Good morning? What’s good about it?
My plan, as it is most days I travel, was to arrive at my destination (New Providence, NJ), check into the hotel, and spend the evening catching up on ethics posts, then get up early, compose an ethics warm-up. maybe another post r two before I lose control of the day in the onslaught of seminar-leading and more travel. It’s a good plan. Unfortunately, nothing went right. My original flight, into Newark airport, was cancelled after an hour’s delay: Newark had stopped all air traffic. I switched airlines and bought ticket to LaGuardia, where I was told that my client’s limo service could pick me up and take me to my destination.(My program was to start at 9:00 am today.) I got on the plane, we left the gate, and waited. It was storming in New York City and environs. After two more hours, the plane returned to then gate, where we were told to wait around. If things started up at LaGuardia, we were going to have to seize the moment, get on the plane and take off. Never mind: after a half hour or so, that flight was cancelled too.
Thus I ended up at the end of a line of about a hundred travelers , while a single American Airlines agent tried to handle each crisis, a process which appeared to bid fair to last until Christmas before they would get to my urgent need to be in Springfield, N.J. in time to meet up with my colleague and perform a three hour musical ethics seminar for a paying audience of over a hundred lawyers. My ProEthics partner and spouse was simultaneously coordinating with Mike, the musician, on his way to the hotel from Brooklyn, the New Jersey Bar, and the airlines, trying to develop plans B (an early morning flight from Dulles or National and a mad dash to the seminar), C (an overnight train trip), D ( driving to New Jersey), and E (hiring someone to drive me, so I didn’t fall asleep at the wheel). Cancelling was never an option: I’m a show-biz guy, and the show must go on.
For some reason an American agent came over to the back of the endless line, and said, conspiratorially, “Who wants to go to JFK?” About 2o of us eagerly followed her to another gate, and I eventually found myself on a plane to JFK—which stalled on the tarmac, because JFK had halted take-offs and landings too. After an hour or so, the pilot announced that he had “timed out” along with the rest of the crew, and that we were returning to the gate, de-planing, and would wait for a fresh pilot who was en route, assuming his plane arrived.
Well, to cut out a lot more twists and turns, eventually I got to JFK, paid $250 to have a car take me to my hotel in New Providence, and got to bed at around 4 am, with a scheduled pick-up by a limo service to take me and Mike to the venue at 8. The limo driver got lost, incidentally. Then it was a blur of a three-hour interactive seminar (Mike, as usual, was brilliant), back to the airport, more delays, and home by about 7 pm last night. I started this post around 9, found myself unable to think, and went to bed.
My friend Tom Fuller is fond of saying that if you have no options, you have no problem. I had no options, but I do regard not being able to get posts up in a timely fashion a big problem.
I was, however thinking about multiple ethics issues that arose during my odyssey–actually, a Cyclops and some Sirens, even Scylla and Charybdis, would have been welcome diversions from Airport Hades—and will pass some of them along now:
- It is amazing how many passengers are mean to the airlines gate agents when flights are delayed. They are clearly not responsible. Even the airlines aren’t responsible: weather and regulations are not within their control. Mostly, the agents yesterday were remarkably well-trained, restrained, professional and tolerant.
Even United’s agents…
- My client expressed admiration that I would continue to try to get to the program after all the obstacles, telling my partner that most contractors would have just cancelled. Really? I don’t understand that mentality at all. It’s unethical. As long as there is a way to fulfill a commitment, no matter how inconvenient, burdensome or unpleasant, the obligation remains.
The show must go on is one area of ethics where the entertainment world shines.
- My client asked if I had an Uber app, as we discussed the trip from JFK to New Jersey. I said that I regarded Uber as an unethical company with an engrained unethical culture, which I do, and thus the answer was no.
The Ethics Alarms dossier on Uber is here…
- Desperate Line Ethics: With all of the chaos, several flights were pending after the hours where Reagan National typically shuts down. Thus all of the stores were closed save one, where a lone employee was left to service a long, long line of hungry, thirsty, exhausted travelers, including me. All of us were in a rush—it was risky to be away from the gates for long. Did the members of the line therefore take this into consideration, take a reasonable number of items, and make an effort to minimize the wait for the rest of us? Nah! Many of them literally had their arms filled with bottles and junk food. Did they pay with cash, shortening the transaction time? Of course not. The clerk, meanwhile, felt no obligation to process any faster that she would if there was no line and it was 2:00 pm on a slow Monday. (THIS behavior by clerks and bank tellers has driven me nuts my whole life. When I was a teller, our branch would get a rush of check-cashers every Friday after noon, resulting in huge lines. I made an effort not only to work faster, but also to move the customers along, eschewing small talk while others were waiting. )
I finally gave up and replaced my items, but not before saying, “Nice hustle there, Sparky!” to the slug-like clerk.
- When I arrived at JFK at around 1:30 am, I was on my way to the distant yellow cab line when a well-dressed young man said, “Can I take you anywhere? No waiting!” I instinctively said “Sure.”
I never take rides from gypsy cab drivers, who are skirting the system to the detriment of the licensed and regulated drivers. This time, I did so without a thought. I was tired, every second counted as a second of extra sleep, as I knew I would be giving my program without proper nutrition or rest. There are all rationalizations, though. Maybe the trade-off between my professional duty to do the best possible job for my clients and my citizen’s duty to not reward law-breakers qualifies as an ethics conflict.
- I later discovered that the driver was NOT a gypsy cab driver, but an Uber driver—you know, from that company that I refuse to patronize on ethical grounds. He didn’t say he was Uber (unethical), but I’m pretty sure I would have jumped into his car anyway, given my state of mind.
It was a lovely Humvee, with bottles of water in the backs seat, and a pleasant drive with a lively conversation about American Presidents.
- Finally in my hotel room, I discovered that I had forgotten a toothbrush and toothpaste. The night clerk have me both, gratis, saying, “You look pretty fried. No charge.”
I will remember that, Best Western.
- Getting my first real meal in 24 hours at the Newark airport, I found myself at the bar of one of those computer-self-ordering restaurants that are now proliferating. The guy next to me detested the system, and asked the surly bartender, who was the only human being in evidence, if he liked the system. “Works for me,” he said.
As I then told the annoyed diner, the ones it doesn’t work for are all the out-of-work employees who are having their jobs eliminated because grandstanding, SJW theory-over-reality Bernie-ites in states like New York, Washington, Minnesota and California have pushed the minimum wages up to the point where it costs jobs and results in cold and unpleasant experiences for consumers.