking bags and getting through security, especially now that I don’t get preferential treatment like I did with my former airline; express check in, TSA pre-check, early boarding, free upgrades, etc.). The hotel desk clerk informed me that they’d outsourced the shuttle service and that I should plan on being in the lobby a good fifteen minutes before I wanted to leave for the airport. I adjusted my alarm for the next morning on my iPhone. I may have frowned just a little bit, too. I then mentioned that I’d need the shuttle to pick me up, shortly, at the car rental agency after I dumped my luggage in my room and drove the car the half-mile to the drop off location. The desk clerk informed me that since the service had been outsourced, I’d have to take the car rental shuttle to the airport, then call the hotel, who would then call the hotel shuttle and have them come get me. I’ve had to do this at other hotels and this is one of the BIG reasons I am loyal to THIS hotel. I politely confirm my understanding, hoping an exception will be made. For naught. I asked. I got a “no”. Did it hurt? No. I was no worse off.
I took my bags to my room, grabbed my hotel room key, my purse, my phone, and the rental car key. I headed downstairs, out the door and got into the car. It is well after dark, and I kind of cased the neighborhood as I drove to the car rental place. This is Queens. I know nothing about the area, other than there is an airport, a couple of hotels, a couple of car rental agencies, and a bunch of older houses kind of all smashed together. The stretch between the hotel and the car rental place, though, is not terribly populated, is not well lit, and there are old, beat up cars parked here and there along the way. I decided walking back to the hotel may not be the best idea. I was almost resigned to the hour long, multi-shuttle ordeal. I left the car at the rental agency and stood, waiting for the rental agency airport shuttle. There was a large, digital clock display running, promising a shuttle every five minutes, but the clock clearly said it had been twelve minutes and forty-three seconds since the last shuttle passed through. A moment later, a shuttle rounded the corner, pulls up and the cheerful driver opened the door. He kind of reminded me of Nathan Lane. I liked him immediately and greeted him enthusiastically. I was the only passenger waiting. Maybe the driver was so upbeat and happy because I didn’t have twelve suitcases to schlep on board, I had none! He asked me which airline I needed to be dropped at and I explained to him the whole, long tale; that I wasn’t actually flying that night, that I was going to the airport to catch the hotel shuttle. He asked me which hotel, I tell him, the large, well-known named property right up the street. He was appalled and asked why they weren’t sending a shuttle to pick me up there. I explained to him, again, what I was told by the desk clerk, about the outsourcing and all, in good humor and with a cheerful smile. The driver looked around, I guess to make sure no one was watching, and said, “well, we’re going to make an exception,” and he turned right out of the driveway. The airport is to the left. He drove me right up to the front door of my hotel and dropped me off right next to the “outsourced” hotel shuttle. Which is just sitting there. And the driver is inside, with his feet up, looking rather bored. I thanked the Nathan Lane doppelganger, car rental shuttle driver guy graciously, and told him I was going to write a strongly worded letter to J.W. himself, or the ghost of J.W., or J.W. Jr., or maybe just “to whom it may concern”. I also intend to write a quick note to the car rental agency, mentioning what great customer service the shuttle driver offered, without going into any incriminating detail, of course. But, anyway. I got what I wanted, because, I think, I was cheerful, and chatty, and not downtrodden by the circumstances. I didn’t technically ask for a ride to the hotel, but I did everything short of that, plus some posi-vibes.
I’d been wine tasting part of the day that day, in Long Island, out in the North Fork Wine area. I recommend it. I went alone, and, everywhere I went, I bellied up to the tasting bar, instead of sitting at some secluded table. I chatted with the sommeliers and showed a genuine interest in their vineyards, their methods, their wine. I told them exactly what I wanted to taste, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, instead of opting for one of their “standard” tasting flights peppered with Chardonnays, dessert wines, and blends and such, and I was cheerfully accommodated. And, at every place, I was given, free of charge, additional, and generous, tastes of reserve wines and their favorite wines and all sorts of stuff. I didn’t ask for the extra stuff, but I did ask for exactly what I wanted, and I was cheerful and engaging, and the rest just sort of flowed, a lot like the wine!
