I was recently delayed at Tampa International airport for several hours waiting to return home after a lovely trip to Disney World in neighboring Orlando, FL. Flying standby is nothing new to me. I have flown in standby status most of my life, thanks to my mother, a proud airline employee. Eventually, I make it home and the discount is usually worth the trouble. This time was no different. The flights were oversold for the entire day but I was confident that I would make it home eventually! My daughter was so fascinated watching planes take off and disappear into the sky that she seemed unfazed by the long wait.
The gate agent was making her final call for late passengers and I was ready to get a snack at the nearby deli before the wait started over at the next gate. To my surprise, the next words I heard uttered by the agent were my name. It was like music to my ears! After spending hours in the airport, it was finally our chance to get home. Just as I got up to gather our belongings, I called my daughter away from the window, which upset her. She decided to express her discontentment by flinging off both of her shoes and having a full-blown tantrum complete with kicking and screaming! As I struggled to grab both her and her shoes, I nearly fell over her stroller. I clumsily grabbed my carry-on bags and finally made my way to the counter. My bags were in disarray and my daughter was hanging from my arms barefoot. The agent, appeared annoyed by the entire ordeal and when she realized that my ticket neglected to state that I was carrying an “infant in arms” she was visibly bothered by the mistake. She went to her computer, tapped the keys violently and produced a new boarding pass for me. She handed me the slip of paper and asked me to move along quickly. Before I could catch my breath, I was rushing down the gateway onto a full plane. My daughter was clutching to me still barefoot and her backpack and my laptop bag both flopped along my hips. As I attempted to move down the aisle, my bags and my daughter’s legs made contact with every person that we passed. I finally realized that I needed assistance to make it to the back of the plane, and asked a flight attendant standing close-by for her assistance. She obliged. However, just as she grabbed the backpack, my daughter’s Sippy cup that was tucked into the backpack’s side pocket, tipped over and milk began to drip all over a nearby passenger. As I dove to catch the cup and stop the leak, I bumped the flight attendant from behind.
Without realizing what I was trying to accomplish, she yelled out “Don’t push me!” In addition to her outburst, the soaked passenger looked at me with disgust. All I could do in the moment was attempt to apologize. I was confused and embarrassed.
As I looked for seat 40D I came to the sad realization that it was indeed a middle seat. I could just feel the stares from people hoping that I wasn’t coming toward them. I just knew my seatmates would be uncaring and annoyed.
Well, quite the contrary. I was greeted warmly by both passengers and each asked if they could assist with my bags and the baby. As I finally settled into my seat… it happened…overwhelmed by sheer frustration and embarrassment, I began to weep. Initially, only a few tears escaped from my eyes. Then all of a sudden, I began crying uncontrollably and trying to hide my face behind both, my favorite leopard print scarf and my unsuspecting child. The more I tried to stop crying, the faster the tears ran down my face. After a minute or two, the young lady sitting to my left softly asked “is there anything that we can do to help you?” I was so embarrassed that despite my best efforts, the people around me had witnessed my breakdown. My response to her was that I was ok and I just needed to catch my breath. After a few moments I began to tell the story of what occurred. They listened intently as I retraced my steps to figure out where exactly I lost my control; in essence, what really happened that lead me to a packed plane crying uncontrollably among strangers. Both expressed empathy toward my situation and reassured me that I was safe with them. For the rest of the flight the three of us engaged in a lively discussion about how much each of us enjoy traveling. It was as if nothing had ever happened. To the young lady finishing her graduate degree in psychology at the University of Florida and the gentleman living just outside of San Francisco, who has a daughter graduating from Boston University this spring; thank you for extending God’s love to me that day. In a moment when I was feeling the most alone, you two stood in the gap for me. I shall always remember your kindness and compassion.
Has the kindness of a stranger ever made a profound impact on you while traveling? Share your experience here.
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