Me, Myself & You by Michelle Jones

The flight was full and short staffed.  I barely made it to the gate before boarding.  First, the line at ticketing was longer than usual and it seemed that everyone had under an hour to takeoff.  Then the underwire in my bra set off the metal detector at security (seriously?).

I waited in a tiny Plexiglas holding area for the woman who would pat me down.  She was a pinned-up, tiny-voiced moppet of a woman wearing blue plastic gloves.  I could see over the top of her head each time she came to inform me that she would be “right with” me before walking off to tidy the area around the conveyor belt.  Check me if I’m wrong, but does neatness really count if there is a Victoria Secret bomber in your midst? I’m just sayin…

Helplessly I looked at the guy moving luckier passengers through the line.  He sympathized but could only smile and shrug.  “Hey girl, I’d pat you down, but you know…”  He was cute, but I was stressing so my flirty comeback was tucked away in my carry-on.  Maybe next time.

Finally, the moppet let me out of my Plexiglas cell and I followed her to the body search area. Of course she had to explain the entire procedure beforehand while my laptop slid this way and that in the plastic bin balanced precariously on her hip.  I was agitated and didn’t bother to hide it.  I tried to use body language that would make it obvious that I was in impatient.  She responded with body language that said she was not.

I looked around for a clock.  Oh, did I fail to mention I left my cell phone at home?  I couldn’t even call anyone to complain about how much it sucked to be me at that moment.

“Thank you,” she said, signaling the end of our encounter.  The blue hands holding the metal sniffing wand left my body.  I packed up my things and left without a word.  By the time I got to the plane, people were lined up and ready to board.  I got on and found my seat—7B.  Great, I’m in the middle…of two guys.

Once seated, I was bugged all over again about leaving my phone, the work I had on my plate, the closeness of the seatback in front of me, a fussy baby a few rows up, that there was no movie on this almost four-hour flight, and the fact that everybody is onboard, but we’re not moving.  Why are we not moving?

As if on cue, the pilot’s voice—equal parts Elvis and Ryan Seacrest—came over the loudspeaker.  “Welcome to US Airways flight 196 with service to Phoenix, continuing on to San Diego.  We’ve had a bit of a problem.  One of the bags fell out of the overhead bin and, well, it fell on someone’s head.  It was a kind of a heavy bag, so we’re gonna have the paramedics come on board and make sure the passenger is okay before we take off.  Sorry for the delay.” And he was gone.

You could hear the groans from front to back.  I saw heads shake and eyes roll.  The attendants looked apologetic.  I was imagining a bag falling on top of my head unexpectedly.  That had to hurt.  And then suddenly, something hit me hard in my knower:  Did any of us really CARE that someone could be hurt?

It was the first time since I woke up that I wasn’t thinking about myself.  I was driven to the airport by a dear friend who took my keys and promised to overnight my cell phone to me.  If I’m being honest, I was more relieved than grateful and still bothered that I would be without it for the next 24 hours.

A man I don’t remember kindly directed me to the ticketing kiosk.  I checked my bag with a woman and took my luggage tickets from a guy I thanked but didn’t see because I was already walking away.

I remember the woman ahead of me in the security line because she was walking just slow enough to annoy me.  She had a really bad limp and it looked painful to walk.  How dare she not hurry when I was in such a hurry?  A moment later I was serving up attitude to the elfin security agent.  I did not smile at her.  I did not thank her.  I did not show her any kindness.

Tens of thousands of men, women, and children are dead and dying in Haiti today.  A 7.0 earthquake has leveled the island and destroyed countless lives in the process.  It has our attention because it is catastrophic, tragedy on a hideously grand scale.  Unfortunately it often takes such things to draw our focus and sympathy away from ourselves.

People walk dead and dying around us every day, but we don’t see them.  We don’t hear them gasping for air under oppressive lives.  They cry, but their tears dry on their faces and we don’t notice them.  Some of them live with us.  Some of them are us.

Then there are those who aren’t necessarily suffering, but their lives are waiting for us to enter with a smile, some respect, a kindness, or maybe just a little attention.  There will be no great acknowledgement that we were there, no rewards given, no fanfare.  Just a gentle reminder—given and received—that we are not alone.

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3 Comments

  1. debbie said,

    January 16, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    that is so true. i often get frustrated on the road (the car in front drives too slow, the crazy lane cutter who’s driving like s/he’s on the autobahn) or want to snap at a rude cashier etc. but when i pass the slow driver and see she’s a grandma, it reminds me of my mom poking along down the road, and who knows if the crazy lane cutter is racing to the hospital, or maybe the cashier got some bad news the day before… i too often forget that everybody suffers, and the walking wounded are all around us. thanks for the reminder! i think i’ll try to be extra conscious of the fact this week.

  2. Sharon said,

    January 16, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    So true. We’re prompted every day to see and care beyond ourselves…yet we ignore and excuse our behavior in the name of something else. Preoccupation, efficiency, productivity, responsibilities, bad/sad moods…but that is an endless loop that will never be filled. Love does. It fills minds, hearts, and spirits. It lifts the heavy hearted and transforms lives. Life is too short to skip the opportunity to demonstrate kindness, love and grace to others. I want to do better starting today.

  3. Shay said,

    January 19, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    thank you for helping turn the tide, Michelle! At Christmas I was on a Southwest plane where the flight attendants were asking if anyone would be willing to simply switch seats so that a mother could sit with her two young kids. One of the little boys had tears running down his face. His mother said he’d never flown before & was terrified. The flight attendants couldn’t get even two people to switch seats! Watching some of the men’s reactions as if it were the mother’s problem was unbelievable. I told the lady in my row that I was giving up my seat & if she would, too, the mother & her kids could have our row. I admit I had some ungodly thoughts toward one of the men who wouldn’t switch seats (something about an underwear bomb exploding in his pants) but I just couldn’t believe the experience.


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