I'm not, of late, much prone to hissy-fits — except under particular conditions. On the rare occasions I blow a gasket, it almost always involves a dispute with a company of some sort; specifically, it is when I encounter a wall of resistance in defence of what I consider arbitrary or just plain stupid "policies".
One such incident occurred today at Da Nang Airport (the nearest to Hoi An, where I am based part of the year) as I prepared to check in on a VietJetAir flight to Saigon.
My hackles began faintly itching when I noticed the woman at the counter take an inordinately long time for what should have been a straightforward process. I had no check-in luggage and she had the reservation number, as well as my passport for identification. After faffing about for a minute or so, the woman picked up a walkie talkie and began a conversation that included a very large number of words in Vietnamese wrapped around a single recognizable phrase: "Philip John Quin". Uh oh, I thought, feeling my temper begin to brew.
"What's the problem?," I asked, possibly a tad gruffly since there has always been something about airports that transforms me into an entitled wanker.
"I can't check you in," she said, producing a print-out of my booking. She pointed at the name — "P J Quin" — and then at my passport where I am described, not surprisingly, as Philip John Quin.
"Not same name" she said.
"Please go to reservation desk to change booking."
"Please go to reservation desk to change booking," she replied, verbatim.
"Yes I heard you," I said, "but I don't understand why on earth I would need a new booking".
"Your passport says 'Philip John Quin' but the booking is for 'P J Quin'," she explained, as if the words coming out of her mouth weren't the ramblings of a verifiably insane person.
"But 'P J Quin' is the same as 'Philip John Quin'," I said, perhaps with a smidgen of exasperation, "they are my initials".
"Yes, I know," she said, making me wonder briefly whether we has both lost our respective minds.
"Well, if you know, then what's the problem?"
"The system won't accept. Not same name."
"But you just agreed with me that it is the same name," I replied, by now proffering sundry credit cards and other forms of ID to demonstrate in no uncertain terms that 'Philip John' and 'P J' are interchangeable.
"I'm sorry," she said, pointing to the reservation desk.
Approaching full throttle on the fury front, I stomped across the departure hall and presented myself to the bookings people.
"There's some mistake," I said, not very nicely, "your colleague won't give me a boarding pass because I booked the flight with a credit card with 'P J Quin' but my passport says 'Philip John Quin'. It is craziness."
About three airline staff huddled to discuss my case, eventually concluding that the check-in counter woman was correct and I would need a new ticket issued if I wanted to make the flight.
By now, I was incandescent with rage, peppering them with questions:
"Are you being serious? Is this a practical joke? Have you been drinking? Have you never had a passenger who uses initials before? And, anyway, why can't you just change it on the system without charging me? Don't you see how absurd this is? That this amounts to theft?"
Their collective response boiled down to "woteva".
"If you don't pay the reticketing charge" — allow me to note here that this amounted to more than what I had paid for the original ticket — "then you won't be able to board the plane."
"I am not giving you any money!" I said, in a tone not a hundred miles removed from yelling,"let me talk to your supervisor." (I really don't want to be this person, a voice inside me said, but Team Equanimity weren't going to win this one.)
"No supervisor. You can make a complaint on website" came the most infuriating imaginable response.
"On your website? When the flight is departing in 40 minutes?"
"What is the matter with you people?" I said, now in full arsehole mode.
Anyway, there was some further back and forth, ending with me throwing money at them in disgusted capitulation. "You realize this is theft, don't you? You understand that you are stealing money from me?". More muttering from the growing phalanx of corporate drones about company policy blah blah, but mainly they just scurried to collect the notes I had scattered hither and thither, and then printing out a new booking form which, as it turned out, was not even a boarding pass. For that, I would need to return to the counter which now had a queue dozens deep.
"You seriously expect me to queue up again?" I asked them, credulity and patience stretched to breaking point, "I have no check in bags, just print me out a boarding pass here." But no. Company policy demanded that I rejoin the queue — the very queue I had avoided by arriving at the airport 30 minutes before any normal person.
And they couldn't give me a bloody window seat.
Then I fired off a series of enraged tweets, tagging the airline, before noticing that they haven't updated their Twitter account since 2011.
What a fine shamozzle.
P.S. It gives me some solace that I wrote this post mid-air, in flagrant violation of their stupid no phones rule.