Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Golden Rule at Dulles Airport

It started out as a pretty regular morning. The skies were cloudy with a drizzle of rain as I picked up my car and headed out to the Bakersfield airport. A bit before 5am, I had a 6am flight to Denver, connecting to flights that day to Washington Dulles and then on to Rochester N.Y. In a flashback to earlier stories (see the essay, “The story of Clarissa”), I went past the Enterprise Rental Car office on the corner of 24th and Chester on my way to the airport. It seems like a lifetime ago since I had that crazy cab ride, but only 14 months have gone by. Time is funny that way, it seems only yesterday that my kids were born (12 and 10 years ago), and yet it seems like years since Clarissa picked me up on that rainy morning in Bakersfield!

The first legs of my travels went without a hitch, arriving early in Denver and scoring an exit row seat on the flight to Dulles. It was in our nation’s capital that things started to come off the rails. Originally I had a tight connection and I was a bit worried of making the gate change; as it turned out, that was the least of my worries! After boarding one of the motorized people movers to change terminals, I arrived at my gate for the Rochester flight with 20 minutes to spare. Closer than I like, but I had made it! The flight was originally scheduled for a 4:53pm departure, with plans to arrive in Rochester by 6:00pm. Soon after arriving at the gate, I saw that the flight was posted as delayed due to weather. I checked on-line and while the Washington D.C. area was experiencing showers, Rochester was under a full blown snow storm. I know after living in Atlanta for over 20 years I’ve become a bit soft, but snow showers on March 23rd just seems a bit much! Well that snow packed a punch, and for the next 4 hours the flight kept getting delayed 3o minutes at a shot. It was maddening, and the crowd at the gate became more agitated by the hour. Thankfully there wasn’t a bar close-by or else the delayed passengers could have become an ugly mob after the first few hours of continuous delays!

Well at 9:15pm, 5 hours after I arrived at the gate, we were cleared for boarding. Finally, better late than never! We quickly got into our seats, stashed our Ipads & Kindles, and got ready for the snow to the north. After a few minutes of not closing the boarding door, I started to contemplate trouble. Indeed, the pilot came on the PA system and shared that he was frustrated to have to communicate that the flight had just been cancelled by the airline. We wait 5 hours, board the plane, and THEN cancel the flight? Really? While I was fuming, some of my fellow travelers weren’t quite as restrained. A few “fbombs” were thrown around and we stormed off the plane and into the night.

For me, my situation had just changed dramatically. I needed to find a hotel, no more flights that night, and try again in the morning. I got on my phone to track down a hotel and headed towards baggage claim and ground transportation, roller bag and briefcase in tow. I was out at the curb waiting for a hotel shuttle when someone with an 803 area code started calling my cell. I didn’t recognize the number and at first ignored the call. After the second try, I picked up the phone and found a serious male voice on the other end. This fellow, named Will, asked me to identify myself and whether I had left my IPad in seat 14 B. It is now 10:30pm, I’m on the curb of the airport, and I check my bag and indeed my IPad is not to be found. Ugh!!!! Will suggested that I come back into the airport and find baggage claim carousel 5, and he would bring the IPad to me there in 30-45 minutes. It seemed a bit surreal, sitting back in the airport waiting for a stranger to help me out after a very frustrating 6 hours or so.

It was only 20 minutes later that an airline pilot came around the corner and asked if I was Bill Levisay. After showing him my ID, he handed me the IPad and said that they had found it as they were cleaning out the airplane after we had de-planed. Will had been the captain of my flight to Rochester, and had come out through security to help me. I asked if he was heading to find a hotel and crash for the night. He answered that after that long delay and the cancellation, he was waiting to hear where he was going to have to fly that night but he expected to have to fly somewhere at midnight , so he was looking for coffee. I thanked Will profusely and asked why he had brought the IPad to me himself. He looked over his shoulder as he walked away and said that if it had been his IPad, he would have wanted someone to do the same for him. The Golden Rule alive and well at Dulles at 10:45pm on a rainy Wednesday night.

My mood lifted as I boarded the hotel shuttle, IPad in tow. I was thinking not only about the warm bed ahead but about Will the pilot, flying out later that night, and how he had reminded at least one weary traveler to try to be open and generous to fellow travelers on this journey called life!

The Universality of the Golden Rule in the World Religions

Christianity All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.
Matthew 7:1
Confucianism Do not do to others what you would not like yourself. Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state.
Analects 12:2
Buddhism Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
Udana-Varga 5,1
Hinduism This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you.
Mahabharata 5,1517
Islam No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.
Judaism What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellowman. This is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.
Talmud, Shabbat 3id
Taoism Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.
Tai Shang Kan Yin P’ien
Zoroastrianism That nature alone is good which refrains from doing another whatsoever is not good for itself.
Dadisten-I-dinik, 94,5

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Third Time Flying !

Well at 4:45 am at the Bentonville airport I guess anything can happen. While my hectic travel schedule sometimes requires some crazy scheduling, 4:45 am was pretty early for me! Maybe not surprisingly, the airport was starting to get busy for the morning flights and I picked up my boarding pass form the kiosk and headed up the escalator to go through security. I wasn’t paying much attention but right at the top of the escalators, just before the security line, there were three adults giving each other hugs. There was an older couple, maybe 70, and a middle aged woman (maybe their daughter), all sharing tearful goodbyes. Trying not to eavesdrop, I gave them a wide berth and went into security. Just before walking out of earshot, I heard the older woman exclaim, “you know honey, I’m pretty nervous… this is only my third time flying.” I was blown away, with this seemingly impossible “truth” ringing in my ears. “Third time flying”, you’ve got to be kidding! Just this week alone, across a seven day period, I will have taken flights from Atlanta>Bentonville Ark.>Dallas>Los Angeles>Phoenix>Atlanta. I will have flown on five flights in less than seven days and this is kind of an average week for me these days!

Before anyone starts to critique my current travel schedule (there’s plenty of critique to go around), let’s get back to that security line. It just seemed amazing that in this day and age, someone that age could have flown so little. I took a moment to look back at the couple as they joined me in the security line. They seemed so different from me; unsure of the security process, the gentleman trying to wear his “leatherette” coat through the x-ray machine, the woman refusing to take off her shoes. I have to admit that I found myself thinking how different I was from these two novice travelers. In a quick motion, I had my laptop and my pc out of my briefcase, shoes off, two trays filled as I quickly and silently made it through the x-ray machine. I felt superior to the older couple, more traveled, worldlier, more capable, etc….

One thing is true about the Bentonville airport, once through security there really is no place to go! I gathered my bags, slipped on my shoes (slip-ons, never tied) and stood around waiting for the coffee shop to open at 5:00am. After a few minutes and some false starts, the older couple came through security and looked around the waiting area. Instantly, the man caught the eye of the middle aged woman/daughter on the other side of the glass partition and ran to the glass. He put his hand up to the glass, matching his hand in hers on the other side of the glass, and said with tears flowing that he would “miss his honey so much while he was gone, but don’t worry, we’ll be back Sunday.” It was so real, so honest and in a rush all I wanted was to be at the glass, matching my hand with the hands of my daughter Marie, my son Bryson and my dear wife Jennie!

I felt ashamed of myself for being so lost in my own world and judging theirs. This morning, before dawn at a small Arkansas airport, I learned a lesson about what we should value. Rather than being impressed by medallion points, roller bags, or efficient slip-on shoes, I was reminded once again that the true things of value in life are often found in a tearful goodbye or a smiling welcome home! Marie, Bryson, and Jennie, I can’t wait to see you when I get home on Sunday!!!