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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Another Airport Encounter

This episode isn't quite as scary as my shuttle ride (see post below), but it left me shaking my head while it was happening. Let me start from the beginning.....

I met fellow author Ginny Aiken on the shuttle back to the Denver airport after the ACFW conference. Her plane left an hour after mine from the same gate so we decided to hang out together. We grabbed a bite to eat, chatted enroute with Cara Putman, and eventually made our way to our gate, a full hour before my flight was due to leave.

We found seats (there was still plenty of room, but starting to fill up) and I set my carry-on bags in the empty seat next to mine, then headed to the restroom. When I returned, I found them repositioned in my seat and a duffel bag in the adjoining seat...with an empty seat just beyond.

Ginny leaned close and whispered. "A man moved them. He wasn't too happy that we were taking three seats for two people."

"Where is he?"

She nodded toward a desj where the man bent over his work. "He's kind of grumpy."

I set my bags on the floor and moved them slightly to the side so they weren't right under my feet. A few minutes later the man approached. "I need to move this." He bent over and picked up my bag containing my purse and other items, and plopped it against my feet.

I looked at him, raised my brows and simply said, "okay...?"

He proceeded to rummage in his duffel bag then went back to the small table where he'd been working. Ginny and I simply looked at each other, trying not to laugh. He'd had all sorts of room to reach his duffel, without bothering my items, and they weren't in his way. We talked for a few minutes in a low voice, wondering what his problem might be, then changed the subject and began to chat about other things.

A few minutes later, he returned. He leaned close to my face, about 12" away and hissed. "I was simply moving your bag so I wouldn't step on it. You didn't have to act snooty and make a big deal out of it." Honestly, I don't remember his exact words, as I was so shocked to have him in my face and even commenting on my simple "okay". I guess it really bothered him, and it's possible he thought we were laughing at him, when we got the giggles a little later remembering a disembodied voice in the airport train, warning everyone that they were delaying the departure of the train by standing too close to the door. Whatever his problem, it took me aback.

I looked him directly in the eyes. "You don't need to be rude."

He moved back a few inches and glared. "I'm simply responding to you in the same manner you offered to me." He picked up his duffel bag and stalked two steps across the way to a seat facing us and a little off to the side.

Ginny and I sat stunned, wondering what just happened. We offered each other a small smile and tried some small talk. Finally, she leaned over and told me not to worry, it would be one more story to add to my growing list of airport adventures I could use in a book someday.

We both agreed that most people would be nervous or a bit irritated if a strange man approached a woman in an airport and grabbed her personal belongings rather than asking her to move them, if they were in the way. We changed the subject and decided to try to forget it...although I did whisper that I hoped my seat wouldn't be next to his. The man had ear buds in and seemed to be listening to something, so we assumed he'd settled into his new seat and we wouldn't be bothered again.

About twenty minutes later he stood and walked directly to me, leaning over again. I cringed, wondering what was coming next. "Excuse me?" He waited until I looked up. "I'd like to apologize. I've had a really bad day and I didn't think about the fact that I was moving your purse or personal belongings and it might make you nervous. I shouldn't have acted that way."

It surprised me and I stumbled an acceptance. He went back to his seat and settled in. A few minutes later, I nodded and smiled at him, and he returned the gesture.

I was one of the last to board and I passed down the crowded aisle in the airliner, looking for a seat. There sat the man from the terminal near the front. No, there wasn't an empty seat next to him, but he did sit in an aisle seat and traffic was moving at a crawl. I could have avoided eye contact and pretended I didn't see him, but instead I met his gaze. "I hope you have a good flight, and a wonderful rest of the day. And I wanted to thank you for apologizing...that meant a lot."

He smiled, his face falling into relieved lines and nodded. "Thanks. You too."

I moved on down the aisle, praising God that He'd turned what could have been an ugly situation around. We never know what a cranky, seemingly mean person has been through, what kind of loss they've suffered, or what pain they might be carrying. That man had the courage to stuff his pride and apologize, and I'm so thankful God gave me the grace to keep my mouth shut, when it would have been so easy to snipe back at him.

Looking back now, I wonder if the ear buds were actually some type of device to increase his hearing...you know...like you see advertised on TV, when people want to listen to conversations a distance away? He may have heard us comment that we were concerned when he picked up my bag, and felt ashamed that he's touched another person's possessions with permission...or the Lord might simply have moved on his heart. Whatever it was, I'm thankful. God is Good.

1 comment:

bigguysmama said...

Before I got to the very, very end, I began to think that we don't always know what a person's had to deal with when they're being rude. Then you said the same exact thing.

We typically take it as a persona affront to what someone else is doing, but it might not be about us. Wish I could keep that in mind! It'd make me a more compassionate person.

Thanks for sharing this story. You could write a book about airport adventures.

~Mimi

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