It’s a very snowy world out there in the Pacific Northwest and all across the northern reaches of the US. Travel plans are borked for hundreds of people. My son’s flight up to visit me for the holidays is already delayed by a couple of hours. I hope he gets here safely. I hope everyone traveling reaches their destinations safely and in good time for whatever celebrations await them.
Thinking about travel and winter and Christmas reminded me of a true story that happened to me once upon a time, when I was young and away from home for the first time in my life…
When I was a PFC in the Army and away from my family in Hawaii for the first time, I didn’t have the money to buy a plane ticket home for the holidays. My plan was to catch Greyhound to the coast and get a military hop to Hawaii. Due to the arcane rules for who could qualify for a hop, I’d been told couldn’t pre-request a seat in advance from my training base in Arizona but had to take my chances once I got to California.
I got to North Island (a Naval station in San Diego) to check if they had any seats on what turned out to be their last flight to Hawaii for a week. I was told they had no more seats and that I should have been able to pre-reserve a seat weeks ago but that now it was too late. I couldn’t get home from North Island; my back up plan was to catch a Greyhound north to El Toro (a Marine base) and try there.
Meanwhile, though, I had to call my mom and let her know that I might not make it at all. If El Toro was booked up, too, I’d have to head back to Arizona and spend the holidays in the barracks. While talking with her on the pay phone in the hangar, I started crying. Once I hung up, I headed into the restroom to wash my face and compose myself. I was in my dress uniform, required for travel back then, and wanted to at least be presentable as I went back downtown to buy a Greyhound ticket.
When I came out of the restroom, the guy at the desk ran up to me and asked me where my luggage was. He grabbed my duffel bag and pushed me onto a scale and told me that they’d managed to find one more seat (on a six-seat plane!) and that they’d been paging me.
I was so dumbfounded and stunned that I couldn’t think to take down his name to thank him later. I was the last person to board as they’d held the flight to locate me.
While it might have been luck, I suspect that he got me onto that flight out of the goodness of his heart. I have no idea who he was but I hope his life is blessed for giving me that gift.
May you each have a lovely holiday season…see you in 2009!