Last Month I went to Atlanta, Georgia, for a four day conference. I took a direct flight from the airport in Bloomington (Central Illinois Regional Airport) to the airport in Atlanta (Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport). The flight was scheduled to depart at 6:40 p.m., but was delayed for over ninety minutes. In addition to the long delay, when I arrived in Atlanta, I had to set my watch ahead an hour because of the time change.
The airport in Atlanta holds the record for being the busiest airport in the world. Last year, over eighty-nine million (89,000,000) passengers passed through the airport. That averages out to be over 243,834 passengers every single day. The airport is so huge I had trouble finding my way around. There were massive crowds of people walking every which way. It was almost as though they were synchronized with each other’s movements, which precluded them from bumping into each other. The experience was like something you would see in a movie such as Pixar’s, Monsters, Inc.
After I got off the plane, in order to get to the baggage claim area, I had to ride down the longest escalator I’ve ever seen (at least four stories long). The area where the escalator ended was underground. After getting off the escalator, I stepped onto a tram with a herd of other people. We were transported through a tunnel that was located underneath the runways. When the tram stopped and the doors opened, I had to ride another long escalator back up to the land of the living, where I picked up my luggage.
To get to the rental car facility, I had to locate and step onto another long escalator that took me to an area where I got on another Tram that moved along tracks that were at least twenty feet above ground level. After a seven or eight minute ride, I stepped off of the tram into a building that was populated with rental car service counters. I located the rental car company where I had reserved a car and signed the necessary paperwork. After that, I took another escalator down to the street level where there was a huge parking lot that was spread out over several blocks.
I had trouble finding my rental car because there was only one employee managing the cars for four different rental car companies, one of which was the company I had rented my car from. When I finally located the employee, his English was so bad I had to ask him three different times where my car was located. The third time I asked him he snapped back at me in an angry tone of voice. I apparently irritated him because I was too stupid to understand his native language. When I climbed into the car, it smelled like an overused ashtray.
I arrived at the hotel at around 11:30 p.m. By then, I had a throbbing headache and my clothes smelled like cigarette smoke.
There were three clerks behind the counter in the main lobby. I walked up to one of the clerks and gave her my name. She found my name on her computer and said, “I see you’ll be staying with us for one night.” I corrected her by telling her that I was staying for four nights, but I had to reserve the four nights under two separate reservations. The first reservation was for one night and the other reservation was for the following three nights.
The reason I had two reservations was because when I called the hotel earlier in the year, I was told that the reduced room rate for the conference was only available for Thursday through Sunday, and that I would have to pay the regular rate for Wednesday night.
When the clerk located both reservations, she told me that the hotel was “completely booked” and that I would have to be placed in one room for Wednesday night and move to another room on Thursday where I could stay for the remaining three nights. I explained to her that when I made the reservations, the person I talked to assured me that he would tie the two reservations together in the system so I would have the same room during my entire stay.
The clerk apologized for the inconvenience and told me that there was no way she would be able to place me in the same room for four nights. She then assigned a room to me and gave me my room key.
My room was located at the end of a long hallway in a separate wing of the hotel. Right outside the door of my room was an exit door to a huge parking lot. The carpet was worn and hadn’t been updated for years. The room and the hallway looked like it belonged in a rundown motel, instead of the upscale hotel where I was staying (where the conference was being held).
Because the cost of the room for Wednesday night was sixty dollars more than the reduced conference rate that I got for the other three nights, I returned to the front desk and insisted that I be given a room in the main section of the hotel. I was again told that the hotel was “completely booked” and there were no more rooms in the main hotel.
At that point, I was at my wit’s end. I got aggressive and told the clerk that she needed to figure out a way to get me into a room that was not located in the “back alley” of the rundown wing of the hotel. I told her that if I had wanted a rundown hotel, I would have gotten a room at a hotel down the street for one-third the cost. After making several attempts at trying to locate another room, she finally found a room that was available in a nicer section of the same wing of the hotel. I told her that since she wasn’t able to follow through on the commitment that was made to me when I made my reservations, I needed a reduction in the price of the first night to the same rate of the other nights. By then, she was clearly irritated with me, but she kept her cool, called the manager, and obtained permission to reduce the first night’s rate.
I ended up in a room that was located next to a utility room that had a boiler in it that made clanging noises throughout the night. Needless to say, I didn’t get very much sleep.
The next day during lunch break, I was able to check into a room that was located in the main section of the hotel. I was also able to get my daily parking fees waived (twenty-two dollars per day) because of the boiler problem the night before.
That whole day I felt guilty about the way I treated the clerk the night before. The reason I felt guilty was because, like the McDonald’s employee I told you about last week, the hotel clerk was a low-level employee who had no authority to change or otherwise influence the policies of the company she worked for. It wasn’t fair for me to intimidate her and attempt to hold her responsible for a company policy that allowed for the overbooking of rooms. In hindsight, I should have asked to speak to someone who was in a position of authority, such as a manager.
On Thursday evening I rode the elevator down to the lobby with the intention of apologizing to the clerk. Earlier in the day, I had gone to a local perpetual adoration chapel where I did my daily holy hour. It was during the holy hour that I decided I should apologize to the clerk.
When I stepped off the elevator, I started to get cold feet. I really didn’t want to apologize for what I had done because I was still irritated that the hotel had overbooked its rooms without any concern for the customers who had made reservations well in advance of the conference.
After asking my guardian angel and the clerk’s guardian angel to help me do and say the right things, I walked over to the clerk and said, “I owe you an apology.” She looked at me with a puzzled look on her face. At that point, I said, “I checked in last night…” She cut me off and said, “Yes, I remember you. Did they get everything straightened out for you today?” She glared at me with an angry look on her face. I responded, “Yes, everything got worked out, and I owe you an apology.” She was still glaring at me so I continued, “I’m sorry for the way I behaved last night. I had no right to take out my frustrations on you. During the entire time you were dealing with me, you were courteous and professional. You’re the type of person any business owner would love to have as an employee.”
The look on her face completely changed and she said, “Oh, that’s ok, don’t worry about it. I’ve had customers who were worse than you.” I responded, “No, it’s not ok. I’m sorry for the way I treated you.” As she looked at me in disbelief, I said, “I said a prayer for you today.” I didn’t know what else to say, so I walked away.
The two guardian angels answered my prayer and did what I had asked. They helped me make a genuine apology. It wasn’t until later during one of my holy hours that I realized that a genuine apology has five important components. Can you identify those five components in the apology I made to the clerk? Next week I’ll break it all down for you.