When Airlines Fail
"Um mam, you, um you are, well how can I say it....slimmed!"
A steward said this to me on one of my many trips to S.L.C., Utah with three kids in tow. I had snot, orange juice and something else down the front of my black tee-shirt. The steward looked at me quizzically, "Do you want to change?"
"Not until thirty minutes before landing" I laughed back as he nodded with understanding.
This is one of many little encounters flying home in my 27 years as an expat. I fly coach; I am usually without my charming husband, armed with my three children. I have, however, always found help, even though it was rarely the airlines doing the helping. Fellow humans come through with great style.
On a flight from Paris to N.Y.C. with and infant, a toddler, and a seven-year-old I got into trouble. My toddler was all over the plane, playing pick-a-boo with the couple behind us and just exhausting everyone including myself. In-seat, movies were still not part of the program, and I struggled to keep him entertained and tried without avail to put him to sleep. Of course, as we were landing and the plane was bouncing around he fell into a deep sleep. It was if someone had knocked him out and I could not wake him.
I called the stewardess to my seat and asked her if I waited to be last off the plane if she could help me to my stroller. I clearly stated, "I can't possibly carry two children." Her sharp response was heard loud and clear by those around me, "Where is your husband mam?"
"He couldn't come with me."
"Well, it is not my job to carry a baby, next time fly with help because we won't help you."
The men behind me were wearing furs, hats and looked glamorous. I had feared they were fed up with me after such a long flight, but I was wrong. Horrified by what they had heard they came to my rescue.
Each of them took a child on an arm as I gave them advice on how to hold a baby. You would have thought they had died and gone to heaven as they nestled the babies into their furs. I complained to staff in the airport on my way out of the plane and got moved to the front of the customs line. As they asked me who the men were a mere, "They are with me" booted my new charming fur-clad friends to the front of the line as well. When I pulled my stroller of the baggage carousel and placed my baby down, they stayed with me. I didn't say goodbye to them until I rechecked my luggage and managed to set the two kids in the stroller.
I was a fool and didn't take their names. There are moments in life where you wish you would have connected with someone for longer than this brief moment; when you want to write a thank you and ask them how they liked New York and continue the conversation you were having. I wonder if they became parents or if they have thought of this scenario again.
I would never have made all of those trips without the kind acts of strangers.
As Prince said, "Dearly, Beloved we are gathered here today
to get through this thing called life." When we are kind, the ride is so much nicer.
Even though the airlines fail us on occasion, let's get through this together; when we are herded like cattle at easy jet's boarding, have no food, or we have our knees up to our chin in economy class...stay kind.
Thank you, my fur-clad friends, wherever you might be...it would have been a beautiful friendship, but I will never forget you.
—Allison Ochs Social Worker M.S.W. , Coach, Expat, Mother of three, Wife