Yesterday Esteban and I embarked upon our separate but equal trips to Las Vegas for a very neat adventure: the very same IT conference. It’s not often that our jobs have the same venues but things melded this time (there was only one other time so far:last year’s VMworld). We work for two different companies: he works for a tech vendor and I’m a tech journalist, so you’d think there would be more opportunities but you’d be wrong. His flight left significantly earlier than mine, and he connect in DTW while I connected in MSP. As one would assume he arrived in LAS earlier so we wouldn’t meet up again until I got to the hotel 12 hours later.
As such, I was somewhat cranky about the entire process, because usually he’s there to placate my Pre-trip anxiety but this time he was dealing with his own packing drama. For instance the dry cleaners seems to be slowly stealing our clothes as I swear we keep bringing in clothes and being told that there’s nothing to pick up. It’s a pretty good racket, actually, if there were a black market for very boring business wear and wool sweaters.
So I tried to not be cranky at the world and go with the flow. My Pre-trip Anxiety was somewhat quelled in that the first two flights in my five flight week were upgraded (through my diligent working the frequent flier system, a fine racket that has even more dubious benefits than the used dry cleaning racket) so I really didn’t have to panic about being a Flier Who Is Of Size (seriously, that’s how the airlines refer to fat people. Ridonk.)
But my flight out of GRB was delayed and my luxurious layover in MSP was looking less Of Size by the minute. Then I got to watch my fellow travelers go into Meltdown Mode. People were filled with anxiety, stressed and each and very one of them was Very, Very Important. So I worked on work stuff and got more and more cranky and then finally got on the damned plane two hours later than planned, after being literally elbowed out of the way so that two of my fellow forward cabin mates could get onto the plane before me. People, there were a total of 20 people on the whole plane that seated probably 100 — it’s not like overhead storage space was in high demand. The delay and the assholes in first totally destroyed what little calm I had retained after my TSA opt out pat down.
I should also mention that I’m t-minus fifteen seconds from my Princess Time, so my lower back is killing me, I have a low level headache all the time and would much rather sit on the couch with a heating pad, a bucket of chocolate frosting and some pretzels to use as frosting delivery devices than live the not-so-glamourous life of the jetset elite.
So it was in that frame of mind that I was schlepping my carry on suitcase, my 23 lb laptop and my sleep snorkel through MSP. And I trusted the signs that indicated that F concourse could not be reached by theC concourse tram and I’d have to walk the entirety of the frisking C concourse (the sign is a fucking asshole) and the main terminal and then all of the F concourse. And after about ten minutes of solid walking, I looked down and realized that my travel pashmina was missing.
So, it’s stupid, but I have a system when I travel, and one of the important parts of that system is a $25 black pashmina that I got on eBay years and years ago. It claims on the tag that it’s 100% cashmere but like the MSP tram, I suspect the label is not entirely acting in good faith. But I still love that thing. I use it as an extra beefy scarf all winter and then always stow it into my laptop bag before I take off. I must have at least 100,000 frequent flier miles of its own. I use it as a scarf, a pillow, a blanket and a sleep mask. It’s been like a travel pet, plus it keeps my neck warm. I propose that one is only as warm as one’s neck. (Discuss in the comments)
I looked down the concourse. I didn’t see it and I didn’t really feel like I could backtrack for it and remain sane. My back was killing me and I was in hate with humanity (Scientific fact: people act extra dumb in airports). And let’s face it, for a cheap pashmina, it had served a long tenure. Plus Esteban has been asking for Xmas ideas so I would add a travel pashmina to my list.
I kept walking. I had gone probably another 200 yards when I happened to look behind me and see an older man running like crazy down the moving sidewalk. I wasn’t going to think anything of it bit he seemed to have me in his sights rather than some gate off in the distance. And in his hand was something black.
I walked backwards off the moving sidewalk (which…yeah, that’s going to end up on YouTube) and met him between two moving sidewalk junctures, as though we were in a romantic comedy and I was Rachel McAdams and he was Ryan Gosling, instead of two much less attractive middle-aged people.
“Is that my scarf?” I said, not really believing that he was running to catch me. He was another passenger, not even an MSP employee, and he was schlepping his own giant laptop backpack.
“We were sitting back there and we saw you look down and we saw the look on your face and we knew you must have lost something. Then we looked down the way and there it was, so we thought maybe it was what you lost.”
“Oh my god! Thank you so much! I was so sad,” I said, but he was out of breath so he just waved and turned around to walk back to his gate, 200 yards back. “Thank you! I mean it, that was so amazing!” I shouted again. He nodded, gave me the thumbs up and headed away.
This is where a homily would go, where I would attribute such extraordinary behavior to Minnesota nice or maybe the karma of walking the length of all the concourses returned in kind, but I’m not going to. Instead I’m just going to remember that people are still amazing and capable of surprising you, even if it’s just a middle aged out of shape guy willing to sprint on the chance that he could make someone’s day less of a bummer. I mean, it was such a little thing. The scarf means less than how hard he worked to get it to me.
He didn’t know me. He wasn’t looking for a reward. He just saw an opportunity to make the world better in just a small way. And he did.
And just like that, my internal grump demon was gone. Because of that guy. Because he reminded me that everyone is self-centered, not everyone is only looking out for themselves, and not everyone is an asshole. He reminded me that every one of us has the chance to make a difference in the world, every single day.
Thank you, guy. Thank you for helping me remember that. I had forgotten, I think.