I sat in my gray cubicle – the kind that you could see over when you stood up – circling the cord of the phone tightly around my finger, mirroring the anxiety tightening in my chest.
“But, he told me that the tickets were refundable.”
“I’m sorry, Miss, but all tickets except business class are refundable.”
“There has to be something that you can do.”
“No, Miss, there’s nothing that I can do.”
My pencil skirt felt like a corset someone was yanking the strings on. I was only an intern. Could they fire someone they didn’t even pay?
“Is there a record of my call? I talked to Bryan, and I explicitly asked if the business class tickets I was about to purchase for my client were refundable. They were only booking these as a precaution; in case the weather was poor and they couldn’t travel via helicopter.”
“Yes, Miss, I see that you called, but there’s nothing I can do.”
The train tickets weren’t on my credit card. They were on the vice president’s credit card. The vice president of the company my PR firm had a contract with.
I couldn’t decide which was worse. Having $2000 on my monthly statement or having to explain $2000 on hers.
“Did Bryan make a note of my question? Did he write down that I was purchasing these tickets and going to be calling back to cancel them if my client was able to fly into Washington D.C.?”
“No, Miss. He didn’t make a note of it. There is nothing that I can do for you. The tickets you purchased are non-refundable. Is there anything else that I can help you with today.”
It felt like a stone, a $2000 stone, lodged itself in my throat. Only a sliver of air could pass by, and my eyes started to water.
Would this woman even care if I started to cry? Or would she just curtly tell me that my refund wasn’t possible?
Fear quickly morphed into bottled rage.
There had to be something she could do. Maybe I’d been too polite; my small town, Midwestern roots showed a bit too much. Maybe I should rally the deliberate and controlled wrath I was learning from corporate America.
“Fine. If there is nothing that you can do. I would like to speak to your manager. Bryan told me that I would be able to refund these tickets. So, I’m not going to hang up until that happens.
“My manager is going to tell you the same thing that I have, Miss. We cannot refund your tickets.”
If she kept saying Miss in that sneering tone, all of my Midwestern manners were going to walk right out of the building.
“I would like to speak to them anyway, please.”
“That’s not possible.”
“It is possible. I would like to speak to your manager. I have a right to speak to your manager.”
I tried to hold the desperation in my voice underneath the $2000 rock sitting in my throat. It was everything I could do the hold the cracking of my voice underneath with it.
“Miss, I will be able to offer you a refund.”
“The train has just now been delayed.”
Her words were strained, as if they were coming from a sore loser whose mom was watching closely. You could see the desire to flip the table flame in their eyes even as they crisply shook your hand.
I was momentarily surprised she even told me.
“So, if the train is delayed, all tickets become refundable. Even business class?”
“I’d like a refund.”
“On the VISA ending in 0914?”
“I will process your refund. Please hold for the confirmation number.”
If I had been in a ticket office, I would have taken the confirmation number and run. Like I was getting away with a grand theft right in front of security.
“Your confirmation number is A4F578. Is there anything else that I can help you with today?”
“No. That was it.”
“Thank you and have nice day.”
I stifled the urge to jump up and down at my outrageous good luck.
Lesson #453 of my internship: Always read the fine print.
Especially if you’re dealing with Amtrak, corporate credit cards, or salesmen who promise you that you can have exactly what you want.
“Tell a story set at your first job.” – Prompt from Day 1 of The Scintilla Project