Broken bones and beer

Years ago I worked with a man who lost several fingers in a work accident. As a teenager he got his hand caught in an industrial appliance in a pizza kitchen (or pizza factory). The accident caused him such shock and pain that when one of his coworkers grabbed my friend by his other hand to pull him away from the machine, he broke several bones in his coworker’s hand from squeezing her hand so hard as she pulled him away.

The other day I was on a flight from Cusco to Lima, with a stop in Puerto Maldonado. A “dogleg” in industry speak. Two ladies in traditional Peruvian clothing were sitting nearby, an older lady in the row behind me and a woman about my age next to me. I had the aisle seat and she had the middle seat with nobody by the window.

I dozed of a bit while the plane was taxiing for takeoff but when the plane lifted off I opened my eyes to look outside. As I turned my head towards the window, the woman next to me lunged towards me, grabbed my arm in such abject fear as I’ve never seen before in my life. White with fear she grabbed my hand so hard that all I could think of was my old friend breaking the bones in his coworker’s hand.

As my seat mate screamed people all around us started calling for the flight attendants. I tried every distraction I could think of:

“Where are you going?”
“First time flying?”
“You live in Cusco?”

While she was still wrapped around me tighter than Leo and Kate in Titanic I learned she’s from Andahuaylillas and was traveling to Lima to visit her daughter, who’d moved there to work when she was 14. After a while the flight attendants literally pried this poor woman off of me and she eventually calmed down a bit. The flight attendants were very good during this ordeal, which was almost surprising because in Peru many people get hired for customer service type positions by virtue of being young and cute, not by professional ability.

At the stopover in Puerto a young man took the window seat, he was a rather handsome European looking guy, tall, blond hair, early 20s. The flight attendants said to the lady beside me “if you have any problems now you have 2 good looking young men on either side of you to help!”

Of course I feigned surprise and excitement

“Who?!”
“Where?!?”

The woman beside me had relaxed by the time we were descending into Lima and would turn around occasionally to talk in Quechua to the older lady behind us, who was also dressed in traditional Peruvian attire. As we started to descend into Lima the older lady, who looked to be in her 80s, had a bit of a scratchy throat. One of the flights attendants asked if she wanted a cup of water.

She paused for a moment and replied: “Can I have a beer instead?”

Not in “I wanna get waisted kind of way” but rather, “It’s 5 in the afternoon, I’m 80 years old and traveling by myself, and I’d like a beer”.

A bunch of people snickered when the woman asked for a beer instead of water but the flight attendants didn’t care. In Peru jobs as flight attendants are still respected, something to be desired. Flight attendants are typically educated, ambitious, cute young people from so called “good families”. I liked that you could tell for maybe the first time in their lives, those flight attendants wanted to be just like that old traditional lady, strong and confident.

* * *

A special song for my Mamacita Linda.

5 thoughts on “Broken bones and beer

  1. Heck, I want to be like that lady! 🙂
    Do you think the customer service thing is common within the tourist industry too? When I was in Peru, I found it to be the opposite. I plan to return and want to be prepared, ha ha.

    • The tourism industry can be a little hit or miss, generally the people you encounter will have decent to good customer service skills, but there will always be those that will lack in their service abilities. Since you have mentioned plans to return here I would like to offer up my property for consideration, and if you like it and decide to book then just remind me of this post and I will offer you a discount on your stay. Here is the website: http://www.gringowasibnb.com/

    • I think tour guides are very knowledgeable, I was referring mostly to front-line customer service people who are often hired largely because they fit a “profile” of attractive appearance. Customer service in Peru is almost always very friendly, they just may have very superficial professional knowledge. Also, many companies – especially larger companies – have very rigid rules of how to do things, their front line employees are not empowered or have much flexibility how to do things..

      • My opinion of the guides is much different, based on my repeated trips to the sites , and hearing many guides offer completely different explanations for the exact same thing, I would guess that on average you can expect about 75% of the information to be good and accurate, the other 25% is likely to be an opinion. Don’t get me wrong, there are some very good guides here that avoid opinion, or at least relate opinion as opinion, but on average they do tend to pass opinion on as fact or just lack in accurate knowledge.

        Yes I guess my comment was a bit broad, friendliness is not usually an issue within the tourism industry, and I do suppose I get to see a side of many of these agencies that generally tourists do not. For instance when we have a guest that is staying with us and has booked a trek that starts in this direction, it makes absolutely no sense to take the guest into Cusco for pick up, then have them retrace the same route back this way, so depending on the trek we always try and arrange for pickup either in Izcuchaca or at Cruz Pata. Not only are these on the agency’s route, but is actually can allow the guests to get about 1 hour more sleep, but as you said, the front line worker bees likely do not have the authority to okay this, so it usually takes several phone calls, talking to multiple people and hearing a lot of “no it is not possible”, before you actually get someone that says yes.

        One more quick example withing the tourism industry is when things go wrong, you will likely find it hard if not impossible to get resolution, fortunately things do not go wrong often, but when they do, typically they are handled miserably.

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