A few weeks ago I talked about a random act of kindness that I found while touring around Huntsville with Brett. I have recently seen even more examples of strangers offering love and care to a neighbor. On my last trip out to Seattle this summer (more on that in the next few days! Eeep! Teasers!), I spent 7 hours stuck in the Huntsville, AL airport. We boarded on time, all seemed well….I was even told to turn off my cell phone in preparation for pulling away from the gate. And then…a maintenance issue cropped up. One of the baggage workers discovered smoke in the cargo hold of the aircraft. They called maintenance and then we all waited about 45 minutes for the maintenance worker to arrive. They tried to fix our plane for another hour before suggesting that we de-plane, leaving our stuff on board. We all started scrounging for food/drink in the small, Huntsville airport and waited…and waited, and waited, and waited. For 3 hours we waited while they updated our departure time for a only slighter later time and then for 2 hours after that we waited while they decided our plane would not fly tonight but thought that maybe another plane would come from Dallas and we could take it back. And for another hour we all knew that a plane could take us from Huntsville to Dallas that night and and that it might leave before midnight. Hotel vouchers were handed out and we hurriedly switched our now long missed connecting flights to the next day. This is the not so fun part of the story.
The fun part of the story is what happened during all of that waiting. To start with, there was almost no complaining. I tried to start some mild, negative-talk-bonding while in line to change my connecting flight about how it was ridiculous that no one dealing with our plane or with us passengers had any power in all of the timing decisions of flights that had happened that night (seriously…this business model is absolutely ludicrous!…but back to the story) and no one wanted to join in. Maybe it had to do with most of the flyers (not me included) being on business travels and not pleasure travels but still….I couldn’t find anyone who would just complain even a little. I wasn’t even directing my negative energy towards any of the wonderful people in the airport who were helping us out, just to the wide open space of ‘this sucks’ situations… and still, no one wanted to join in!
What was really amazing though was the tribe that formed. A group congregated in the bar and periodically throughout our 7 hours in the airport, laughter would ring from that group of passengers. There were also several small children traveling with us. One of them, a 3 month old infant, was held for at least 2 hours by a woman who had been a complete stranger to the child’s mother just hours earlier. This woman stepped in to help hold bags as we moved on and then off the plane while the mother tended to her baby, but also walked around the gate area cooing the child to sleep while the mother was tending to changing her connecting flights. Another child with us was a 16 month old with a very young father. The toddler cruised around the gate area, bouncing from passenger to passenger while his father tried to follow around behind. After a few hours of this though, the father was exhausted. He finally started allowing others to help. As the 16 month old came near, we’d shoot him a funny look to make him laugh. The toddler would leave us his water bottle or ask it to be opened, just to take it back and cruise to the next spot. When his dad was figuring out how they could fly out the next morning instead of brave half the night in the terminal, a few women sat around the toddler on the floor and played games with whatever objects people had in their pockets and purses.
There wasn’t much to do or consume in that airport either…the main restaurant was closed and there was only a few small refrigerated cases full of food to feed us all. Electricity outlets were also in big demand as everyone played with their phones for entertainment during our wait. We took turns using the few working outlets, charging our phones in preparation for the rest of the wait and the flight to come.
Besides the fact that the wait was super boring and we spent much of it thinking that we’d get to board the plane again in half an hour…it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. To the other passengers…I’d get stuck in an airport with you all again, any day.