Several years ago my husband Dave was on the computer late one afternoon trying to finalize the purchase of plane tickets to Halifax, Nova Scotia for an upcoming trip. We were invited to a salmon barbecue at friends for dinner that night and I was worried we’d be late. Dave told me to go on ahead without him. He’d be right there just as soon as he’d made our flight arrangements.
But 45 minutes later he still hadn’t arrived. I tried calling him several times to find out what was keeping him but our phone was busy. Just when the salmon was ready to come off the barbecue he walked in the door at our friends’ house,with a good story to explain his tardy arrival.
After completing the flight bookings to Halifax and paying for them with his credit card he printed out our tickets. Imagine his surprise when he looked at the printed version and saw that instead of purchasing two tickets to Halifax, Nova Scotia, he’d bought two tickets to Kelowna, British Columbia. Somehow he must have clicked the mouse at the wrong time and bought tickets to a spot on the west coast of Canada, when we wanted to go to the east coast.
Quickly he checked the ticket sales website for the number to call in emergencies. He dialed the number and a woman with a southern accent answered. She was polite but firm. She was very sorry he had booked tickets to the wrong place, however she could only change his tickets if he agreed to pay a fairly hefty surcharge.
Dave tried reasoning with her. He apologized. He appealed to her kind nature. She remained unmoved. She’d only change our tickets for a fee. Finally in desperation Dave confided he was in a hurry because he was on his way to a salmon barbecue.
The operator was intrigued. Where had the salmon come from? She was very interested when Dave said our friends had special ordered it from Vancouver. She wanted to know how the fish was being prepared. Did Dave have any good salmon recipes? What was the weather like in Manitoba? Was it a nice day for barbecuing she wondered.
From there, my husband who never has a problem striking up a conversation with anyone, got her talking about her family, politics and travel. He even joked with her about her southern accent. After about five minutes of chit-chat she suddenly announced she thought it would be possible to change our tickets without any extra charges being added.
I suspect the woman had been at work for quite a few hours and tired of routine business interactions was just glad to find someone who didn’t mind spending a few minutes having an interesting personal conversation with her. Taking a genuine interest in people and making time for some personal conversation can often make a huge difference in the attitude of others.
Luckily the salmon saved our trip to Halifax.