A Kinder, Gentler United Airlines

We received a very remarkable phone message the other day from the local library, informing us that a book that I had checked out had been returned by United Airlines. Apparently, I had left the book on the plane, and some kind souls at the airline had taken the following series of unlikely steps: 1) found the book; 2) noticed that it was a library book; 3) instead of sending either to the garbage or a cavernous lost and found noticed the Lake Forest Library address on the inside of the book; 4) found an envelope; 5) inserted book into envelope; 6) got a stamp; and 7) sent the book back. This struck me as an entirely thoughtful and generous favor.  In fact, there has been a book on our back counter for about 8 months that I have been meaning to return to a house guest.  That United Airlines can be more considerate than I am is a stunning revelation, particularly since I am not even a premier flyer.  Actually, I am the lowest of the low.  I have no privileges to skip ahead in the security line, no privileges for boarding.  I am always called after the gold, silver, platinum and other precious metal groups.  On a recent flight, I was assigned seating area 7.  I turned to the stranger standing next to me and said, “Boy are we a bunch of pathetic losers,” and he agreed.

Wow, United Airlines returned my book.  I still can’t believe it.  My general view of airlines is that they play an aggressive, vindictive and adversarial gotcha game designed to trap me into hidden fees and penalties.  If I could track the multiple people involved in returning my book, from the minimum wage cleaning staff, to the final person who plopped the book in the mail, I would sing their praises to each of their supervisors.  I would also like to make myself available for a testimonial advertisement.

Recently, I have spent time exploring the real meaning of “built like a brick shithouse.” Once I got beyond the initial poor impression, I realized that it was actually a compliment.  The expression refers to an outhouse, typically a very flimsy affair, which it is better than it has to be when it’s made of bricks. I am initiating a “Brick Shithouse” award for something that seems unpleasant but is actually better than it has to be, and the first winner is United Airlines.  The only other time that UA could have possibly been a candidate for this award is back in the 1960s when they served everybody macadamia nuts.


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