One of my best friends recently returned from one of those family inspired, crazy holiday travel dances.
Portland to Ithaca with a brief layover in Newark via redeye. To keep things interesting she brought her children and upon landing in Ithaca embarked on a two hour drive through icy snow.
We were catching up over coffee and she was telling me about the highlights of her trip, but it was the return piece that made my ears perk up. Two feet of snow overnight was her first clue that thirty minutes to make a connecting flight wouldn't be sufficient. She called the airline and was told she had a "valid connection".
"I understand it's a valid connection, but the plane is going to sit on the runway for at least thirty minutes for de-icing. We'll miss our connection."
"I'm sorry ma'am, but it is a valid connection," was the response.
Early the next morning she returned to Ithaca to be told her children didn't have seats on the flight. "So you're overbooked," she told the airline attendant.
"Yes! Those two extra passengers were my children and so you're overbooked."
"No. We've removed the two extra passengers in order to make the flight at-capacity."
As a writer, this purposeful twisting of language to alter reality fascinates me. It's as though I bought a box of chocolates, eaten a few and then decided to return them.
"Ma'am, it appears you've eaten a few of these chocolates."
"I just removed a couple and now I need my box to be replenished to an at-capacity state.
"We can't replace the chocolates you've eaten."
"I haven't eaten them. I've removed them. You can't expect me to accept this as a valid sale when the box hasn't been filled to capacity."
But as long as the airlines are pushing forward with their new form of linguistic reasoning it makes me think we should push back, lobby for codified language that will redefine and specify the true meaning of phrases like valid connection, overbooked flights and adequate aisle seat space for elbows and knees.
After that we can turn our attentions to the vendors of chocolates and those cute little Girl Scouts who sell cookies. I happen to have one such cookie pusher living in my house and I'm sure she'd be happy to engage in a little alternate reality linguistic reasoning. Any takers?