Skip to main content

So much for the United States of America!

Yesterday my father-in-law moved into intensive care all of a sudden, and is still in a critical situation. I am thousands of miles away from the family, in Singapore.

Unfortunately, my husband also had just then taken a flight to Chicago from Hong Kong, a long 14-hour flight.

I called Chicago United Airlines, desperate.

A computer answered me, which is normal. It understood human voice, and when I said Help, Agent, it directed me to an agent. So far, so good.

I finally managed to get thru to a human being.

But I realized, this one was not much better than a robot. She sounded like a dragon lady, silently put me on indefinite holds without telling me she was checking or whatever, was unfailingly rude, and finally told me her computer did not have any data regarding my husband…she needed the ticket number to confirm his existence on the plane.

I called again, armed with the ticket number.

Second dragon lady, just as winsome as the first one, who again put me on various silent holds without telling me what was going on. She finally came up with: He is on the flight, but we do not have the means to pass him a message on the flight. Can pass it once he has landed.

No matter how I requested, I was told that a message cannot be passed on board the flight.

The supervisor who came on line was a little better trained (actually uttered the words I am sorry for the difficult situation you are in etc.,) but said the pilot can only be contacted if there is an emergency threat to the plane: FAA regulations and all that.

But he promised that the message would definitely be delivered once my husband landed in Chicago.

I was disappointed. But I thought, fair enough, they are doing their job, thanked them and hung up.

I waited up till 2am in the morning so I could call my husband, and after a few dozen calls finally found him. He had not got any message so far, so I told him about his dad, and he hung up so he could call his family.

I talked to him now, a few hours later, and realized no one from the United Airlines ever gave him any message.

So much for United Airlines.

For all their snobbish, holier-than-thou and patronizing attitudes, none of the agents did their job.

Welcome to the real United States, I told myself.

I had so far only met very nice, compassionate and extremely competent American expats, and my view of America and Americans had been largely shaped by them.

But with this one experience over the phone (during which I paid full international call charges between Singapore and Chicago for over an hour), I began to have a completely new and different view of the country and its people.

I don’t think individuals realize how much their actions count in the image of their country.

For now, I have this much to say: So much for the United States of America!

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  • dogengenjo says:

    I’m very sorry to hear of your horrible experience Damyanti. I’m actually thrilled to read “So Much For the USA”…! Being a US citizen and resident now for 57 years, I too am so often on a daily basis, disgusted over the Inhuman treatment of American’s by American’s. I can’t count the many numerous times, in the last 20 years, when something like your incident, happens in my own life, on a weekly basis. Who do we have to answer most crucial calls? A computer generated voice mail…! We need arbitrators for the arbitrators. We need Managers for Managers, teachers for teachers, et al. We have such a insensitive systemic failure across the board, in almost every daily aspect of life, while trying to get the proper help necessary to mend the issues and problems, encountered. My Wife has not had Medical Insurance for 11 months. I spent 23 days in December on a computer trying to enroll my Wife in the “Un-affordable Health care act”; to no avail, which made for a stressed out Xmas. I have pulled so much hair out of my head, its a wonder I’m not bald headed. Still to this day, 11 months later, we are just beginning to receive a call here and there, sporadically from actual human beings. Yet, we leave countless messages, in all matters, including other important issues. If we do get a real person on a phone call, we so often are transferred to a voice mail box, of which NO phone calls are ever returned. Upon leaving an urgent message; it seems those voice mail boxes, must be for deleting all messages, and a intentional act of negligence by most Corporations, and Government offices. Not one phone call was ever received by my Wife and I, in 11 months. Not until we hired a Lawyer, did we finally get real humans to field calls. Even now, this Nation’s Systemic Failure is applicable to all walks of life, which is sooooo un-fortunate for all persons in dire need of help. It’s utterly appalling, and I for one am disgusted, frustrated, and ashamed of my Country, the US of A. So much for the USA, and its Golden Dream. Like the Statue of Liberty, rusting in all its lack of glory these days. The Decadence of the American Dream is rusting like a cancer within. The decadent dream is just that, a dream, a actual lie. Like that rusting Liberty statue, so are our dreams of a better place. I take no stock of the American Lie of a Golden Dream. Even Gold rusts eventually. If one flies over the cities of Chicago; more-so, Los Angeles, you see Freeways below, which looks like a Heart’s Arteries. This Heart, is indeed, the cardiovascular system of America, and its looking more and more, like America’s arteries are in the current process of a major cardiac arrest…..!

  • damyantig says:

    Thanks indigobunting, I am so glad you dropped by. When I wrote the post I seriously needed to vent, but it is the individuals I blame rather than a collective group.

    I have met some Americans who are simply lovely human beings, and from your comment I alread think you are one of them:)

    Thanks for your good wishes, these are difficult times indeed for my family…

  • indigobunting says:

    Hi DG! Thanks for commenting on my blog…I am just discovering yours. I’ve been having trouble keeping up with blogging/reading blogs, but I find it all fascinating.

    May I just say that many of us in the US are as fed up with this kind of treatment as you are. But you’re right…few realize how their own actions reflect on the image of their country. And I fear we Americans need to work extra hard sometimes.

    May your family get through this difficult time…

  • damyantig says:

    Thanks, K….I hope it will too!

  • mammaren says:

    Yes, I see.. Bad day indeed. Here’s hoping your week improves! Blessings, K

%d bloggers like this: