Traveling light and with purpose. Life is a never ending series of lessons.

Early last week my sister called me from the east coast. My parents had been visiting for the holidays and needed to return home, close to me.  Both of my parents are heading toward their ninth decade and both of them need (more than) a little help getting through airports and negotiating travel. I was happy to help out so I booked a flight out of Austin and made all the necessary arrangements. I knew I wouldn't have the time or the free hands to make photographs but I couldn't bear the idea of traveling without a camera somewhere close by. I chose the Panasonic G6 and a little, silver kit lens to take along as both a talisman of good luck and a travel camera. 

Even compared to the Sony RX10 the G6 is small and very light. I took a few images while I waited for my flight east and a few images out the window on my way there but from that point on the camera stayed in the bag. There are times in life in which being totally present for the situation in hand is necessary and this long weekend was one of them. 

I guess I'm writing this for only one reason and it has very little (nothing) to do with photography. I'm writing to express how my interactions with airport security, airport Sky Caps and airline flight attendants has surprisingly brought a smile to my face and re-energized my positive feelings about people in general. 

I've traveled a lot. A lot. And most of it has been solo. I stream through airports like water around rocks mostly. I always pack light and I'm always ready for the curve ball. Always anticipating the odd occurrence. Always packing a "plan B" and a "plan C." But not this time. I would be traveling with two people who would require assistance at every turn. Both parents traverse the airports in wheel chairs. My dad, with a bum leg and a cane would miss every plane at his usual walking pace. My mom has a breathing disorder that requires portable oxygen and means that walking more than a few hundred feet is taxing. I expected the worse. I haven't flown with them since we traveled together to Paris nearly twenty years ago...

We arrived at the airport for our flight back home, TSA pre-screened boarding passes in hand. The Sky Caps came in smoothly with wheel chairs and I followed along with three carry-on bags. The Sky Caps were gracious and light hearted. They joked with my dad and kept a good eye on my mom. We breezed through security in five minutes or so. The TSA people we interacted with were warm and polite. They sped us on our way without shoe removal or insertion into the machines. The gate agent at our gate went out of her way to accommodate us and defuse my nervous anticipation. She even found me a spot on her power strip to recharge an oxygen machine's batteries. She and her co-worked joked with my parents as they swept them down the ramp into the plane and made them smile. 

Once we got seated our flight attendant quickly apprised our situation; the oxygen machine and the parents who want aisles seats to assuage their claustrophobias, and she started working her plan. She reseated the passenger in my row who had the window seat into an upgraded seat so my mom and I could spread out a bit. She re-seated the person in the middle seat who had been next to my dad so he'd have a bit more space. And she did it all without making her machinations obvious. The flight went without a hitch.

Once we hit our destinations we waited for everyone else to deplane and then were met by another set of Sky Caps who wheeled the folks to the baggage claims and waited patiently for my father to identify that one checked bag. My plan was to position my parents on a bench out in front of the arrival area, get my car from the parking garage and circle around to pick them up but the Sky Caps insisted on pushing them all the way to the car and helping them in. From start to finish everyone we dealt with was patient, positive, welcoming and ready to bend over backwards to make our day work and our trip as pleasant as it could be. I wanted to write this to say a huge "Thank You!" to the folks at U.S. Airways for an amazingly stress free trip. And to all the people who helped us make the journey on the ground.

Getting older is a bitch. It's wonderful to see that the world is full of caring people who are willing; no, happy, to take a little more time to make sure our more seasoned citizens can still maneuver through life. Thank you to everyone! 

Total number of images shot over the weekend? Three... Re-learning patience and gratitude? Much.


Anonymous said...

Sounds encouraging. But you must fly a different USAir than I do.

Jim Bullard said...

I'm glad to hear that your trip went smoothly. I have watched other people when traveling and noted that usually things do go smoothly and people are usually courteous and helpful. Somehow it is the exception that most of us remember, perhaps because it is not the norm.

Patrick Dodds said...

Nice one. Thanks for taking the time to write and post this Kirk.

typingtalker said...

My experience has been that a smile is returned with a smile and most people are friendly and helpful. Travelling with people who need a little help reinforces my belief in the general goodness of my fellow men and women.

Everybody working at an airline wants a smooth boarding and an on-time departure. It's the people who think it is their God-given right to stuff a 50 gallon "carry on" into a 30 gallon overhead compartment who make airline travel ... interesting.

Michael Matthews said...

Good. Very good. I think we tend to create more of what we encounter than we realize.
Your ambassadorship in this series of events probably helped bring out the best in everyone.

Huw Morgan said...

Very nice story Kirk! A few years ago, we flew to Scotland with my mother-in-law who has had a hip replacement and needed assistance to get through the airport. When we arrived at London Heathrow, she was placed in a wheel chair by the helpful airport staff and whisked through security to the next terminal. She was comfortably seated in the departure lounge for over an hour while we went through security line-up after security line-up along with thousands of grouchy co-travelers. Getting old isn't for the faint-hearted, but occasionally there are some benefits.

atmtx said...

It still wonderful to hear of good service. Too many times you hear the negatives. I'm sure, in most cases, the airport and airline employees do a fine job,

Scott Hone said...