Column: I Am Flummoxed!

Column by Elena Yang
I Am Flummoxed!

I just wanted to find a way to use “flummoxed.” One story and one news item put me in this state.

Here is the story: Lynn Harrell, an internationally renowned cellist, found himself banned by Delta Airlines for violating their Frequent Flyer Program terms.

Travel is always a tricky venture for musicians who play large instruments, especially by plane. How many of us would trust the airlines these days to check in our luggage that contains our livelihood?

So, Mr. Harrell has for years been buying a full-price ticket for his cello, and registered “Mr. Cello” with the FFP. Turns out one is not allowed to use accrued mileage points for musical instruments, even though the ticket is fully paid by a human. 

Eleven years after Mr. Harrell had been using Mr. Cello’s mileage points for the cello, he got the “Dear John” letter. Not only he was admonished for this “criminal” practice, but Delta also canceled Mr. Harrell’s membership as well, and reneged on all his accumulated points. Further, Mr. Harrell was never to be admitted into the program again. 

Would Delta have responded in this way to Mr. Yo Yo Ma? 

According to a reader’s response to Mr. Harrell’s blog post of this story (link), this reader managed to “reason” with Delta Airlines and was granted “special” status for the reader’s cello. The reader is to contact Delta directly every time he needs to fly with his instrument. 

Why? What is the purpose, and what value does it bring, making it more difficult than necessary for customers to buy your product? If we humans pay full price for that which accompanies us, be it another human, an animal, a large instrument or other object, what’s that to the airlines? What am I missing?!

The news item is about Egypt, or, more specifically, about President Morsi. I would love to examine the thought process of President Morsi, but it may not yield much enlightenment. 

Egypt’s spring revolution that brought down Mubarak was truly inspirational at the time. Growing a new democracy is a messy affair; a lot of patience and a lot of trial-and-error are required. A leader in such a situation needs to be well educated and well informed, in addition to being able to lead. Mr. Morsi is an educated man, but…

A professor friend once said, “You cannot right the wrong if you don’t have the right template.” For example, at a personal level, we see quite often that first-born children tend to repeat the same pattern of marriage as their parents.’ But in the case of national politics?

Mr. Morsi has plenty of examples from which to take positive lessons and create a viable model for Egypt, if he wants to. So why follow the example of his disgraced predecessor? Accruing more power for himself is not the way to go about building a democracy.  

And as of this weekend, he is on the verge of declaring martial law, backed by the same military power that supported Mr. Mubarak. If Mr. Morsi continues to insist it’s all the fault of the protestors and opposition, then he may soon find himself in the company of Syrian’s beleaguered leader, Bashar al-Assad. 

But ultimately, why? What is it with clueless people occupying the top tier of an organization/society? Oh, I guess I can make several educated guesses, but the answers I am searching for are: What could Mr. Morsi have done differently, and why didn’t he do it?

My usual suggestion of “talking with and listening to the lower ranks” seems so obvious yet so pedantic. I am flummoxed. 

Do you have explanations and suggestions?

This is the penultimate post of 2012. Till next time,

Staying Sane and Charging Ahead.

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