It is far more gratifying to act in a loving way than to act in a dismissive or argumentative way. Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project.
Bob Lefsetz talks about how his father would utilize a “charm offensive” when dealing with conflict. Lefsetz, a writer from the music industry, has been emailing his point of view on things – music-related and otherwise – to contacts since before the term “blogging” materialized. “But as much as my dad could rant and rave,” he says, “he knew when to hold ‘em and he knew when to fold ‘em, his policy was to be nice to the service people.”
I also have the ability to rant and rave. The hold ‘em, fold ‘em part? Not so much. While I want to be nice to the service people, when things go wrong – see The Way Home Parts I & II or Some Beach Somewhere – frustration and anger overpower my as yet uncovered “charm offensive”. The solution? Hang with people who have an ability to respond in a kind manner. And hope it rubs off.
In my New Year blog, Best Year Ever, I talk about responsibility, the plural of which I find overwhelming at times – I have to write this blog, then learn three routines for Jazzercise, then pay bills, then teach class – but when we flip responsibility to “ability to respond” it’s empowering, don’t you think? It means we’re all blessed with an amazing ability to be constantly responding to stuff. Oh-oh. That last response was less than amazing? Well, let this be the year of the ability to improve responding.
The stuff in this case? My fiancé B and I had a Spirit flight from Detroit to Las Vegas on December 30th. B’s college football team, the Iowa Hawkeyes, had a great regular season, finishing 5th place in the nation (12-1). They played Stanford in the prestigious Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California on New Year’s Day. The cost of flights to Los Angeles were astronomical, so we planned to drive a rental car from Vegas.
We arrived at the airport in lots of time. But when I checked the board as we whizzed by, I saw the dreaded word “canceled” beside our flight number. The weather was fine. No other flights were marked “canceled”. We pulled our luggage downstairs to the Spirit office, where people in the long line were grumbling and warning that anyone who had gotten into the office didn’t come out for an hour. B got on his cell and the representative assured him she could get us on the next flight: Jan 2. Too late! So, B had to cancel the first leg of our flight, hoping we’d be able to find a one-way. He didn’t even ask why the flight was canceled. He just calmly went into solution mode. This is exactly where my ability to respond would have crumbled to ranting and raving. Why? Why us? What about the cost of the hotel in Vegas tonight, non-refundable? What about the cost of the hotel for two nights in the LA area, non-refundable? The football tickets? The expensive tailgate before?
B led us upstairs to some benches where we connected our tablets to airport Wi-Fi and started an earnest search for a flight to somewhere – anywhere! – in the U.S. southwest. After getting SOLD OUT, SOLD OUT, SOLD OUT, I got creative and changed the departure location to Flint, Michigan, then Hamilton, Ontario. B also got the flight coordinator for his business involved, but as the minutes turned into an hour, hope for a solution faded. Before leading us from the airport, B said, “I have to tell you, I’m really disappointed.”
That was all. No ranting. No raving. Just, “I’m really disappointed”, and a down-turned head inside of his black Iowa Hawkeyes toque (“stocking cap” in his native American tongue) as he led us from the airport.
We sadly listened to B’s playlist planned for the drive from Vegas to LA – you know, Leaving Las Vegas, Free Falling, Hotel California, that sort of thing – en route to funky Lola’s in Sarnia where we ordered a scrumptious bite to eat just before the kitchen closed at 10 p.m. Our waitress gave us the Wi-Fi code for our tablets and I thought, well why not try all of the top guns in Toronto? Air Canada, WestJet, and then, because my daughter Randelle had flown home this way for the holidays, Sunwing. And Voila. Sunwing had a flight out of Toronto at 6:20 a.m. (stupid o’clock). We finished eating, drove to Toronto, slept in the car in the parking garage for a couple of hours and were on our way. Pretty wonky from lack of sleep when we arrived in the LA area, but if we’d used up energy ranting and raving? We’d have been completely spent and vulnerable to illness.
Okay, so the Hawkeyes stunk the next day, losing 45-16, the score embarrassingly 35-0 (5 touchdowns!) at the half when we took a break to get a drink. But the visits with B’s college friends were great, the Rose Bowl stadium is beautiful and the floral floats from the parade, which we got to see up-close-and-personal in a fairground-like setting the next day, were stunning.
On our last night in the U.S. southwest, we decided to stay in Primm, about half an hour west of Vegas. “Because you’re so prim and proper,” I told B. The first hotel was booked solid and the next hotel, with a wild west décor hailing from the 1980’s, was boltworthy after we got a room, then I admitted the look of the carpet made me afraid to take my socks off. On his cell, B booked us a room at the Hard Rock Hotel, just off the strip, and when we arrived the woman on the desk said they only had smoking rooms left. Using a “charm offensive”, B smiled and said, “Oh but, if you don’t mind, I really need a non-smoking room. I have allergies.” She disappeared for a long while to talk to a manager as we stood, silently, exhausted from our day of travel. When she returned, she said, “My manager has given me permission to upgrade you to a deluxe non-smoking suite with a king-sized bed. It’s in the HRH tower.” His or Her Royal Highness? Or Hard Rock Hotel? Doesn’t matter. It was a room fit for royalty. Gigantic and pristine, with a panoramic view of the strip and a bed like a cloud.
Be calm. And kind. The benefits could very well extend beyond feeling really good about yourself.