You say you've had it with nasty news, grim statistics and depressing details? Well, then, you've turned to the right page of the right paper. At long last, here come the Good News Awards, six true tales of travel happenings with endings so upbeat that the marshmallow-lovers who script TV's "Love Boat" will probably eat their hearts out.
This year's Super Santa Award goes to Northwest Orient Airlines for a whole string of reasons. Make that four strings, two of pearls and two of garnets. I took off to see my family at Christmas with both necklaces in my coat pocket. This, of course, was to keep them safe from purse snatchers.
No purse snatchers tried a snatch, though, and I should have moved the necklaces before putting the coat in my airliner's overhead rack. I didn't. Instead I just patted the pocket when I put the coat on again and didn't discover until later that I'd only been patting a bunch of keys. The pouch with the necklaces had fallen out.
At first I knew only that they were missing. I therefore spent Christmas Eve calling cab companies, airport lost-and-found departments and my carrier, Northwest. One airport security man summed up what I instinctively felt: "I think you can just forget about finding anything like that."
Sharon at Northwest's lost-and-found didn't sound too optimistic either, but she was sympathetic, took down all the particulars and said she'd call if anything turned up. On Jan. 8, something did: the pouch with both necklaces . . . in Boston.
My friend Jack, on the other hand, has equally warm feelings for the people at United. They, of course, are the well known popularizers of "Friendly Skies," and on the basis of what they did for him, I am willing to give them the prize for Best Work in Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.
Here's what happened: Jack flew with United to Los Angeles, where the conspicuously damaged suitcase coming off the carousel, sure enough, was his. Sorry about that, said United. But they'd repair and return it. Three days later, though, something handsomely different showed up: a nice new model of his same old suitcase. "We weren't able to repair your bag to our satisfaction, so we've replaced it," read the note from United.
The Rice Krispies Award for applying just the right amount of snap, crackle and pop under someone who might not have responded otherwise goes to the Government of India Tourist Office. They moved the immovable, in this instance one Abdul Aziz, a dealer in Indian arts and crafts from whom I bought a very large, very expensive bronze statue in New Delhi.
Since it was much too heavy to carry, it was left that Aziz would ship my purchase for me. Time passed and lots of excuses arrived, but no statue. A friend who visited him in my behalf also got a large collection of tall tales, and it seemed that I wasn't going to get either my statue or my money.
Then I turned for help to the tourist office. Since Aziz was a member of the government-connected Handicrafts Council in the state of Jammu and Kashmire (and, as it turned out, wished to remain so), the tourist people had the kind of clout to move him. My refund is headed this way.
I am also pleased to present the Florida state attorney general's office with an award, for Outstanding Achievement in Working With the Hard of Hearing. Until I enlisted that office's consumer staff's assistance, the Alamo car rental company was strangely deaf to all my attempts to communicate. a
I was asking for the refund of a surcharge that seemed to me to have been an error. Alamo, though, had ear trouble, didn't call back when I phoned and didn't respond when I wrote. I imagine they might have recovered in time, but I also sense that the state attorney general's office makes a great hearing aid. In due course, I got a check and an apology from Alamo.
The prize for Showing the Most Kindness to Dumb Creatures Great and Small goes to the police to Provincetown, Mass. I don't really like to tell this story, since it forces me to admit that I was the dumb creature. However, when you owe, you owe,
The facts: Said dumb creature turned up in Provincetown on the first day of the Labor Day weekend without a room reservation. Also without a car. Despite 46,274 warnings that you just don't do that on Labor Day weekends, I did. Inevitably the inevitable happened. At midnight I still had no bed, no prospect of one, and no way apart from stealing a car to get out of town. I therefore did the only thing I could think of and turned myself into the police before committing a crime.
I suspect this was not the first time the Provincetown police came across someone who would have gladly settled for a cell. In any case, they weren't giving out any. What they did instead was get on their blower to a couple of motels in the next town, find me a room and then deliver me there in a police car. Lesson learned: Provincetown is the finest resort in the United States of America, everyone should go there, spend lots of money and always, always support the local police force.
The last prize, the Ivory Soap Award for being exceptionally pure, has to be split between two winners. One is (again) Northwest Orient Airlines, the other a Florida motel clerk who must be nameless.
Northwest wins this one for having a ticket agent who not only pointed me to a nice new low fare, but explained that it was in my best interest to pick up and pay for my ticket within the next two days because in three days the price was going up.
The motel clerk was forthcoming in an equally valuable way. It was a place I didn't know but pulled up to because it seemed too late to drive on. He looked me over, then said, "I don't think you want to stay here. Most of our guests just come for a few hours."
So there you have it, six straws to clutch on days when the bad news seems to overwhelm the good kind. The really good part is that these winners aren't unique. It may not be remarked upon as often as it should, but when everything clicks, travelers have some noteworthy support systems.