It came to me while biking on an open road in Napa Valley. So often, consumed with the doings of our day-to-day existence, we scarcely allow ourselves any time to ponder—ponder in the sense of truly reflect on our life experiences and what they signify. I had told my ‘airport story’ many times to many people, never really taking the time to realize its true significance until that bike ride.
I believe in the notion that we are all ‘human’ and ultimately have the responsibility to behave in a ‘human’ way toward each other, even if that means going above and beyond, breaking the rules, or putting yourself out for another individual. Sometimes, as was in this case, individuals need concrete reminders that behaving appropriately toward others is “the human thing to do.”
Here is the scene: I was taking a short flight from my local airport on a Friday morning to attend a business retreat; however, this trip meant far more than a business meeting to me. I was more excited to spend the weekend with a dear friend and colleague who had had a rough year. It was a well-needed and deserved break for her, and it was also a time when we could celebrate our mutual ‘special’ birthdays, relaxing a bit together.
I arrived at the airport parking lot at a reasonable, but not early time. I quickly gathered my things, boarded the shuttle to the airport, and proceeded to check-in. The dye was cast for the rest of the day at the moment I realized I did not have my identification with me….what to do? I inquired about later flights, etc., only to be told that a storm was coming that afternoon—every option closed to me due to either lack of seats or flight cancellations. I made my most sincere entreaty, only to hear a response of “next in line.”
I froze in my place….no ID, no flight, no business retreat, and most importantly, no time spent with friend. I retraced my steps mentally, and after what seemed like a very long time, but likely only a couple of minutes, I bolted into action. My purse lay open on the front seat of the car, and perhaps my identification sat abandoned in my vehicle. It was a race to the finish as I coerced a series of shuttle drivers, TSA security employees, other fellow travelers, and airport cart drivers to assist me in my mission—getting on an early Friday morning flight in less than 50 minutes at a major USA airport–no easy feat in the twenty-first century. I first had to return to my car—indeed the identification wallet sat abandoned on the front seat. The shuttle driver gave me tips, doing me the favor of driving me straight back to the terminal solo. I made my way ahead of approximately 15 fellow travelers, who gladly allowed me to cut ahead in line. Of course, my companion was my ‘planned to be checked in 40 pound piece of luggage’, so I lost most of my toiletries at security, but the TSA worker worked quickly, and sent me on my way, wishing me the best of luck. I knew I had to take a cart, but…I was in Terminal; the nearest cart was unavailable until Terminal C and my flight, of course, was at the end of Terminal D. And so the next phase of my personal triathlon ensued. I had been shot full of adrenaline from the moment I left the original check-in counter, a veritable woman on a mission. I sprinted through Terminals A and B, with my luggage, winter coat, and heels, breaking a sweat. Arriving at Terminal C, I flagged down who I considered to be the “fastest of the cart drivers”, and climbed on the cart, and another driver waited to take me to Terminal D. By this time, I had about 15 minutes until my departure. I arrived at Terminal D, expecting to see another driver, but alas, I saw none. My flight was at the far end of the Terminal; I asked the women at the first gate to alert them, which they gladly obliged. Ten minutes to go. I attempted to sprint as best as I could, but fatigue had taken over.
I arrived at D12, sweating, panting, but hopeful five minutes before departure. I joyfully saw the plane out the window, only to be greeted by one of two women at the podium with, “The plane is gone.”
I am typically an organized early bird, in fact, often called a “Triple AAA personality.” This had never happened to me before and I refused to accept it. My response to her was, “The plane isn’t gone; it’s right there!”
Her monotone response was again, “The plane is gone.”
I launched into the past hour of my existence, telling them, “See here. I have just run a triathlon trying to get on this plane—this can’t be happening.” I gave them the minute version of the experience. It fell upon deaf ears—no response from either of the women.
I then went up to the window so that the pilots in the cockpit could see me, attempting to gesture my way onto the plane. No response from them, and then I heard the same woman at the podium state, “They have reflective glass and cannot see you. You are wasting your time.”
I then made one last entreaty—I said the words “Please let me on this plane. It would be the human thing to do.”
With that statement, the second woman, who had been silent all along, said, “One moment please.” She radioed the attendants, and you know the rest of the story. I did indeed board that plane. I offered to monetarily thank this airline worker and the pilots, but my verbal thanks and embrace were enough for them. Save for the fact that the adrenaline that got me through that experience stayed in my body far longer than was wanted or needed, my friend and I enjoyed our time together and all was well with the world for a brief couple of days.
I have since repeated this story to others—all are amazed and several of my acquaintances have used ‘the line’ to accomplish the impossible in various and sundry situations. I do not know what made me utter those eight simple, but very powerful words. I only know I believe that underneath our fast paced and often impersonal existence, we crave the human spirit—when it beckons, we seize it. This I believe.
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