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2004-06-29 Day from hell ends in barking madness

Ever had one of those days when nothing goes right? I was due to give a performance in Lisbon, and so had a very early start. I set my alarm for 3.50am: my sleep was anything but deep. I left the house at 4.30am to collect my two colleagues en-route to the airport.

 

The luminous orange eyes of a lonely urban fox observed me from the shadows as I reversed out the driveway. Always early for everything, I had to wait ten minutes for my less punctual associates.

 

With the car fully loaded, I turned the key - not a sound. The battery was dead. My ever-reliable Laguna had expired when I needed him most. Two fit and strong tenors pushed me up and down the dark lonely streets. Eventually the car took off and we headed to the airport, still in time.

 

We had E-tickets, and so only had to show our passports at check-in in order to board our flights. "Sorry gentlemen, the 6.40am flight is cancelled, which means you won't make your connecting flight", the steward informed us, redirecting us back to the ticket desk. Although only a trainee, he'd already mastered that patronising dead-eyed smile. Certainly time for a coffee then - a snip at only ¬ 2.40 a cup!

 

We were told we might possibly make the 9am Paris flight, but at the moment the computer systems were all down. At times like this, I feel it might be better and more reliable to return to the old tried and tested system of hand-written tickets?

 

The airline staff provided `service with a smile', but it was a cynical, gloating and smug smile, the smile of a victor in a game knowing they had won by devious means. So when you hear the words "our partners on the ground will be only too pleased to help you", you may just be able to get them on the `Trade Descriptions Act'. At the risk of sounding like I was born in the `Depression years', customer care doesn't seem to be as it once was. The customer is no longer always right.

Surely it can't be fun being nasty to your customers all the time? Cut the attitude for God's sake. Stop making bad manners into an art-form. When I have the misfortune to fly bargain-basement airlines, you know the ones with no frills, no baggage allowance, no seat allocation, no refunds, no customer care, no apologies, and judging by the attitude of their staff, no friends - my humour generally changes from good to ratty. And so it was, even before I boarded our first flight that day.

 

The staff at `Charles de Gaulle' were even less friendly, providing `service with a glare' smothered in a mantle of all- pervading meanness. As with most airline staff these days (save perhaps Aer Lingus, BA and some of the Far Eastern airlines) it was as though they had graduated with distinction from a course which eradicates any remaining trace of amiability they may have ever had.

 

We were last to leave the baggage carousel in Lisbon, and made our way to the "Lost Luggage" to let them know we had lost not one, not two, but all five pieces of our luggage. We were of course late for our 5pm rehearsal, and with only one piece of hand luggage each along with what we were wearing, we borrowed three jackets for the show. We made a big thing of our `day from hell', winning a massive sympathy vote.

 

After a surprisingly successful show, I was told I resembled Garth Brooks - again! A Scottish lady approached me shouting "It's you, isn't it? Father Mark? You had tea and muffins in my house a year ago. I had no idea you had become a singer. I am thrilled for you Father Mark!". I stared at the lady blankly, with a tired smile. A little taste of `barking madness' seemed like a fitting end to a trying day.