Wednesday, November 28, 2012

An uplifting tale

Nov. 27, 2012.
 Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico,
en route to Memphis.

I clear security at the Ft. Myers Airport, get to the gate and find out my flight to Atlanta, where I’m to meet co-workers who are flying in from LaGuardia, is delayed.

In Atlanta, the four of us are supposed to board a flight to Memphis, but there’s no way I’ll make that connection. 

The agent gives me two options. A) Once the plane gets here, I can fly to Atlanta, spend six or seven hours hanging around the airport, and take a flight to Memphis that’ll arrive in the wee hours, or B) He can put me on a flight first thing tomorrow that’ll get me in around 11 a.m.

I have a client dinner tonight and meetings starting at 8 a.m tomorrow.

“Option A,” I tell him.

“Can I offer you a lift to Memphis?" asks a man about my age, traveling with his wife, who has overheard the conversation and is in the same predicament. “I just called for our plane and it will be here in a couple of hours to pick us up.”

“You’re kidding me, right?”

“Not at all. My pilot’s flying into Naples. We usually use our jet but we’ll be in our Cheyenne twin engine turboprop today,” he says almost apologetically. “The jet’s tied up.”

“Believe me, the turboprop is fine. Thank you so much.”

“I had free tickets I was trying to use before they expired,” he explained. "But we want to get home. I have business to tend to, and my wife has a lunch at the country club.”

Assuming that folks who have a fleet of airplanes at their command don’t drive themselves to the airport and leave their cars in parking garages as do hoi polloi like me, I offer to drive us to the Naples airport. We pile in my car, and drive 20 minutes south to Naples.

While we’re waiting in the private terminal, my benefactors, Jack and Sarah, and I discuss politics, ambulance-chasing lawyers, the fiscal cliff, chocolate, golf and home renovation, among other subjects.

I halfway expect to find them pretentious but they’re not. They’re as nice as can be. The kind of people you wish you knew more of. The kind of people who wouldn’t hold it against you if you ended a sentence with a preposition.

Sarah jokes that maybe I ought to be nervous accepting a plane ride from strangers.

“You two don’t seem like serial killers,” I reply with a laugh.

Turns out they married right out of high school, built their own businesses and never invested a penny in the stock market. Instead, they bought delta farm land. Wise decision.

After an hour or so, the plane arrives.

And as I write this, we’re on our way to Memphis.  

I’ll miss the cocktail hour but I’ll be at the restaurant in time for dinner.

I owe Jack and Sarah big-time. Not only for the lift but for the uplift – for reminding me that, despite everything you hear, there are some very kind, generous and, above all, genuinely nice people on this earth.

And, at this moment according to the altimeter, 22,000 feet above it.

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