I traveled to Denver this past week for a technical meeting with one of our vendors. On my return flight, I was seated next to an elderly woman named Marcine. Marcine didn’t have much experience with air travel. She was also a conversationalist whereas I am more of a headphone person when I fly. Regardless, I proceeded to chat with Marcine. We discussed the meaning of the red light above our seats (non-smoking sign) and how the seat cushion could possibly be a flotation device. I explained how the green circles she could see out the window indicated farmland with center pivot irrigation, and when she mentioned how much she enjoyed crossword puzzles, I gave her the one in the magazine I had been reading. She enjoyed this very much.
Marcine asked where I was headed and I explained I was flying back home to Omaha. She said she was on her way to visit her sister in a small town about 70 miles south of Omaha. She said she visits her sister every few years and normally travels with her brother but that he had passed away earlier in the year. I asked if her sister was picking her up at the airport but Marcine said no, her sister didn’t drive much anymore. She said she was just planning to take the bus to her sister’s town.
I paused. While I’m not well versed in Omaha mass transit I couldn’t recall any sort of bus service at the Omaha airport, and certainly not one that would provide last minute service to random small towns in Nebraska. I realized then that my new friend’s otherwise flawless trip didn’t have every detail planned out. I also realized that this was fate. Or Karma. Or God. Or whatever word you want to assign to that moment when you realize that while things are in motion, you are no longer in control as much as you were moments before.
I couldn’t help but chuckle quietly. Not at Marcine, but at fate because fate was surely chuckling at me. I realized what fate had done. Marcine clearly needed help. Fate knew I was a 12-year employee-owner of Travel and Transport. Fate knew that if there was anything Travel and Transport excelled at it was “duty of care”, and that nobody was more capable of handling a traveler whose travels plans had gone awry. Fate specifically placed me in seat 15C because Marcine was in 15D. Fate had then sat back and smiled while my night headed in a new direction.
Marcine kept busy with her crossword puzzle until we landed. As we prepared to leave the plane I told her that I would meet her in the baggage claim area to “help her find a bus to her sister’s place”. I knew she and I would be moving at two different speeds as we left the plane, which would allow me some time to work out the details of my plan. I called my wife who fortunately had an appreciation of fate as well. I stopped by the information desk and explained the situation to the clerk. Soon, Marcine came to the baggage claim area and I helped her find her bag. Together we went to the information desk and I said almost as if scripted, “Excuse me, are there any busses leaving the airport this evening?” The clerk replied in an equally scripted manner, “I’m sorry but no, there aren’t any busses that depart from the airport”. After a short pause, Marcine asked, “Well what am I to do?” Pretending the thought had just occurred to me, I stated, “Marcine, your sister doesn’t live too far from Omaha. How about I give you a ride to her house?” I let Marcine use my phone to call her sister. After some less than subtle discussion about the caliber of my character and with additional reassurance from the information desk clerk that “I seemed normal enough”, Marcine decided this would be a fine idea.
And so began the hour and 20 minute journey to her sister’s house. Marcine appreciated the navigation capabilities of my smart phone. We talked of our families, of our mutual enjoyment of sports and of hiking, of the nice weather and how particularly pretty the clouds were that evening. We talked of Marcine’s part-time work as a housekeeper, and how much she enjoyed baking. She makes a peanut butter bar that is apparently quite good.
Although she didn’t have her sister’s address, she was certain she would recognize the streets and guide us to her sister’s house. Unfortunately, this was not the case, and Marcine noted her memory wasn’t quite what it used to be. However, another quick call to her sister and another quick entry in the smart phone and we were on our way again.
Marcine offered to pay me for my efforts but I told her all I wanted was a picture of the two of us for my scrapbook. Her sister used my phone to snap the picture, and after a quick hug we parted ways.
I’m not sure how Marcine will return to the airport next week. I have a feeling fate might not be done with me yet, and there somehow might be another trip to her sister’s town in my future. If so, that will be fine because that is who we are and that is what you do when you work for the world’s best travel company. And maybe Marcine will have baked some peanut butter bars for me by then.