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A case of the grumps

Posted: August 28, 2014 9:31 a.m.
Updated: August 29, 2014 6:00 a.m.

Let’s talk about grumpy people. Fie on them.

I’ll also tell you about a grumpiness lesson I learned recently. More on that later.

Earlier this week, I was reading a story about a device you can buy for use when you’re flying; it prevents the person in front of you from reclining his seat.

“Man, that sounds like a fistfight invitation,” I said to myself.

Sure enough, two people got into a tussle on a United Airlines jet the next day when one used the device -- marketed as a “knee-saver” -- and the other took exception.

The pilot had to make an emergency landing and both the combatants were escorted off the plane.

If there’s anything that will make people grumpy, it’s airlines. They’ve sunk to new depths in customer service.    

Airlines cram you into impossibly small seats, refuse to let you change your plans without paying exorbitant fees, lose your luggage on a regular basis and hire customer service representatives whose idea of friendliness is cursing you only once instead of twice.

In fact, Wall Street financial analysts have been down on Jet Blue CEO Dave Barger because they say he emphasizes customer service at the expense of squeezing every last buck out of customers.

When he steps down, as he soon will, you can probably look for Jet Blue to join all the others in gouging their way to the bank.

It’s no wonder you see a higher percentage of grumpy people in airports than in any other places.

Well, except for prisons.

I’ve always wondered about grumpy people -- folks who wake up each day looking for something to complain about.

On the Maine island where Wife Nancy and I spend time, I work in the tourism business. Most people who go there are on vacation, surrounded by beauty and whooping to have a good time.

But there are always a few grumps. Their hotel room’s too small, or their lobster wasn’t cooked properly, or the streets are too bumpy, or whatever happens to light their fire that particular day.

They are destined to wend their way through life in a funk, convinced that the deck’s stacked against them in everything they do.

So I’m not much for grumps. It’s just as easy to smile as it is to frown, and it makes everyone else a lot happier.

However, I do have my own little confession:

At an airport in Maine recently, enroute to getting back to South Carolina for a family event, I ran into a maze of construction and poorly marked parking areas.

Upon approaching the parking lot exit, after driving in circles, I said to the elderly attendant, who resembled a cheerful little elf, “Sir, with all due respect, the airport certainly has created a confusing situation here.”

OK, that’s not exactly what I said. Or how I said it.

I was irritated. And grumpy.

The little man -- red cheeks glowing and white hair perfectly combed -- looked at me and said with a lilt in his voice but a message indeed, “My, my, looks like someone got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.” Then he smiled at me -- actually in a nice, friendly way.

“Well said,” I admitted, thoroughly chastened. “And I apologize for being grumpy. I hope you have a nice day.”

Lesson learned.


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