Kindness Crumbs: Airports for the Win
It was supposed to be a simple 20 hour layover from Chile to Buenos Aires en route to Lima. When I checked in at the counter, the agent told me I had to pay a $160 USD ‘ Reciprocity Fee’ to enter Buenos Aires as an American. Given my $50/day budget the sticker shock hit me hard and for a moment I played out a multitude of scenarios to avoid the fee. Her manager, witnessing my furrowed brow deepen, walked over and introduced himself as Carlos and explained my options. He was SO calm and reassuring, offering inside tips on where to get wifi so that I could pay the fee online. I walked to the cafe and within minutes, Carlos appeared, with my passport in hand. We both had a good chuckle. He helped me find the exact website and I paid the fee, joking that now I’ll have ample reason to come back to Argentina for more than just a 20 hour layover. Carlos took a really stressful situation and completely turned it around for me, going way above the normal call of duty to make me feel safe in a foreign city with tough unforeseen rules about entry visas.
Carlos then offered to help me by printing my receipt in his office and assured me he would hand deliver it to my gate. About 15 minutes later, he showed up with the papers and we had one of the coolest and most insightful conversations about kindness. I asked him how he stays so calm and positive when people are yelling at him and he explained that in his 30 years working in customer service for airlines, that he’s seen it all and he feels that kindness is the weapon against malice, that its his duty to educate people how to be kind, by leading with his own kindness first. I gave him a big hug and thanked him for making a difference in my day with his positivity and can- do spirit. I asked for his manager’s email so that I could write his boss and explain what an incredible employee he has representing the company.
Since we’d emailed, he wrote me more on the topic of kindness and I felt compelled to share some excerpts below because he makes a really fascinating point about how technology is affecting our ability to be kind/empathetic:
“As I explained You, right here in our country and in general our people is losing the main cordiality and minimum actions to request something or to be kind or use well educated manners at the same time.
We are living in a very unstable relationship with others and our citizens are very rude,unpolite or aggressive whenever they need something to be solved, they have no patience enough when things happens wrongly. I personally believe, that they victims of the new technologies they use today, like wi-fi, e-mails, networks, internet, whatsapp, and so on; if they need something to buy or to know they just use their Note/Net books or I-phones to get all instantly , and all is ready in a few second, but daily real life, is quite different, because sometimes we have to wait to get some solutions to some problems or difficulties we unexpectedly have to live or face; accidents or involuntary things happens but we cannot always react like animals we have to take control of ourselves in order to react with respect and kindness.
People need to be re-educated and the way we react against accidents or inconveniences is a way of take control of hard situations and look for solutions instead of create harder situations.
Most of the people, and specially our new generations are not prepared to accept any inconvenience when things go wrong and they always react with such angry or upset faces everytime they face some trouble or problem.”
So next time you’re at the airport, remember your gate agent is just another human and treat them extra kind.