It took traveling more than 6,000 miles, crossing an international border, losing luggage and running on barely any sleep — all in about four days — for me to come to one simple realization:
People aren’t always the absolute worst.
To rewind, briefly, I was traveling to Edmonton, Canada, over the weekend. My boyfriend recently accepted a job in Fairbanks, Alaska, and on Friday it was time to start the expedition. The plan was for me to drive with him halfway, and then fly back from Edmonton.
The road trip part of this tale I won’t recount here. Truthfully, it was my last few days with someone I love very much, and it doesn’t seem appropriate to map it all out to you.
Plus, besides a particularly friendly Canadian border patrol officer and another delightfully friendly Canadian (sensing a theme here?) pizza deliveryman, we didn’t meet very many people, and this epiphany is about meeting nice people.
My first flight on Monday took off at 6:30 a.m., so promptly at 4:30 a.m. my boyfriend dropped me off at the airport; I cried the whole walk to my gate.
I, like most people, don’t particularly enjoy crying in public. I am fully aware that I am an ugly crier, and once I start, I don’t stop.
And so I attempted to hide my streaming eyes from the woman scanning my bag. I did an OK job, although the end result might have been her believing I was having a particularly emotional reaction to the confiscation of my Red Bull.
As I pulled my boots back on, though, I lost it again, and a security guard came over to me.
“Hey, eh,” he said. “Going somewhere exotic, eh?”
(To any Canadians reading this, I’m sorry. I’m not doing this to be rude; he really said “eh” after everything he said.)
It was obvious I was headed nowhere exotic. I was bundled up and sobbing – not exactly the picture of someone heading to paradise. But he recognized I just needed to talk to someone, so he came over, and for 10 minutes I was able to pull myself together.
After the plane was de-iced, we took off for the 86-degree city of Phoenix. We landed, and I bee-lined to my gate, stole a glance at the departure board to make sure everything was in order with my flight and hunkered down for a two-hour wait.
And suddenly, it was two hours and 15 minutes later. My flight definitely should have boarded by now. I ambled up to the desk.
“Oh, your flight was moved to a different gate” the woman behind the desk told me.
Cue the waterworks… again.
Here, though, was my second brush with someone who, you know, was nice.
Without asking any questions or making me feel dumb for missing my flight, she transferred me to the soonest flight — which was leaving for Charlotte, N.C., in 10 minutes.
I ran on the plane, literally, and found myself next to a young father with his 18-month-old son. I sighed.
The boy turned out to be a sweetheart with the cutest smile I’ve ever seen, but he had a few tantrums. Every time, though, the people around us put up with it. They all smiled, we all tried to cheer him up. It was a plane-wide effort, and not a single person acted annoyed.
By the time I got on my flight to Cleveland, my exhaustion mixed with the emotions I had tried to suppress all day had me weepy again. When I landed, I went to inquire about my bags — which I had checked in Edmonton and now were in some limbo — and couldn’t find a baggage claim sticker anywhere. I hid my tears with fake sneezes, which I’m sure were convincing. The woman, however, was patient and helped my dad and I find my bags, all with an actually sincere concern.
And then on the drive back home, my dad, a usually very reserved man who doesn’t discuss emotions or relationships, spent the entire hour-long drive discussing, well, emotions and relationships. Because he knew I needed to.
None of these interactions, on its own, makes for a great story. In fact, maybe even strung together they didn’t make for a great story. But this isn’t a movie or a short story, with a grandiose ending and extraordinary people; it’s real life, with ordinary people.
And to me, that makes it even better. These absolutely ordinary people helped an absolutely ordinary stranger. They could have awkwardly looked away, but instead they took it upon themselves to make my day a little bit better.
But still, keep an eye out for Crying on Airplanes with Strangers, coming soon to a theater near you.
Nicolien Buholzer is a senior studying journalism and managing editor of The Post. Have any tales proving humans don’t suck? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.