It’s good to be home. A week on the road, eating in restaurants every meal. Makes a body feel kind of icky. I kind of just want to eat kale and baked fish for the next month. Very small portions of kale and baked fish. As soon as I walked in the front door, Mom suggested going to our favorite Thai restaurant. She asked. How could I say “no”? We drove downtown and pulled up right out front. It was breezy in Napa today, and had rained a bit. Our favorite Thai place is tiny and has a draped, patio area to accommodate more guests. The drapes were all closed, either because they were closed, or because it was breezy. But it just looked odd and empty and barren. There was a pickup truck and some a man and woman there I’d never seen before. There appeared to be a garden hose running into the outdoor dining area. We asked the couple if the restaurant was open. They said it was closed. They said it was closed with an air of finality. This is a very, very popular restaurant, I couldn’t imagine for the world how it could be closed, closed. I did recall seeing another Thai place, with virtually the same name, down on Main Street. Mom was very disappointed, so I took her by this “new” place I’d seen. Upon very close inspection, it turned out to be “our” favorite Thai place, in a “new” location, where a Mexican restaurant we used to frequent had been, before closing, with finality. We walked in and were warmly greeted by the owner, who is very sweet, and has greeted us in the same fashion for years. The first time Mom and I went there after my father passed away, he inquired about my dad, and nearly cried when we told him of his passing. This is “our” Thai restaurant. In a new location, with all indoor dining, more space for seating overall, and a bigger kitchen. It was packed. Mom always orders the same thing, Chicken Cha Cha. I like to mix it up a bit, but have been stuck on the drunken noodles lately. I perused the “new” menu and didn’t see my drunken noodles. I asked. The owner, in his broken English, explained he has them only on the dinner menu, but will have them made for me. Because I asked. I didn’t think I was that hungry. I ate every bite!
So. Do you ask for what you want?
We had no problem asking for what we wanted when we were little kids; sitting on Santa’s lap, making long lists for our birthday. So what happened to us? Why are we so afraid to ask for what we want? Do we think we don’t deserve it? Who gave us that impression? What happened between Santa’s lap and adulthood? Someone else is in charge, that’s what. We’re in charge. As “grown ups”, we’re in charge of our wish lists. We are our own Santa. And we keep giving ourselves lumps of coal.
On a grown up scale; what do we want? What do we want in life? Are we living, doing, seeing, visiting, learning, all that we want? Have we even asked ourselves what those things are? If we have taken the time, and really asked ourselves what we want, and we know what it is we want to live, do, see, visit, learn, then why aren’t we? When we ask total strangers for the things we want, in the right way, with the right attitude, and intention, we often get it. So, how come we’re denying ourselves what we want? Isn’t it time we treat ourselves as well as the clerk behind the counter treats us when we ask for exactly what we want, the sommelier, the shuttle driver? We shouldn’t go through life sitting in the middle seat in the back row of coach. No more lumps of coal! We shouldn’t go through life sampling wines we don’t enjoy just to get a taste of the ones we do. We shouldn’t go through life expecting “no” to be the answer. Nor should we go through life living a life we don’t want, working a job we don’t like, just to pay the bills, or because doing what we really love may mean starting over, or it may mean enduring the criticism of family or friends, or it may mean not making as much money. We shouldn’t go through life putting off those trips, those adventures, those experiences, for when there is more time, more money, less resistance. We are telling ourselves “no”. And we leave it at that. And we never live, do, see, visit, learn. So, what should we do instead?
Ask, just ask. Ask with a cheerful, positive, smile, with grace and enthusiasm, and some posi-vibes, and maybe the answer won’t be “no”. Ask for what you want. Ask everyone for what you want. More importantly; ask yourself.