Thursday, July 23, 2009

Long day with a dose of kindness

Wednesday was a fun day as I and two colleagues managed to visit three different airports (one of them twice) in two times zones over the course of 16 hours. After leaving my office at 1:15 AM Tuesday night, getting home at 2 AM, snatching two hours of interrupted sleep, and then getting up again, I shambled into TF Green Airport here in RI at 5:30 AM, got on the 6:30 non-stop to Chicago, spent 6 and a half hours in my company's office there in meetings, followed by the return to Chicago Midway and a two-leg trip home.

Unfortunately, this was very confusing for, which only allowed us to check in for our first flight 24 hours in advance. As a result, we were forced to check in at the airport for the other flights and, for anyone who has flown Southwest knows, if you check in that late, you are absolutely screwed when it comes to getting a seat if the flight was full. Apparently, there was a mass exodus from Chicago and Baltimore and both flights were 100% full. My cheery and entertaining traveling companions, L & N, both retained their good humor and resigned themselves to center seats. Me? I was too tired to really care. I think I slipped into a Zen state and the Universe came to my rescue.

First, despite all odds, there was one aisle seat left when we boarded at Chicago. Yes, it was in the row immediately in front of the exit row so the seats didn't lean back but really, when operating on two hours of cat-interrupted sleep, it's possible to doze just about anywhere. After our delayed flight from Chicago landed just as our connecting flight from Baltimore was due to take off, we lurched to concourse B like business-traveling zombies and discovered yet another completely full plane and we were almost dead last when it came to boarding (two other business-traveling zombies showed up just as we were walking down the jet way).

Again, L & N split off into center seats as I maneuvered toward the back seeing, dear God in heaven, two open window seats! Oh rats, they were occupied by little kids whose heads were too low to be seen over the seatback in front of them. D'oh!

So with grace and aplomb, I came to the third row from the end. Then it happens.

I smile at the older woman in the aisle seat and say, "Excuse me, ma'am but is that center seat taken?"

She smiles, says "no" and unsnaps her seatbelt.

And moves into the center seat.

"Ma'am, please, I'll be happy to sit in the center seat. I don't want you to have to give up your aisle seat!"

"Oh, sit down," she says with a smile. "I've got a son as tall as you and I know he needs the extra legroom. You can have it."

And with that, any frustrations at airport delays and overly full jetliners vanished, swept away by an act of unexpected kindness after a very long day.

Thank you, ma'am. On behalf of business-traveling zombies everywhere I owe you one.

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