As a student I earned my money as a travel guide. I welcomed a group of foreign tourists, took care that accommodation, meals and the other programme went according to plan. Prior to the arrival of the group I checked again all the details and was responsible for their well-being and satisfaction. This was varied, dynamic, funny, every now and then frustrating but always exciting.
One day, the departure day for my group to Moscow, I was in the hotel and checked that everything would go well. Suddenly a phone call from the airport. They wanted to know where my group was. When they asked this question, my heart stopped beating because I realised that we must be late. I got to know that the plane was scheduled to depart in 45 minutes. It was impossible to gather the people, organise an earlier bus and to get them to the airport within 30 minutes. I begged them to delay the departure of the airplane. Last but not least, they were missing 40 passengers. The voice on the other end of the line informed me that this would not be possible because a member of the government was on this plane to Moscow. Darn!! I knew what this meant. 40 disappointed people, countless plans, which could not be realised, an additional night (or more) until 40 seats in a plane to Moscow become vacant. I rarely drink alcohol and never hard liquor but knowing the avalanche of unpleasant events coming up to me, I ordered a large glass of hard liquor, cursing the member of the government.
And it became worse than I had imagined. I thought some of the people from the group would beat me. No, nobody did that, but I was screamed at, accused and threatened. Nothing else.
But I managed to find out that a defective plane was standing at the airport and under repair and if the repair went well, it would depart to Moscow today. The mistake in the departure time was not my mistake but the travel agency had confirmed wrong data to me. All that helped awfully little. My group needed a culprit and that was me, as representative for the travel agency.
They managed to repair the airplane and my unhappy group departed towards Moscow with 20 hours delay.
Today I am travelling from Lausanne to Zurich. The next direct train is only in 30 minutes and in 3 minutes there is a train to Bern. I get on the train and ask the conductor for my connections in Bern. He assures me that if we arrive in time, I would easily manage to get from platform 8 to platform 2 and then have a direct train to Zurich. If we were delayed, he would make a call and ask for the train to Zurich to wait a little. I held my breath. His statement sounds so incredible that it is difficult to believe.
He adds that this would only be 2 or 3 minutes and he cannot promise anything but it’s within realm of possibility.
I love this democratic country, where trains are almost always punctual and where customer friendliness is possible if it is about waiting for one’s own passengers.