I had never been in an airport, and thus obviously never been on a plane. I didn’t know who to ask for help, where to go, or even how to turn in my non-carryon luggage. And yet on October 11th of 2006, I decided to fly across the world, away from all I ever knew, to Australia.
I likely wouldn’t have made it, if not for the kindness of one man.
Minneapolis airport wasn’t the biggest airport (though you couldn’t have told me that when I first got there), and I had made it to where I needed to be to get on the plane for the first leg of the flight. Journaling was my solace, as I was there alone with no one to talk me through my first flight.
Once I was on the plane and we were in the air, I was in heaven. Seeing the sun set over Minnesota as I quickly wrote down my thoughts and feelings was absolutely wonderful. It was only after getting over my initial fascination with being so high up that I noticed the man beside me looked like someone in a television show I used to watch. The similarity made me smile, a smile which he noticed and returned.
As we descended towards the Denver airport and I switched my watch to the local time, I began to panic as I realized I had no idea where to go to connect to my next flight and only ten minutes to figure it out. When we stepped off the plane, I truly began to panic.
Compared to what I saw of the Minneapolis airport, