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Monday, March 21, 2011

Trying to Keep an Open Mind

Once again, I have been reminded of the fact that we just never know what we're going to face in any given day.  We have zero idea who we're going to be around, what they are going through, where they are headed, or precisely how things are going to play out.

I have met some of the nicest people in my life.  Today, I had a couple of guys actually ask me how my day was going.  It's not that unusual, but fairly so.  They were so friendly, polite and smiling.  They wanted to know where I'd been that day, where I was going to overnight, and how my Monday was going.  And that's the reason I love some scant parts of this human race so much -- because of people like these guys.  I could have breezed over it, continued right on in my flight attendant mode, and simply said "Fine, thank you."  But I stopped, answered their questions, and turned around and ask them the same thing.  That's how I choose to do business.

And yesterday was a sad day.  My flight from San Jose to Seattle included a mother.  A mom who was, perhaps, 50.  Asking me for a cracker or little snack of some kind because she had not had a chance to eat yet.  Honestly, these sorts of requests are fairly routine -- and I often give them something if I have it but sometimes I just wonder what in the world they are thinking -- if you're hungry, eat!  Get up in time to actually get yourself a snack, for god's sake.  Back to the Mom.  She had a son in Seattle who was dying she tells me.  Today.  Yes, today.  They were keeping him on life support only until she could get to the hospital in Seattle to say her goodbyes to him.  I refused to make her turn off her cell phone when she should have been doing so.  I guess it was her call to the nurse who was attending to her son that did it for me -- "Promise me that you're keeping him alive until I can get there....you are...right?"  Yeah, she could pretty much do whatever she wanted and it would have been alright with me.  She cried.  I cried.  I put my hand on her arm and told her that I would be thinking about her.  She said she appreciated it and asked for my prayers.  I promised.  And off she went once we reached Seattle.  To see her dying son.  I suppose he's gone by now.  A mother left alone.  That's just not right.

And then the very next flight, another woman with a typed note on her passenger service record which read:  "Her mother died today."  Well golly gee now, just like that.  Her mother had died and now she was on my flight trying to get to Ontario, California, to attend to her duties.  She slept the whole way.  Rightfully so.

I do my best to keep an open mind.  I achieve it sometimes.  I fail miserably many times.  Part of the learning process, I presume.
J5EGPDS3AEJN

15 comments:

Rick said...

I remember taking a flight upon finding out about my father's death. I don't remember getting to the airport. It was as if I got the phone call from my sister and then woke up on the plane. Weird how your brain works in traumatic situations.

Dave2 said...

With all the nasty people I see while traveling, I'd get to the point where I wouldn't even know HOW to care anymore. The fact that you still can is why I admire you so much. Keep flying, kind sir!

anne marie said...

compassion is sadly lacking in today's society. thank you, lewis, for having some to spare for your fellow humans.

BosGuy said...

What a somber post. Definitely puts my crap in perspective. The story about the Mom flying to Seattle is heartbreaking and although it happens every day - it certainly hits home when you see it first-hand.

Sh@ney said...

Hi Lewis,
Just wanted to drop by and give you a big {HUG} Hope you are well. Mwah!

Greg said...

It doesn't take too much out of our time to be a little thoughtful, a little nice to someone. As you said, we don't know what kind of day anyone else has had or is having. Good on you!

Ur-spo said...

you must see so much in your job; I continue to admire all you do.

Wayne said...

Over the years I've had numerous customers lose family members. Mothers, husbands, children. It never gets any easier.

Christopher said...

I'm sure those passengers in need of support - and who are fortunate to be on your plane - appreciate everything you do for them. I know I would.

Ron said...

Working in the hotel industry for the last ten years (in my retirement), I have met all kinds of people. Some nice and some not so nice. I can usually tell what they're like as soon as they approached the front desk. I did not seek this job but was 'backed into it.' I never wanted to deal with the public thus that is why I always avoided it in my 37 years in the banking industry. Now that I am 'dealing' with the public I have been pleasantly surprised at how many nice people there are and how my life has been enriched by meeting them and knowing of their stories. Just when I think have encountered every type and every experience, something new happens. Perhaps that is why I love my job, it is always something different. Of course, I do encounter the difficult customers ('guests' is what we call them in the hospitality industry), but I look upon them as a challenge. I try to turn them around and I'm almost always successful which is positive reinforcement for me. Those who I don't 'turn around', I don't concern myself with them. It is their choice to live their lives in unhappiness.
Just last week I had a positive experience at Lowe's. As I was checking out I presented my VAMC card to the checkout clerk for my 10% veteran's discount. She looked at my picture on the card (it looks like a mug shot by the way) and looked at me and said "Thank you sir for your service to our country." Did you know that is the first time since I got out of the Army in January 27th, 1963 (after three years of service) that anyone has ever thanked me for giving up three years of my life in service of my country? I always thank former members of the military for their service to our country. I don't expect thanks back because I wasn't in combat but it did make me feel good to have someone acknowledge my service.

bardelf said...

Your airline is very fortunate to have an employee like you. Never forget that your kind words or gestures surely make a difference in others' lives, as do your postings here. Hugs.

Bridge Journey said...

Goodness sake. We never know how we are going to be called on during any given day to simply touch another life. When I seem to have the least to give is when the Universe seems to tap me on the shoulder to turn around and look... and see... and be present... and give.
Thank you for giving and bending the rules and sharing this which reminds me of these truths today.

scotsyank said...

I had a similar experience with a kind flight attendant 2 1/2 years ago, rushing from Scotland to New Mexico to be with my dying Mother. I didn't make it in time.
I really love this blog. I love your combination of humour, sarcasm, and compassion. Keep it up. It means something to people. X

tornwordo said...

Wow, that made me tear up. I'm always afraid to chat up the flight attendants. I feel like they probably get asked the same thing all the time. Maybe I'll ask how their day is going next time.

cb said...

Those are sad people--- I'm glad "a stranger" comforted them in their time of need