The other day at Kennedy Airport I had one of those experiences that causes a burning rage inside me (and others, I would guess) – I was charged for an extra half hour of parking due to a failure of the airport's parking lot technology. First, the payment machine in the lot wouldn't work and then I had to wait over five minutes for a traffic light to change from red to green before I could get to the exit, insert my ticket and pay to leave.
I was hopping mad when I finally left the parking lot.
Of course, I was the only loser: I was out my $4 and I was making a fool of myself over it. I suppose the poor guy at the booth taking the money was another loser because he had to endure my ranting.
Despite my rage I did two smart things at the time. First, I asked for (okay, I demanded – again, sorry Buddy) a receipt. The other thing I did was pull over immediately after leaving the booth because I knew I wasn't in the proper state of mind to tackle the Van Wyck Expressway (Van Wick or Van Wike? I'll let you argue about that).
That was a great idea because the Van Wyck is a madhouse, especially on a Saturday night, and those few minutes let me cool down and get my head in gear. I needed all my wits about me because – as anyone who lives or has lived in NYC knows – in New York if you wait for a road sign to tell you where to go you've waited too long.
Like too many of New York's roads, the Van Wyck has terrible signage, terrible lighting, a terrible road surface and, especially, terrible drivers using it. So before I left JFK I wanted to recall the lane changes I needed to make and the exit I had to find in order to get where I wanted to go. That I safely negotiated the Van Wyck was at least somewhat due to the fact that I didn't drive off in a fury from JFK.
Then there was the receipt. I found it in my pocket yesterday. I started to get worked up about my $4 again when I decided to see if the Port Authority (JFK's owner & manager) had an online complaints procedure. I found their customer feedback page and I vented. Almost as soon as I had finished venting I had forgotten about it. Typing out my frustrations helped ease them.
Then, today, the almost unimaginable occurred: I got a phone call from the parking lot managers at JFK to talk about my feedback. As I said, I had basically put it out of my mind, but here on the phone was a representative of the faceless bureaucracy calling to talk to me. And Wow!, was the woman on the phone something else.
Keisha Johnson was her name and she was so polite and mannerly and professional and friendly that after a couple of minutes talking to her I was nearly ready to ask her where should I send the $4 check. That wasn't necessary, however.
Keisha explained how the bureaucracy worked and that I would receive a check for $4 in two weeks or three or four or whatever. I wasn't really listening because that hardly mattered. What mattered was that my rage of Saturday night was ridiculous, as this pleasant woman on the other end of the phone was demonstrating for me.
I was learning – and not for the first time, believe me – that losing your temper over a trivial slight is pointless. Far better to keep your cool and make your case in the proper way. Sometimes, even a faceless bureaucracy will respond appropriately. Lesson learned. Thanks Keisha.