A few weeks ago, I had what might seem like the flight experience from hell.
We were flying to San Francisco for a wedding. The flight was at 7 a.m., which meant getting up well before 5 to get to the airport. Even if the flight had gone perfectly, the early wake up meant that I was going to be a little grumpy.
But from the start, everything that day went a little screwy. There was a ton of traffic getting to the airport. The trip from the parking lot to the terminal took forever. We got to check-in exactly one minute late, which meant that we couldn’t check one of our bags, and had to try to sneak a giant bag through security. Our flight had mechanical issues, so we had to make an emergency landing in DC. We got stuck there for 9 hours. The delay took so long, Delta had to fly in a new crew from several different cities just to staff the flight. We didn’t get to San Francisco until nearly midnight — 12 hours after our expected arrival.
And yet, as I think back on that day, all I can think of are the people who helped us along the way.
There was the Delta agent at check-in at JFK, who calmly talked us through what to do even though we were late for check-in.
There was the pilot, who kept us updated about everything happening with the plane.
There was the crew in DC, who ordered pizza for hungry passengers and delivered news, good or bad, whenever they had it.
There was the employee at the airport lounge in DC, who kindly let us bring in a friend from the flight, even though we were only allowed two guests.
There was the TSA agent at Dulles, who let us back through security after we stepped out (unwisely, we later realized) to get some air, even though he had every right to tell us, “Sorry, you have a boarding pass for a different airport. You can’t enter.”
There was the friend on the flight who texted us to come back to the gate after we’d started to seriously consider leaving and staying the night in DC.
There was the crew — based in four different cities — who volunteered to fly to DC to make sure we got to California.
There were a half-dozen different times when the day could have absolutely gone wrong. Instead, at every key moment, we found people willing to help us, even on a day when nothing seemed to go right.
It’s easy to be pessimistic. It’s easy to feel like the world’s fighting against you.
But look around. You might find a few kind people, going well out of their way to help — even on those tough days.
That’s a photo I took from the runway at Dulles International Airport. That day, I saw the sun rise and the sun set from my seat in coach — on the same plane.