My φθόνος τῶν θεῶν

Tweetbot screenshot with @DeltaAssist and @KLM Twitter accounts

I’ve had my travel plans disrupted before. In 2010, right before christmas, I was flying to London via Paris (yes, that’s what I do), and Paris was as far as I went, due to the snow storms that had covered the United Kingdom and France. That failed trip involved a lot of waiting in line, spending the night in a hotel near CDG, then flying back the next day. Also, the very heavy suitcase I was bringing my friend who then lived in London didn’t come back for another three weeks, probably buried under hundreds more suitcases in some storage room.

(And I won’t mention a hurricane scare in New Orleans in 1998, or my messy return from California in September 2001.)

I planned my 2012 fall trip so minutely it felt as if I was really trusting the system to always work without a flaw. Arriving in New York tonight, flying to Pittsburgh early tomorrow morning, doing my presentation at MAPACA on Thursday, and hanging out in person with all the people I’ve been working with for the past nine months to build MAPACA’s website. Then, on Friday, early flight to Toronto (my first time in the city), presentation at the SSA (whose website I clearly didn’t make), one extra day to explore the city. Then New York again: election day, seeing friends, dinner at Tomoe—usual stuff.

But Sandy came, and gave a big blow to my tightly packed domino set. Any rescheduling would have taken me to New York too late to be at either conference, and would have implied waiting around aimlessly for a few days, with no guarantee of no further delays and no further waiting in airports packed with cranky travelers. I would have understood and shared their crankiness.

Not having to go through all that is quite a relief, after all. I’ve canceled all my reservations. Airlines are refunding canceled flights. KLM and Delta are on Twitter, working overtime to provide service via a channel that seems more efficient and more personal than going through a toll-free number, and having to speak with someone who’s who-knows-where, and who’s probably as cranky as I am. Not that the people behind the airlines’ Twitter accounts don’t get cranky—I’m sure they do. But Twitter seems to take the directness of a phone call and pair it with the asynchronous quality of e-mail. You see someone operating a Twitter account thanks to their public activity, so you know someone is there, but because you’re not speaking directly to them it’s easier to moderate your crankiness.

Maybe it’s because service via Twitter still feels like a new thing, so airlines are going out of their way to make people feel the difference in this kind of communication, but efforts to be more polite, more restrained seem more evident. (Of course, there’s always the occasional asshat who will lash out just because he feels he’s entitled to, but I think that’s the exception.)

Here I am now, not flying, but enjoying this crisp, sunny Italian day more than I thought I would.