—From EF—

Our house is near a sharp bend in our country road, and several times a year somebody driving with more speed than sense enlivens the night with a crash. Mailboxes, tree, utility pole, whatever, it’s a screech and a thump and the local people grab their pants and their flashlights. I have seen the skill and speed with which the utility workers work to put things right, whether it’s replacing a pole or just splicing wires. They know what to do and they care about doing it well. I really respect those guys. The suits may be greedy assholes, but the guys who do the work are great.

Our gas utility decided it was time to do safety checks on all their meters and pipes. A worker showed up with a “sniffer,” which looks like a rubber funnel at the end of a stiff hose; it beeps if it detects gas. Alongside our studio, it beeped. I said, “That’s right over the septic tank.” He called a supervisor, who asked if I could prove where the tank was. No, but I showed him the exact location; they shoved a rod into the ground and heard it knock on the concrete tank. Not good enough, the company would probably require them to excavate. The supervisor saw my dismay and paid attention when I told him the tank had a crack in it, so he sent for a super-sniffer that can tell the difference between natural gas and poop. It confirmed poop, saving us from the excavator. Those guys could have done the bare minimum: sniff, report, order the excavator, and move on, even though they knew clearly that we’d be left with a gross mess. No, they cared about their work, went to the next step and took the time to do it right.

After I’d spent last Friday night trying to sleep on the bare floor of the St. Louis airport, dawn came with no news about our aborted flight to O’Hare. The plane had been refueled, everybody’s luggage was still on board, the crew was taking their mandatory 8-hour rest period, and a 2 PM departure was still listed. There were multiple podiums in a semicircle at this end of the B gates, but all morning there were no agents anywhere. At 1:45, there were still no agents, no announcements, no updates, nobody on the tarmac around the plane. At 2:15 I figured the only thing I could do for myself was go take a leak, and on the way back I passed a guy in his United blues with cap and epaulets, and I stopped him. “It’s my business to imagine how folks are feeling. I get the idea the United agents are in a state of panic and don’t know what to do.” “Well, yeah. I’m part of your flight crew. We’re all here and ready to go but nobody is making it happen.”

By 2:45 at least somebody had changed the board and listed us for 3 PM, but still no agents, no announcements. Suddenly, a stocky red-faced woman in United garb, black hair plastered to her head with sweat, charged down the corridor to the podium and grabbed a mic. “OK, everybody, I’m boarding this plane the old-fashioned way. Group One, get up here and get on the plane! OK, Group Two.” And so on. The crew was already aboard. We still had our last night’s boarding passes, went straight to our seats, buckled up and took off. I got the strong feeling that blessed agent just knew her job and did it on her own. She had seen the misery of 150 people stranded since 2 AM, and did what needed to be done.

Let’s hear it for the people who do the work.


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