Persona Non Grata on the New York Subway

Have you seen New Yorkers go through subway turnstiles? Thanks to the mighty invention of the MetroCard, we just fly through. With a quick slide on the right, we’re through to the other side.

That is, of course, unless your card doesn’t work for some reason. Then you get to play the poor fool standing there, swiping your card again and again with people behind you nipping at your heels in their anxiety to catch their train.

That was me last night, as I tried to glide through with an $81 unlimited monthly MetroCard I’d just purchased that morning. A little message popped up on the turnstile saying it had expired. Assuming I had pulled the wrong card from my wallet, I began extracting every old MetroCard I had (I always save them, even if they expire because, hey, you never know). I tested every single one as people accidentally hit me in the back of my legs with their briefcases, not realizing I was a static figure in a total panic, fearing I’d lost a pricey possession.

Eventually, I reluctantly surrendered my space and went to the ticket-dispensing machine to purchase a pass with a few dollars worth of trips on it.

Knowing I wouldn’t be able to rectify the problem until the morning, I was totally off-kilter. My seat on the Long Island Rail Road was bad (a larger person with a puffy coat crowded into the seat next to me and proceeded to unwrap a Big Mac) and the Chinese food I picked up on the way home seemed “off.” Must have been a different chef that night behind the counter.

The experience reminded me of how important the first step of any journey can be. Once things go awry, the anticipation of a great trip (or even the prospect of going home to a nice warm house, where the only pressing decision is whether you want red or white wine with dinner) is dimmed. The dream vanishes.

That’s why it’s vital to check the details of your clients’ itineraries, starting with the second they leave their homes. Do they know how much time they have to get to the airport? Did you remember to book their seats on the plane? Will the car service to the hotel be where you told them it will be or will your hysterical client spend two hours tracking down a limo that’s idling on the other side of the airport, accruing wait-time charges? Is the hotel you’ve booked managed properly so that they’ll be greeted with a warm smile when they approach the front desk, or will they be challenged by staff with poor attitudes on every request they make? Are the final two days of their stay crossing into high season, causing their room rate to double? Will they really be able to see the water from their oceanview room or will they have to lean out over their tiny step-out balcony (which you assumed was much larger) and twist their head 45 degrees to see beyond the parking lot?

It’s all in the details. You can’t always control everything: Planes will be late, weather will be bad, a flu bug may strike. However, there are plenty of scenarios that you can totally control and it’s vital that you do so.

As for me, when I tested my card this morning it worked beautifully and displayed the correct expiration date. That means there was something wrong with the turnstile last night or I was simply too exhausted to get myself home properly. I vote for the turnstile!


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