Sunday, January 23, 2022

calling walter mitty

We have all done it.

We get into a heated discussion, and, as we walk away, we think of the perfect retort. And, too often, like Sideshow Bob, the moment has passed.

But that bit of Mittyism has a darker cousin. Instead of after-the-fact, we stew in our own bile over an inconsequential slight and conjure up the perfect bon mot -- something that will really hurt. Because real wit always has a victim. An intended victim.

As a result of my positive covid test last week, I ended up canceling a series of airline, hotel, and cruise reservations. Some places graciously accommodated my change in plans. Others did not, and I simply lost my money. Of course, it was already money spent.

The odd business out was American Airlines. It did not reimburse the credit card I had used to purchase my flight to San Juan. Instead, like so many airlines these days, it issued a credit toward one of its future flights. On the condition that I use it before it expires on 19 October -- of this year. 

The credit, under normal circumstances, would be of very little use to me. Even though American is an alliance partner of Alaska, my go-to airline, I have flown American perhaps once in the last decade. Its reputation is nearly as bad as United's. And their flights do not go where I usually want to fly.

As luck would have it, I will be flying to Miami at the end of April. The credit reflects my round-trip ticket from Los Angeles to San Juan. I thought that I would have money left over from the credit because I am only flying to Miami. Not round-trip.

Somehow, the credit will not cover even one-way to Miami flying on the same class of ticket as the San Juan reservation. Pricing of airline tickets often baffles me.

Having seen that, I decided to not book online, as I could, but to call an American ticket agent to book the flight on the telephone.

Where would you like to fly?


What date?

23 April. This year.

I see that you have already chosen your seat. Let me take just a moment to give you the price on that ticket. -- That will be $2,135. Would you like to use a credit card?

No. I want to use coupons.

I see you have a credit with us. Is that what you mean?

No. I want to use coupons.


Yes. I have a stack of Safeway coupons worth $2,200. I don't need any change. They are all currently valid, but they do expire at the end of this year. Which is more time than your airline gave me to use my credit. Where can I send them?

Of course, none of that happened. And it is not going to happen.

The airline telephone customer representatives have suffered far too much stress and indignation for me to add to his. For all I know, the guy just lost his girlfriend and his dog -- and his wife has offered no sympathy. I do not need to add to his woes.

Besides, the customer representatives do not set refund policies. The executives that decide these questions are ensconced in a cone of silence far beyond the borders of our sardonic wrath. It would be far better theater at a shareholders meeting.

So, I will simply dream on -- and decide that grace is always the better part of wit. 

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