Traveling toward gratitude

airplane window with heart

I’ve never been an intrepid traveler and, quite frankly, travelling frequently leaves me bothered and bewildered.

However, on this last Christmas holiday, on one of the busiest travel days of the year, I had an experience that left me believing in a civil society and human nature.

My friend and partner, Cindy Lamont, and I were travelling from Colorado back to the Twin Cities. Along the way we encountered drivers, agents, clerks and fellow passengers who were uniformly cheerful, helpful and thoughtful.

They made for one of my best Christmas presents.

A ride to the airport

It started with the driver for Epic Mountain Express, who picked us up in Vail to take us to the Denver airport. He was slated to arrive at 8:58 a.m. At 8:57 he showed up at the front door with a smile and pair of hands to grab our bags. He said he’d get us to DIA by noon. At 11:55, he pulled up to the Southwest Airlines door. As he unloaded our bags, he noted we had the same first name. “Dave,” he said, “from one to another, Happy New Year.”

Checking in

As Cindy and I searched for the Southwest ticket counter, a man wearing a yellow vest (an airport employee, I suspect) spotted us and asked if he could help. Southwest, we said. Follow me, he replied, and led us to the airline kiosk where we got our boarding passes and checked our bags.

Security lines

Then we headed for the security checkpoint and the line was long. More than a million passengers circulate through DIA over the Christmas holiday. Nevertheless, the first TSA agent, to whom I handed my boarding pass and driver’s license, wished me a good flight. The second agent politely asked me to remove my wristband, I suppose to see if I had any forbidden substance hidden underneath. I took it off, he thanked me and then said
he was going to pat my shoulders and back.

He waited for my nodding approval, made his moves and again thanked me for my cooperation. What made all of this more impressive was both of these guys were working without pay during the shutdown of the federal government.

I also noticed that when anyone in a wheelchair was pushed toward the TSA agents, the other passengers stepped aside to let the chairs through; and they did it without being asked.

Preflight food

By the time Cindy and I got to the departure gate, we were hungry, so I went to one of those generic airport sandwich shops. I ordered a couple of chicken salad sandwiches, a bag of chips and a bottle of water from the busy clerk.

She ran my credit card, handed me the customer copy and then completely surprised me: “David,” she said, “please sign this.”

Suddenly I was more than the old, tired traveler in a sweatshirt. I was a human being with a first name, one she’d noticed and noted. I looked at the badge on her apron and returned the favor. (I now, however, have forgotten her first name.)

Before I get too carried away, I’m obligated to report the sandwiches were kind of soggy — too much mayo and not enough chicken. And, with the water and chips, they cost about $25.

In-flight snacks

They didn’t serve any food on the Southwest flight back to Minneapolis/St. Paul. The plane was full. I was squeezed in the middle seat next to a guy who said he was from Chanhassen. When the flight attendant came around with the free bags of pretzels, he asked me if I wanted his.

I took it — one last sign of generosity on a day that could have been an ordeal, but turned out to be ideal.

Dave Nimmer is a retired writer living in Woodbury. Send comments to [email protected].