It’s IT’s Fault! surely?

Published on Tuesday 23 October 2012 by in Blog with no comments

This is a rant about my nightmare journey…and how IT contributed to my anger, discomfort, frustration and joy all in the space of 26 hours. This all actually happened.

I get to travel a lot, attending conferences and visiting customers and partners across the globe. It is not as exciting or exotic as it sounds. Often all I see are airports and hotels, and a glimpse of local life unfolding as it flashes past the window of my train or taxi.

Usually I travel economy class, stuck somewhere in the depths of cattle class with my knees wrapped around my ears, eating microwaved, mouth-blisteringly-hot vegetarian pasta rather than the leathery, tasteless piece of either overcooked, or salmonella-pink-underdone, chicken. But once in a while I get to travel Business class, then all the travelling seems worth the hassle. 22 October was one such occasion, travelling to Chile, via Barcelona and Buenos Aires on Aerolineas Argentinas airways.

I was eagerly looking forward to sipping my Gin and Tonic, strechting out my legs, enjoying the fine dining and watching an inflight film on my high-tech, personal, digital entertainment system…..in my dreams!

Shortly after take-off the menu arrived.  I had to make a choice between ‘Tenderloin steak with pepper sauce and baby boiled potatoes’ or ‘Grilled herb dusted salmon in a white wine sauce’. How could I resist a mouth watering Argentinian aged steak. As the trolley made its painfully slow journey down the aisle I realized I was the last of the 36 business class passengers to be served. Seat 9G. The chance of me getting my steak was about as slim as the chance of a first time success – ITIL implementation project. I guess I would have to make do with the fish, which sounded a palatable second choice, accompanied with a little chardonnay. ‘Sorry no Steak sir….no fish…..we have vegetarian lasagna!’ said the stewardess enthusiastically with a beaming smile.
A crushing weight of disappointment! I was formulating a finely crafted diatribe to vent my anger ‘but….but…but…’ – too late the stewardess was gone. If steam could have come out of my ears it would have done so at that point….Why did this happen to me? Who did this to me? Who can I blame?… Surely IT was to blame. Some IT system had randomly allotted me this steak free stool in advance. I had tried booking my own seat through their on-line checkin facility the evening before. ‘Sorry that option is unavailable on this flight….have a nice day’ was the helpful IT generated message on my screen. Even the helpful KLM agent was unable to ‘get into that system’….see I was right it was IT’s fault.
We’ve told them about this before, but we still can’t access the seat allocation function’ she had added.

I decided to calm myself by listening to some soothing in-flight music on my noise cancelling headphones….the high-tech-digital-computer-under-the-stool-in-front-of-you provided me with a high-tech-state-of-the-art blank screen….it did nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada… not a sausage….not even an unhelpful and meaningless error message. ‘Excuse me!’ I said ‘my screen isn’t working!...’
I know…we told the technical people about that!’, explained the stewardess with another dazzling smile.‘It’s the computer‘ she added knowingly.
Oh that really helps. Does that mean one of them will be popping along in a minute to fix it?
‘………………Oh a joke?………..that’s funny.’ she said, suddenly realizing we were at 37,000 feet somewhere over the North Atlantic ocean. ‘I’m afraid there are no other free seats in business class….there may be one in catt….er economy class?’ she added helpfully.
IT screwing up my day again!….I don’t even have a help desk number I can call so that I can be impolite and sarcastic. Nobody to rant and rave at. IT had ignored an ‘incident’, one which to me had significant impact. 13 hours and 45 minutes without entertainment! At that point the lady in the stool next to me flipped open her high-tech-digital screen and knocked a full glass of Orange juice into my lap. Her screen was also blank I was pleased to see, as the chilled orange juice was seeping into my seat and undergarments. I know it wasn’t IT’s fault….but if she hadn’t been wanting to use that user-unfriendly-popping-unexpectedly-out-of-it’s-housing-and-knocking-over-a-glass-screen this wouldn’t have happened….and if IT had responded to the incident in the first place….wait that is now two of them. Her screen and mine. It must be a problem!

At Buenos Aires I walked through the rain to the domestic terminal for my next flight. ‘Any bags to check’? the counter representative asked – another beaming smile.

I believe my bag is going straight through to Chile’ I said showing her my bag check ticket.

Ah!… No. You have to collect your bag here in Buenos Aires sir….the ticket is misprinted, it should say collect bag, you’ll have to go back to international arrivals…..We told them about this before, to change the sticker.

‘No….No. This can’t be happening. Ticket misprinted……IT again. I blame an IT system, an incorrect piece of code?, a change not carried out!. I trudged back through the rain to the international terminal.

I stood there watching the hundreds of bags of various shapes and sizes slowly trundle and rumble on the baggage carousel. Many of the bags sealed in plastic to protect them. Those without the plastic protection limped out in various states of compromised physical integrity, a handle missing here, a strap dangling there, a single wheel bouncing and bumping along. None of the bags matched the shape, size or color of my bag. In fact none of the bags was my bag.

I stood there dripping orange juice from the damp patch around my …..mid section, waiting for my bag…people giving me a wide space thinking I had some kind of bladder dis-function. After an hour there were 5 of us from the Barcelona flight still without bags. A baggage manager who had a large lapel badge with the word ‘manager’ written on it came over to us.  ‘Sorry the baggage labels were routed to transfer by the system….rather than to the carousel’….IT you mean? You mean an IT system mis-routed my bag!?

About 10 minutes later the plastic gates swished open and 4 forlorn, battered looking bags trundled into view. Visible delight and relief on 4 faces……I was not one of the 4.  My bag had failed to appear. I had won! I was the only one of some 300 people whose bag had won a free trip to some exotic location and was at this moment enjoying the view from a baggage carousel in Lapland or Timbuktoe.

The problem must be at Schiphol’ suggested the manager ‘They have an automated system that routes bags….they probably routed it somewhere nice‘ he beamed.

I was told to catch my final flight to Chile. If my bag didn’t appear….which of course it would.. confidently declared the ‘manager’, then I could complain to them and they will deal with it ‘forthwith’. I heard his colleague sniggering in the background……’he has a cold’, explained the manager.

Two hours later after a breathtaking flight over the snow topped Andes I arrived in Chile. The computer system which scanned my thumb print at immigration wasn’t working. I had to join a different queue.

I ambled down to the baggage carousel wondering how long I would have to wait before I had to officially complain and wondering if anybody would be able to understand me. A baggage attendant with a beaming smile was standing there with my bag. ‘Luckily we were able to trace your bag in our computer system and have it sent here….it is waiting for you!’……IT?, that wonderful IT had saved the day. I told you we shouldn’t complain about IT. If it wasn’t for IT I may never have seen my case again. IT always saves the day.

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