It's Not the Rules
It's the person applying the rules. Or knowing about other rules that are to your advantage.
Panama, December 2015
In the afternoon, we set off with Carlo as planned. He said he could see a church from the ship and wanted to go there. There were three entrances, or exits to the wharf. After all, a gate is to walk out as well as to walk in. Carlo said the one on the right was nearest but I had headed to the left and said “It's okay, we go out from here.” Carlo was not so sure they would let us out from either gate. As the main exit gate for tourists/cruisers was way down the road, obliging you to walk by the shops and cafes, and where the hawkers had been deployed. There was no reason why they wouldn't let us out. At least no good reason!
Now... I -as a seasoned traveller and being the unruly- would have just walked out. “If there is no exit, let them stop me,” I reason. But Carlo -as the good rule abiding citizen he is- happened to ask “Can we go out from here?” I don't leave that to chance. Why should I ask a question giving anybody the chance to say “No” to me and complicating my life?
There were two guards at the gate. One -the laid-back and sympathetic type- just waved his arm in a “There you go, help yourself” manner, but the other -obviously an “I like power” type- said “No.”
We tried to invite him to reason, asking “Why not?”
The guard said “It's dangerous.”
Ah, the premise I love! A companion of “for security reasons.”
He showed us the other way... To the shops. You are a tourist. There are souvenir shops there. What else do you want? We tried to invite him to reason saying “We'll be walking out from there all the way down, walk out from the main gate and then walk back the street from outside to end up right on the other side of this gate.”
The guard did not yield. Carlo wanted to persuade him. He always does that. Believes he can talk his way with anybody. I pulled his arm. “Let's walk, it's fine.” It's not worth arguing with these types, I know. It would be just a waste of time. Once they have said no, they don't go back. It is a distance but not worth arguing about. So there we went. The way the guard showed us, down the road they have designed for us to walk. Then we walked out out. Here we are, two sheeps out of the flock.
We walked around for ten minutes. We did not have much time left. In the end, we wanted to walk the way where the guard who refused us was. Would it be indecorum to walk in from the same gate we were turned back? It was not that they could refuse to let us in. We had the ship and had the right to enter. Who cared for being indecorous to these people? We walked back in.
It's usually never the rules. Nobody really knows the rules. And the adage that rules are there to be broken is true. This doesn't only go for non-developed countries but also for the developed countries as well. There is always a way around the rules.
Once... I was going to go to South Africa. I had bought my return ticket. Then, I ran into friends who had told me about the Turkish Airlines new flight and promotion. They were leaving three days earlier. They said “You change your ticket and come with us.” I called the call center of THY and asked if there was a seat available and if I could change the ticket. They said “Sure. But you need to come here.”
Now I needed to pack right away. Apart from that, I had no foreign currency with me. As I was going to leave on Monday night and had the whole day free I had postponed going to the bank. I called my mother to ask if she had some dollars with her at home, I would be paying her back on the way back. Luckily she did. Then I tried to find a friend to take me to the airport but could not get hold of anyone. It was pouring outside. I packed my bags, called a taxi and headed towards my mother's. I picked up the cash and then headed towards the THY office in Taksim.
There was a long line. I waited impatiently. When my turn came up, it was with a woman that I had watched to be ill-humored. She said I needed to pay 600 USD to change the ticket. I said that was irrational as I had paid 400 USD for the ticket. I would give up the ticket and buy myself another one. But of course that was not the point. The reason why I was going to South Africa was the cheap airline ticket. If I was to pay twice as much, it wasn't worth. Paying for another ticket to stay three more nights in South Africa did not make sense. But I had packed and come all this way, spending my time and money for the taxi. I didn't want to go back home the way I came, I didn't want to waste all that effort. So I decided to give it another go. I picked up myself another number and waited for my turn.
This time I lucked out. The woman was a nice, helpful person. She was right next to the woman who refused me but what could I do? I told my new customer representative my problem. She said “Instead of changing the date, you may return the ticket. There is a 150 USD penalty but you will get 250 USD refunded. Then you can buy the ticket for tonight.” This was more reasonable. I could pay 150 USD more to stay for three more nights instead of wasting more time and money to get back home. “But...” there was one catch. The woman warned me... “It's Friday night, it's rainy and it is rush-hour, you may not make it to the airport on time.” Yeah, that was true. She said “I enter your name here. You change it when you get to the airport.” I thanked her a lot and headed for yet another taxi. I made it on time. That was 1993. Those were the times we had a real ticket. I didn't tell the boy at the counter about my situation. Just handed over the ticket to him. He gave me m
y boarding pass and wished me a good flight. That was it. Didn't ask for money! I was so happy that I just disappeared from there. When I met my friends later on and told them the situation, -one was a tour guide,- he explained that airline companies do that when it is to change to an earlier flight and there are seats. They can always sell the tickets afterwards.
I can tell you so many more stories to make my point. But let's keep this short. The essence of the matter is: When you get an answer you don't like, try to find someone else to ask the same question. When in line at an office with so many booths, try to observe who seems more friendly and helpful to the customers. If necessary, get a couple of numbers (of course not consecutive!) so that you can skip the ones that seem surly/morose. Hang in there until you find someone to make you happily surprised. No need to mention that you should always carry a small souvenir, or a candy or a chocolate bar at least, to make sure those nice people know you appreciate them.
And always try to connect with people. Even a small gesture, a simple compliment can get you to go around things said to be impossible.