Missed flights, new connections

I’m writing this entry from Dallas-Fort Worth airport, when I should be in the air to Charleston, South Carolina. You may ask why I’m not on my flight. If you know me really well then you shouldn’t be too shocked by the next few paragraphs.

Turns out I overslept this morning and missed my 7:15 am flight from LAX to DFW. Nothing better than having the first words our of your mouth for the day be “Le Fuck.” (sorry for the language, Mom. You taught me better than that. But today it was appropriate).

I also had not finished packing (double shocker) so while I fluttered around my room trying to pull myself together in record time I threw whatever was in my closet into my suitcase. I’m looking forward to seeing what exactly I packed whenever I see my luggage again. Brilliant start to the morning. And it gets better.

Next up on Catherine’s Clusterfuck morning (sorry again, Mom. you know how much I love alliteration) was a mad drive up Pacific Coast Highway to the airport, where I was hoping I could hop the next flight. I really couldn’t have picked a worse day to miss a flight – getting anywhere on standby is near impossible, let alone a small airport in South Carolina with a few flights in every day the weekend before Thanksgiving. At that point I was hoping my horseshoe would save me again, like it has so many times in my mess of a life – more on my horseshoe and it’s uncanny ability to pull me through tiny disasters in a future post.

I got to to the parking garage where I usually leave my car for long trips, tossed my keys at the attendant and made a mad dash for the shuttle. Looked at my watch and gave myself a little smile because it appeared I would make it in time to fly standby. I then realized my license was in my back pocket and said “hey, silly lady, put that thing in your wallet before you lose it.”

And then I realized I had left my wallet in the car.

Any reasonable person may have given up on their mission to travel once they realized they were flightless, moneyless and batting .000 for the day. Not this kid. Why? Because I have plans to go see the Gamecocks tomorrow. Nothing would stop me from reuniting with my brother and watching the game with my best girls at Williams-Brice tomorrow. Onward.

I ended up getting the last seat on the plane (thank you, Platinum AA status) and dropped down in the aisle seat next to a fella. He kind of laughed when he saw me- and he had every right to. I was a mess of tangled hair, unbuckled boots and looked generally homeless. But still smiling, cause hey! I got a seat! Victory #1 for the day.

He saw my two phones and commented on my extreme connectivity (I carry an iPhone and a work Blackberry- kind of gives strangers the impression that I’m either 1. A workaholic 2. A serial cheater or 3. A drug dealer. I kinda hope they go with option 1 in their heads. But I digress.)

We began talking about politics and both agreed that our nation’s education system needed a reboot, that America could take some lessons from Britain on how to abdicate its world power status gracefully (ha). We talked about favorite TV shows (both huge fans of Dawson’s Creek), The Abbey, and our mutual love and obsession over Robyn. Discovered he was going to Costa Rica to celebrate a friend’s 50th birthday. I told him my story and he laughed. “God, that sounds like something I would do!” he especially liked the part where I said I may be sleeping at DFW tonight if I can’t get a stand-by flight to Charleston. Plane friend bond had been sealed.

But then he did something that was so incredibly unexpected: he pulled out his wallet, handed me a $100 bill, and told me this story:

“When I was studying abroad in Spain I ran out of all of my money on the day I was supposed to go home. I had no way of getting a taxi or catching a ride to the airport. A stranger saw me in that situation and gave me 50 bucks. We’ve all been there. Take it.”

I tried to decline his offer, but he insisted and told me to pay it forward. I was left with this overwhelming appreciation for a complete stranger who offered me help in a time of need. Too many times we sit next to people on trains, planes or even at work and dont take the time to get to know them. We look at each other warily, like the stranger could intrude on our self-contained bubble, mess up our tiny little lives. But every now and then we say hello to that stranger and get blessed with the gift of kindness, with compassion.

I may not know where I am sleeping tonight – I could end up in Charleston, or DC, or the floor of terminal D at DFW. I may not see my luggage for a few days. I may have other trite obstacles down the road. But I do know this: I have a new connection.

Thank you, Steve Cardenas, for restoring my faith in humanity. Thank you for making me laugh when I was feeling a bit sorry for myself. Thank you for your random act of kindness. This Thanksgiving I am thankful that I met you and remembered what life is all about: bringing light to the lives of others.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all. And Steve- if you ever read this: you’re the man.

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