I went through Los Angeles Airport two years ago for the last time. Not last in the sense of until the next time. But for the very last time this side of the Pearly Gates. Please God my final journey to meet Saint Peter is not routed through LAX. If it were I guess I would know I was heading for the Other Place.


Arriving now in Sydney from Vancouver it seems Mascot Airport is rivalling LAX for traveller unfriendliness. One's mood is not improved by the body clock just registering 4am Pacific Time. I feel like a whinge. Maybe a sulk.

Really?

What's wrong with me?

I just enjoyed two months with our daughter's family in Seattle and their four energetic exponents of sibling rivalry. The eldest, now ten years, was able to explain sibling rivalry to me with precocious knowing. We had a wonderful and precious time. In the middle we even got to fly over and visit Anne of Green Gables. That's pretty good isn't it? Aren't we lucky that we worked long enough to be able to retire at least with modest means sufficient to fund such a trip?

These questions are rhetorical. No need to comment.

So I went and splashed water on my face and, feeling better, if not fully awake, recalled those precious few moments of travelling joy during our flights from Melbourne to Sydney to Vancouver to Seattle to Charlottetown and back. For there is joy in 21st century travel. Or there can be.

Like the man at Montreal airport charged with the mind numbing job of putting our suitcases on a conveyor belt who SANG his instructions to us. And danced too. No-one came away from that bag drop without a grin. He didn't need to do it. It wasn't in his job description. And it didn't cost him anything.

Good service is so rare that any moment of humanity is a joy.

Even in Sydney with slow baggage delivery, immense queues, uniformed men, women and dogs, and a gauntlet of form inspection points, all it took to brighten our day was the man at the end of the last line. Taking a last look at, and claiming our customs forms he said "From the 'Bool, eh?" Someone not only recognised where we were from, he knew how to abbreviate it. I wanted to hug him. He didn't need to do it. It wasn't in his job description. And it didn't cost him anything.

Good service is so easy to deliver, why is it not more common?

Checking out hire cars is probably not the most exciting job in the world, yet I met a Hertz clerk once who had decided she was going to enjoy it. I had arrived in  LAX and wasn't looking forward to the usual bland American sub-compact hire car. Perhaps I showed it.

"Hey!" she said, startling me, "You're birthday is 16th January." She waved my passport back at me, lest I disbelieve her allegation. "That's the same as mine," she added as if the 365 to one odds were particularly extraordinary.

"Awesome," she confided. "I'll upgrade you for free."

My mood changed in a moment. And soon I was explaining to colleagues how it was that I could afford to rent a Lincoln Town Car.

I have always wondered whether her birthday really was 16th January. Or whether she had just invented a customer-friendly way to jazz up the fact that Hertz had a surfeit of luxo barges that morning.

I've never forgotten it. As you can see.

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