I always thought I hated flying, and then it occurred to me that what I hated was other people flying on my flight. Flying, especially flying coach, is a bad experience. With bad experiences you only have two options; you can change the firm providing the service, or you can try to change the experience. I’ve tried changing carriers, but they are all equally poor.
I am flying coach from Philadelphia to Seattle—five hours and forty-one minutes of teeth-gnawing angst. I knew that to avoid having my neighbors being interviewed by CNN and saying things like, “He was always so polite. We didn’t know he even owned a gun,” I had to create my own experience. I am assigned a window seat near the rear of the plane. I place a rubber, orange roadside construction cone in the middle seat next to me to indicate that seat is closed for repairs.
Once the plane passed through ten thousand feet I begin to work to improve my experience. A calming composition of Albinoni’s was playing through my Bose Bluetooth headphones. From the overhead bin I retrieved my luggage. Next I taped a message to the large orange cone, “Please wait for Flight Attendant to seat you.” I release the catch to the table on the seatback in front of me, and on the table I laid the large, white linen napkin I borrowed the last time I was seated in first class. The small, glass salt and pepper shakers, also borrowed from a prior first class flight, rested on the napkin.
From my luggage I withdrew a chilled salad bowl, dinner plate, plastic tumbler, and hijacking-proof plastic utensils. A small crowd had begun to gather in the aisle. The smaller of the two Tupperware containers in my luggage held chilled hearts of palm and asparagus. The larger container held my entrée, an eight ounce portion of poached sea bass, grilled Brussel sprouts, and quinoa. I plated my meal while the guy in the aisle seat began to count the number of peanuts in the small cellophane bag he had been given by the flight attendant. I politely asked the waitress to fill my tumbler with ice, and to that I added a miniature of Grey Goose and a splash of tonic.
The experience, any experience is what you make of it. The problem with most healthcare access experiences is they were never designed. You go the website of your provider or payer—that was a waste of my time, you tell yourself. Then you break into a cold sweat before you call your provider or your payer, you simply know your experience over the next several minutes is going to ruin your day. You ask yourself, “Have none of their executives ever called their own company?”
Is it that they do not care that the experience they offer is so poor, or is it that they simply do not know how poor it is? I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they don’t know. But then I think, it is their job to know.