August 4, 2009

Travel Tricks 4: Kindness of Strangers

Once upon a time when I was with a group of others doing several days of intense presentation sessions, where we would present in one city in the morning and afternoon then hop on a plane in the evening to repeat the same series in another city. The presentation topics were often the same each day but the presenters might be different. It was a rushed situation that I had done before - so no worries right? Yes, the process was natural for me and everything I needed for presentations was always there. But, sometimes things do go wrong and that is when you may have the opportunity to see the good in others.

So what happened during this trip? Well I was at my second location in a week long travel stint and an injury happened. Somewhat my fault, somewhat the hotel’s - why? The hotel was in the middle of remodeling their lobby, pool, and restaurant area, which means the latter two were closed. There was a break between the morning and afternoon sessions. I was in desperate need of soda with caffeine, so I had to trek through the construction to get to the vending machines which were loftily situated in a raised area as if they were the kings and queens of the pool area. I got there fine, the accident happened on my rush to get back. I somehow caught my foot on the torn carpet at the top of the steps going down from the vending area. I picked myself up off the lower floor and looked around to make sure no one saw. I seemed fine but I knew I’d have to wait some time before I could open that soda.

After the break, it became my time to get up and talk. I walked slowly up to the podium noticing that my leg seemed to hurt but trying not to indicate a limp. I typically am a mover on the stage, but this time I didn’t notice any pain when I stood still so I stayed in one place. After my presentation and once I was sitting down outside the view of the audience, I checked my leg and found my knee was a little swollen. So I figured I twisted it during the fall, after all one foot stayed on the stairs when my body hit the lower floor.

By the time I got to the airport, my knee was twice its normal size and I was wincing with every step. I’m in pain so guess what happened after I got to the airport? My flight was delayed, so when I finally got on a plane it was NOT to the final city I needed to be in, but to a connecting city. Of course I missed my new connecting flight even though I limped quickly to the assigned gate when I got to the next airport – believe it or not that flight left on-time! (What are the chances of that?) Anyway, flight hassles are for another posting – I’ll return to the point of this one.

I had to find a chair in the airport of the city where I just presented. It needed to be near to the flight desk to see changes on the board but far enough away from other passengers so my leg would not get jostled, thereby increasing my pain. I found the perfect place where another lady was already sitting. When I pulled my leg out straight and propped it up on my suitcase, she noticed my knee and turned into a mother hen. She insisted she get me an ice pack by visiting one of the food vendors. The vendor actually put together a large ice pack using a resealing food baggy. Then later, the lady insisted she get me a drink and have my melting ice pack refilled. I was not her customer or her friend, merely a stranger in need. However, she did more for me physically, emotionally, and mentally, than the airline did. I truly appreciated her efforts and ingenuity. At the suggestion of my new lady friend, the airline offered to arrange a wheelchair at the next airport – it did not show up.

Like a trooper, I continued my week of presentations. (I found out from the doctor over the weekend that I had torn a ligament in my knee.) The connecting city happened to be the airport closest to where I live. I went home, took Tylenol, and to bed. Then with my still enlarged knee, I had to get up really early the next morning to return to the airport to catch the earliest flight to complete that weeks round of presentations. Fortunately I did not have to drive with a swollen knee in the next town as a hotel shuttle picked me up and later retuned me to airport.

So far, we have shared travel experiences related to hotels, food, and driving in previous posts. I believe we should all help others where we can. In my next post, I’ll share a few ways it is possible to share kindness with fellow travelers. Think about how you have been helped in the past, as well as how you have and can help others.

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