Goodwill makes up for flight delay

My story starts with a piano. Two years ago my godmother/aunt died and left her church a not-unsubstantial amount of money. After much deliberation, the Helena, Mont., congregation decided to use her bequest to purchase a piano. Not just any piano, a 1,200-pound Schimmel, which the pastor described as making "the sound of trumpeting angels."

Any good (grand) piano needs a dedication — so a date was set. It would be a recital at which songs were sung and psalms were read in honor of my aunt and the season. "Aunt Ethel would have expected you to attend," read one e-mail. "It's important you be there," wrote the executor of my aunt's estate. "It's the weekend before Thanksgiving," said my husband. "Flying could be tricky."

This is where the story becomes complicated. But, first, let me say this. It was a lovely dedication. The sound of Pachelbel's "Canon in D" still lingers in my head. The people of the church were very acknowledging. And it did not start snowing heavily until well into the evening.

My return flight was scheduled to leave at 6 a.m. That morning there were 3 inches of snow (and snow was still falling) when I started toward the airport and the snow-covered roads were slick. But I got there. I must reluctantly admit to one very awkward moment, once I'd arrived, in which airport security had to completely disassemble my carry-on luggage in search of "a small liquid" that turned out to be a jar of huckleberries hiding inside the scone mix I'd purchased as a souvenir of the visit. It was embarrassing, but it adds flavor to my story.

I'd cleared airport security when the announcement came. "This flight is canceled; the plane is busted." Did he actually say "busted?" Indeed, the de-icing machine (which would be necessary because we now had a full-fledged snowstorm going on) had collided with the ready-to-depart plane.

I called my husband, who travels everywhere all the time ("but never the week before Thanksgiving"). He commiserated ever so briefly and asked if I had enough reading material. I responded affirmatively before it hit me I'm going to be in this small airport this entire day and perhaps longer. I went to the tiny gift shop and was told "we only stock candy and Montana souvenirs, no books or magazines." I advised them about the scone mix and lingered over a pair of dangly cowboy boot earrings. The clerk in the gift shop offered to give me the Readers' Digest he had under the counter for his own diversion. I declined, but was touched.

In fact, throughout the waiting day I was repeatedly touched by the pleasantness and cordiality of airport personnel. I witnessed patience and outreach on the part of my fellow stranded travelers — little acts of thoughtfulness and kindness. There was no complaining, no irritability. It could have been a bad day, but it wasn't. The headline news on the television in the airport waiting area displayed world chaos, political back-biting and repeated instances of people behaving badly. There was none of that where I was.

That's all I want for Christmas. More of the same.

Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human services at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension. E-mail her at or call 776-7371, Ext. 210.

Share This Story