An Ounce of Kindness

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On our way to JFK a few weeks back, our flight got delayed for several hours. Seats were hard to come by as everyone was trying to claim any unoccupied spot available in the gate area. We even tried to “buy” a couple of seats by ordering orange juice at an adjacent coffee shop, but we couldn’t hear any flight announcements over the din, so we finished our drinks and ditched the place. We stood in a corner, hungrily eyeing the seats, and when a couple vacated their spots, I slid into their seats like a baseball player sliding into home base. Booyah!

Image courtesy of vectortoons

While my husband was queuing up for one line or another, I saved his seat by putting his knapsack on it. I ignored the stares of other passengers who thought that I was just being greedy by taking up two spots. Let them think what they want, but I am not budging. Amidst the uncertainty of our flight schedule, two seats for two weary bodies are as priceless as seats on a crowded NY subway at rush hour. Survival mode was on, baby.

Every time my hubby would come back after an errand and sit next to me, I would take that opportunity to look around and stare down anyone who had glared at the previously knapsack-occupied seat.

Earlier, one lady even plopped her bags on said seat and demanded in a very aggravated voice, “Is this seat taken!” Not even a question, but more of a challenge, to which I firmly replied, “Yes, ma’am. This seat is very much taken. As a matter of fact, there’s my husband coming this way right now. ” As if by cue, my guy came sauntering over loaded with whatever the airline meal voucher could buy from the nearby sandwich shop. The lady left in a huff.

After that, there was even a guy in a suit who unceremoniously dumped his carryon luggage on the chair where the backpack was. I decided not to make a fuss, but I was prepared to put up a fight if my husband came back and he didn’t move away. Good thing he didn’t stay long.

Yes, it was that serious. Who knew trying to save a seat in a crowded airport terminal would be so cutthroat!

Photo from a CNN article

Just when I thought I was a hardened seat-defender oblivious to hateful stares, I looked up and saw an older lady who looked longingly at the seat next to mine. There was no reproach or judgement in her eyes. Just naked longing for a spot to sit on. I hesitated for a moment, then I relented. I caught her eye and tapped the seat next to me, inviting her over. Her eyes widened with surprise and disbelief , then she hobbled over to my seat and thanked me profusely.

I was prepared to sit it out in silence, but her enthusiasm wore down my defenses. She seemed so grateful for the seat and was in the mood to talk, so I let her talk, and talk she did.

She turned out to be a “kababayan” and Bisdak (someone who not only came from the same country as me, but also from the same region and therefore spoke the same dialect. ) She originally migrated to Arkansas and made a living traveling all over the US selling jewelry to fellow kababayans. (Sus, nagkalata man diayng Pinoy sa America oy!) She was on her way to Alaska via Washington State. Her flight had also been delayed for hours and they had switched her gate twice, so all the seats had been occupied by the time she got there. Her legs were tired from walking and standing, and she had prayed for that seat next to mine. Voila! Her prayer was answered.

My husband arrived soon after and I introduced them. My hubby graciously declined her offer to give him back his seat, and she kept talking while he stood next to me. Thankfully, they started boarding on my flight, and hers shortly after, so my hubby didn’t have to stand too long.

On our six-hour flight to New York, I had plenty of time to reflect on that incident. Sure, when things get rough, you tough it out to survive, focusing on the goal and losing sight of everything else, but sometimes, you have to let your guard down. In the end, that act of kindness did more for me than it did for her. I may have given her my seat and my undivided attention, but she gave me back something I almost lost in that crowded airport terminal : my humanity.

Image courtesy of shuttercock

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