Tuesday, June 5, 2012

23) No Bull, please!

Qantas Customer Care Dear Fiona Morris, I am very grateful for the great circumspection and care with which my dear old friend, Mr. Michael Jablonski, has protected my interests. I am grateful to you and your airline too, for the Qantas souvenir bag from Oz that you presented at my hotel. Yet it is very important to have you realize, please, that as far as I know Mike not once traded on your sympathies with regard to my physical disability. Allow me to let you know why Mike, a fellow Pretoria Boys High boy from back in the 60's, has been dubbed The Great Elephant, indeed long before this unfortunate incident in your Qantas lounge. He is a man of immense care and consideration for others, carries huge responsibility and power within his company, appears as rugged and battle-scarred as an old bull elephant, and can get riled by what he perceives as a slight to his friends. No wonder his defense! Being wheelchair confined with chronic inescapable stenosis, I had just spent some 30 combined hours of travel from Canada. Mike, traveling frequently, has a very high ranking Qantas privileged club membership card, and intended to treat me to just a little peace and quiet out of the bump of pedestrian traffic, since every simple bump and jolt adds to my pain. It being my very first trip to Oz and I was about to connect to Perth to see my 90 year old friend, Nancy Sinclair. Mike wanted me to see her too, though I really came to Sidney to visit another old school friend of ours, Simon Brink, who has been given but two months left to live due to liver cancer. Given our current emotional stress, no wonder Mike felt so provoked! To be so brusquely turned away, when your lounge was so empty, seemed outrageous. Mike, my protector, went into action. As I write I am in the United Lounge awaiting UA 870, and then connect with UA to Victoria. A friend took care of booking me First Class, given my condition, there and back. He easily might have chosen Qantas instead. In fact, the sheer expense of the trip at such short notice, once I knew of Simon's illness, is astounding. Yet throughout the now famous Qantas incident Mike did not want you to process out of sympathy. He was interested primarily in that we treat people with dignity and compassion. Had I perhaps been an ordinary passenger I might more easily overlook the entire episode. But check your videotapes and you will find that not once did your personnel enquire as to my welfare. My physical distress was great. Yet it felt as though I was the elephant in the room. Unnoticed that is, except by the Great Bull Elephant. Now aboard my UA flight to connect to Canada, I complete this missive just before take off. I came all this way for a mere nine days. I cannot afford to come back 'on my own shout', as the Ozzie's say, even though I'd dearly love to see Nancy and my dearest friends again. It took me almost 20 years just to get here! Lest my motive be misconstrued in telling you all this, when circumstance arises that I return, I shall perhaps book with Qantas, were you to reassure me. I understood from an impressed Mike that you, Fiona, and your caring assistant, Penny, are models of diplomacy. Thank you. This letter, then, is written out of my wishing for Qantas to know that as unpleasant as the episode appeared for all of us, it was attended in the background by a great deal of extenuating circumstance. So too for a lot of travelers. Rules are evidently necessary, but a compassionate discernment is invaluable. Mr. Mike Jablonski, I trust, got his point across. Every person should be so fortunate as to have such a friend. Qantas too! Yours faithfully, Richard Michelle-Pentelbury Victoria, British Columbia Canada Www.RichardMichellePentelbury.com

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