The kindness of strangers

Airplane travel is such an interesting thing. We mix with people from every walk of life and sometimes befriend complete strangers in ways we might not otherwise. Yesterday, on my trip to NYC I met Steve from Portland, Oregon who was on his way to Tanzania on a Shoes4Souls mission. Tracy who hopes to write a memoir someday about overcoming life in the projects of NYC and surviving his horrific childhood despite the fact that four out of his seven siblings did not. I met a Marilyn Monroe look-a-like from Los Angeles on her way to a job in the city.

What I didn’t expect though was to have support from a complete stranger when I was unexpectedly distraught.

The culprit

I am a heavy packer. I was especially proud of myself for fitting all my items into a small wheeling suitcase carry-on bag and a purse. I’d put my computer in the main part of my suitcase figuring since it was carry-on I’d have it with me. I was relieved as well that my outfit for my appearance on FOX Television tomorrow would be with me and there would be no chance of my luggage getting lost. When I arrived at the airport I was told that my bag was not regulation size for carry-on. The ticket agent told me if I could take some things out of my bag it would probably be okay otherwise I’d have to check it at the gate. I figured I’d avoid a confrontation at loading time by speaking with the gate agent ahead of time. She was tough. She also told me my bag was too full, but felt if I pulled some items out of the front pocket that might be adequate.

I know I should have just given up at that point, but once I found out that gate check means your luggage will still go to baggage claim at the end of your trip, I was fearing the worst and nervous to be parted from  my bag. I had my outfit, jewelry, shoes etc. for the show tomorrow and just wasn’t ready to deal with the possibility of the luggage getting lost. As we waited to load the plane, I befriended two couples who’d been traveling on the west coast from Delaware. I mentioned where I was headed and why and they were eager to learn about the book. I shared that I hoped my luggage would be acceptable now that I’d unloaded some of it into another handbag.

When it was my turn to board the plane, another ticketing agent from Frontier noticing the two handbags over my shoulder and additional wheeling carry-on sited their FAA regulations and told me he’d have to take the rolling one for me.  He was unwilling to make any exceptions despite my welling tears. I admit this is a relatively ridiculous thing to get upset about.  Even writing about it now, when I am not caught up in the moment I realize that,  but for whatever reason the whole escapade made me start crying emotionally. With my bag gone, I loaded the plane noticing every other bag in the overhead bin that was even bigger than mine. When I passed the couples from Delaware, one of the women grabbed my hand, noticing my runny nose and teary eyes and told me everything would be fine and she knew my luggage would arrive safely despite my worry.

Later in the plane flight, she found me again and spoke with me further. Her kind words soothed me and also made me smile that a stranger took a moment to help another in a time when consolation was definitely needed. Sometimes a kind word to a stranger lasts longer than we will ever know.

Final note: Despite my worry, I arrived safely in NYC and my baggage did too.