Detroit Airport Friday vs. Sunday

Last Friday night I was traveling to Minneapolis for the Their Lives, Our Voices conference. I had a tight connection in Detroit, and the forecast called for thunderstorms in both Detroit and Minneapolis. I was worried. But it was beautiful in Bangor, so I began to feel more confident about everything staying on schedule. Then a fuel sensor was broken on the plane, and we were delayed out of Bangor for an hour. We arrived in Detroit 25 minutes before my next plane was scheduled to take off.

Carrying my luggage, my props for my talks, and my way-too-heavy computer, I ran from the farthest most gate in terminal C to my connecting gate on the far end of terminal A. I knew that if I didn’t make the flight, chances were that I wouldn’t make it to Minneapolis in time for my keynote address first thing in the morning. There was a pregnant woman on my first flight also trying to make the flight to Minneapolis, and I promised to let them know she was on her way if the doors to the plane were still open, as I knew I’d get there first. Fortunately, when I arrived at the gate, albeit drenched with sweat, they were still boarding, and I was able to get on the plane. However, because they had switched airplanes and the new one was smaller, everyone in rows 42 and higher was bumped off the flight. I was lucky my seat was in row 22, and I felt for the other passengers who wouldn’t be able to make it to Minneapolis that night. Just as I was boarding, I saw the pregnant woman. They’d bumped her off the flight because they assumed she wouldn’t make it due to the delay in the first flight. She pointed me out to them, saying I was on the same flight and they were letting me on. At that point, I decided I couldn’t get involved and risk being bumped off myself. I dashed onto the plane, hoping for the best for this woman, but doing nothing to assist her. When I saw her board the plane, I was relieved. She said that being pregnant had its perks; she used her pregnancy to convince them to let her on.

Thirty-six hours later, I was returning home, and my layover in Detroit was 3.5 hours. I felt stress-free. I took my time finding a place to get a vegan meal and was delighted to find an actual peanut butter and jelly restaurant. Then I stopped at a store to buy a new pair of reading glasses because mine had broken on the first flight. When I paid the cashier he told me he was heartbroken. “Why? I asked. “Because I had my ten minute break, and I went to get a Frappuccino, and the line at Starbucks was too long so I couldn’t get it.” I offered to get it for him, and off I went, still carrying all my luggage, but without any need to hurry. He was very happy when I brought it to him, and he shared that after his shift was over he had to be at another job at midnight. He had really needed that pick-me-up.

I decided to treat myself to a back massage at the Detroit aiport “spa” because my neck and shoulders hurt a lot after the breakneck run with my computer and luggage on Friday. The woman who was giving the massage was so stressed out. Her electricity had gotten turned off at home, and she was unable to reach an actual person at the utility company, and she couldn’t receive calls at work, and she was running behind. She worried that her energy was so stressed it would impact my massage, but I reassured her and just let her vent. At the end of the massage she told me she felt so much better and was really grateful to me because I’d made her feel so much calmer.

On Friday night, I wouldn’t have stopped to help a soul. I might have run right by a person who’d tripped, a child who was lost, or someone having a heart attack, just hoping another would help. On Sunday, I would probably have been available to help anyone I passed at the airport, open as I was in my stress-free state to see the people around me.

This reminds me that often, those people we think are inconsiderate, rude, or unhelpful may simply be very stressed, while those who are kind and compassionate may simply be in a space in which they can let these qualities shine. As Philo of Alexandria once said, “Be kind, for everyone is fighting a great battle.” I think this also means that we can be kind to ourselves when the battle we are fighting eclipses our own kindness and goodness. I was not especially kind to anyone on Friday, but I was kind on Sunday.

Zoe Weil
Author of Above All, Be Kind and Most Good, Least Harm

Image courtesy of indywriter via Creative Commons.

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