Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Kinder World?

I have been in Laredo, Texas all week. It is almost like being in Mexico. People all around me are speaking Spanish and I am eating Mexican food. It's really hard to tell the difference between Laredo and Cancun. I almost feel at home here.

I've known the staff at the hospital for a long time, and it is always a pleasure working with them. There is a chemistry here that I admire - everyone is nice and they treat each other with respect and warmth. The staff work as a team - they support each other, and they communicate. It's refreshing to see that the working environment can be a place of friendship and success. Sadly it is not like that everywhere I go.

I recently was in Oklahoma with another of my clients. There I was also struck by the genuine friendliness of everyone I met - rental car agent, hotel staff, toll booth clerk, parking lot attendant, hospital staff. The pace in Oklahoma is slower. People seem to take the time to pay attention to each other.

A couple of weeks ago I was in the Philadelphia area. I was staying at a hotel, Homewood Suites. One night I came in from work, tiredly dragging my laptop behind me. The agent behind the reception desk greeted me with a smile and said "Welcome Home". The smell of fresh-baked cookies and the warm welcome made me smile as I made my way to my room.

The hotel served up a hot dinner every night - on the house - including dessert. One night the dessert they offered was chocolate pudding with whipped cream. Creamy pudding, without the skin - yum. Whipped cream out of the can...the kind we used to love to squirt right into our mouths when we were kids (ok, I admit it - I still do it sometimes). I took a bowl of pudding back to my room and plopped in front of the tv and ate my dessert. I almost felt like I was at home.

The night before I left the Philadelphia area, I moved to a hotel at the airport. Upon check-in, the VIP agent pulled me over to her area and checked me in because the desk agents were already busy. I am not a VIP with that hotel, but she treated me like one. She offered me a complimentary glass of wine, and when I said I didn't drink but I would give it to my friend who would be coming to have dinner with me, she said that she really wanted ME to have something, so she changed the coupon to a free Starbucks coffee.

With all my travels, I'm constantly going through customs and immigration in three countries - Canada, US, and Mexico. Over the years I've had good experiences and I've had bad experiences in all three countries with immigration and customs agents, but the worst agents have been the US airport security staff. The people manning the security lines at certain airports seem to like to yell and order people about, herding us through like cattle who are hard-of-hearing. The constant shrieking makes me cringe. "Take off your shoes". "Do you have any liquids or gels?". "Take your laptop out of your bag". "Keep your boarding pass in your hands". "Keep moving". Yeah, ok...whatever...

But lately I've noticed a kinder staff, even at the worst airport. Nobody seems to be shouting at me any more. The customs and immigration agents at DFW are downright friendly and helpful, and they welcomed me to the US. Canadian agents, although more distant, are still pleasant. Mexican agents don't interact much, although the odd agent will wish me a good day when they realize I speak and understand Spanish.

So much as I hate to leave Isla and home, lately my travels have been a little kinder. I'm not sure why, but people seem to be nicer right now. Anyone else noticing a change like this?


Life's a Beach! said...

I haven't traveled much lately, but I flew through Tulsa, Oklahoma in April and Craig and I both commented that the people there in the airport were so friendly compared to Phoenix. I hate to say it, but the U.S. I'm witnessing right now appears pretty divided by politics, race, etc... I've been shocked by the anger and hate. So it's refreshing to get a different perspective.

IslaZina said...

They were kinder and gentler leaving Ohio in July than last year. I asked one of the helpers and he said there had been a shake out in the TSA staffing, replacing screeners who were throwing the weight of their badges around with little education behind them. That may only reflect my particular airport, but I would guess with time, it may have been the same at other airports. Charlotte was nice as always, but also more efficient. Learning curve?

Anonymous said...

Sure beats my trip from Hell on Sunday! Glad that you are having good experiences with all of you recent travels.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I always enjoyed working with the staff from the hospital in Laredo, it is really different there, the kindness they show towards one another. I really miss working with many of the staff at the hospitals.
Hope you had a good trip home. Having traveled from the South to the West and then the East since Katrina, it is nice to be finally be back home to the South. Thanks for your story on your travels. Great perspective!!!

Sue said...

Beck - Tulsa was where I flew into last month! (and where I'm flying into on Monday - last minute decision to be with that client next week).

Zina - makes sense that they did something with the TSA people, because there is a big difference lately. Thank goodness. I feel like a human again when I go through security.

Jackie - I read about your trip and all I can say is - I've been there many, many times, and feel for you. Not fun!

Jeanie - I actually am back in Canada until Monday, and have just cancelled plans to go back to Isla on Monday in favor of revisiting our friends in Enid. So I won't really be 'home' until next Thursday. It will be nice to get home, and stay home - at least for a while. I know you know what I mean, and I'm glad you're back 'home' too. There's no place like home (someone famous said that). :-)

Bennie said...

I really miss Dolores and the gang there in Laredo. It was a very special place to visit and they really know how to make you feel comfortable. And as much as I whine about nothing to do in Enid the folks are great folks to work with there too. That was the best part about working on the team, was the people.

As for TSA I can say they are getting kinder. I didn't know about the shake-up someone mentioned but I would say they did something to improve customer service.