[American Airlines Gate Attendant. Caitlin. Photo is mine. The smile is hers.]
“Collect Moments, Not Things”
Gate #7 was nearly full at the Key West Airport. Mariam snagged two seats, probably using her charm. I would have picked a place to sit and made obnoxious remarks to anyone nearby until they moved. That’s what you do when you’re a seasoned traveler like me. Once she was settled I went looking for one more T-shirt. You know, something that whispers ‘Beach’ without yelling ‘Tourist’. Something subtle, no bikinis, no bottles of Pabst Blue Ribbon and nothing with a message. (Actually, I did like the one that said: “Alcohol is the glue that holds this S**t Show together.” Mariam insists I have too many T-shirts already, but we men know one can never have enough T’s. So I avoided the shirt and settled on purchasing a 375 ml bottle of Havana BBQ Sauce. That won’t be around nearly as long as my collection of T-shirts. I mean some T’s can never be worn, not now, not ever. Like my Rolling Stones Steel Wheels Tour beauty or my priceless Bob Dylan Concert Shirts that will never be taken out in public. They’re enshrined.
I got back to my seat and popped a ginger lozenge in my mouth in case the flight got bumpy. It was then Mariam told me about our tickets. Actually, she tried to tell me the story back at our hotel in Key West but I was too busy trying to position myself in the late morning sun (so I wouldn’t return to New York looking as pale as when I left. Every last minute of UV was critical to get that ‘I’ve been to the beach look).
Here is what she said: Pat, remember how we paid for extra leg room because of your Restless Leg Syndrome (very true!). Well, she continued, they changed us. I’m in the row behind you but you still have an aisle seat. She said that American would refund the extra fee for the extra leg room. I told her it didn’t seem fair. We paid. Who gets to override our seating? Why can’t we sit together? I don’t think anyone at AA was aware that I needed her arm to clutch during take-off. I looked over at the Gate attendant. She was standing in front of her computer. Behind her was the departure information for a Dallas/Fort Worth Flight that was leaving before us.
I turned back to get another ginger lozenge. Not fair, I said.
A voice over the PA speakers: “Paging a Mr. Mueller. Mr. Mueller. Mr. Mueller.” This was about the fifth time I heard the announcement. I wondered where this Mr. Mueller was.
I don’t believe that once we board, someone won’t be willing to switch with us so we can sit together, said Mariam. I said, it still isn’t fair. It’s the principle of the thing. Let me go talk to the young woman. She’s not busy.
But, she was. “Looking for a Mr. Mueller. Please report to Gate #7. Mr. Mueller. Mr. Muuueelller. Mr. Muueellllerrrr.” I glanced around. So many people were smiling. I had to smile too.
I’ll go ask her now. She’s handling the Dallas flight, but she has a computer. She’ll know everything, I said.
No, I’ll go. Your back is sore and we’re going to be in the air almost four hours, said Mariam.
Okay, I said.
I got up to stretch. Ninety seconds later, Mariam was back. It’s all taken care of, she said.
Thank you, I said.
I looked back to the gate attendant. She was petite and young. I began to search for another ginger lozenge but before I could unzip my backpack, the attendant was standing in front of us. I noticed her pretty smile and her energy. She must love her job, I thought.
Would you two like to be upgraded to First Class?
I chocked on my lozenge. Sure, we said. A minute later she handed us two upgraded boarding passes. I couldn’t help but think that this would never happen at LaGuardia. Never.
I decided I would like to take her picture for a possible post or even a blog. I wasn’t sure if such a thing was allowed because of all the security concerns. I walked up to her and kindly asked her permission. She already knew me, of course. I glanced at her badge at the end of a lanyard.
So, it’s Caitlin with a C? Yes, she said, and posed for a photo. I felt a real human connection that moment. Something so hard to find these days. Her smile was contagious. I liked her without even spending more than five minutes in conversation.
I wondered how she perceived me. How she saw me. Did I remind her of her grandfather? Her uncle Fred? Or did she see me (as I sometimes like to see myself) as a distinguished gentleman of travel. A Sean Connery with a beard? Julio Iglesias? Timothy Dalton? Joe Biden? Yul Brenner with hair? A convicted felon? I wonder what she was thinking when I (jokingly) put my thumb on my ear and my pinky on my lips and mouthed “Call Me”.
Caitlin? Well, I struggled with finding a title for this blog. I thought “Angel-Something” but almost passed on it until I went to my dictionary App and read the synonyms for ‘angel’.
It all feel into place:
~~A benevolent celestial being.
~~A kind and lovable person.
~~One who manifests goodness, purity, and selflessness.
That’s all I needed. We passed her as we walked out onto the tarmac to board AA4555. We smiled. She smiled.
[The Keys. Ten minutes after takeoff. Photo is mine.]
And, several hours later, when I sat on our sofa in our New York apartment, I checked my iPhone.
There was a Friend Request from Caitlin Ford on Facebook. Truly, honestly an angel in many ways.
[Author’s Note: Thank You Caitlin.]