By Joan Wickett
The older I get the more I realize how necessary and appreciated the “kindness of strangers” is. This was made abundantly clear to me on a recent trip to San Francisco to visit our new great-granddaughter.
I had booked the flights in somewhat of a hurry. A direct flight from here to there is a rarity, if not impossible, so I settled for the traditional layover plans. Foolishly, I accepted the airline’s version of layover time as doable, and was left with very short times between flights.
The first flight had a 1 1/2 hour unexplained delay in departure, which made our connection impossible. Fortunately, there was a flight only two hours later, which we were put on at a standby status. An airline attendant took an interest in us and assured us we would be one of the standbys called. With some anxiety, we were finally called and arrived only two hours late.
Our visit was filled with happy smiles, hugs and coos from our great-granddaughter, and happy family reunions, and our travel woes were soon forgotten. But, alas, it was soon time to go home.
And thus, the adventure began. Our scheduled flight was canceled at the last minute due to a serious maintenance issue. The replacement flight would be 1 1/2 hours later – again – making connections impossible. A young fellow passenger assured us he was told the second flight would wait for us, even if we were late. We boarded the flight in good faith, arrived late, and found that our connection had taken off. We were stranded in Washington, and it was almost midnight the night before a holiday. All flights out of Washington the next day were completely booked.
At this point our co-traveler, realizing our distress, “adopted” us and proceeded to take over getting us settled. After much up and downs in the airport, we found a clerk who again assured us there were no available flights. We could be put on standby to go someplace where we would again have to transfer. I am sure our pathetic look reached his heart. Somehow – and we won’t ask how – he was able to bump two people and get us on a morning flight the next day. We were given vouchers for a hotel room, guided by our “son” to the shuttle, and sent off to a hotel for a short four-hour stay.
After a brief rest, we boarded an extremely crowded shuttle and arrived at the Washington airport. What followed was another adventure. Again, with the help of total strangers, workers in the airport speaking a combination of English, Spanish and sign language, we were led through a maze of elevators, trains, hallways and more elevators until we finally arrived at our gate. We were assured by the attendant there it was the proper gate and our flight would be leaving on time.
After an uneventful short flight, we finally arrived back home.
In retrospect, I realize we would not have been able to negotiate the twists and turns of our flights if it were not for the help of others – mostly fellow travelers or total strangers in the airports. In a world where we are bombarded daily with reports of cruelty, prejudice, indifference and greed, it is comforting to know they are the minority, and people such as we encountered on our trip are daily proving that people are by nature kind, considerate and helpful.
Getting older, we are reluctant to admit that we frequently do need help. It is consoling to know that people such as we found on our trip are out there.
Joan Wickett, of Hamburg, is grateful that she is not spending her day in an airport.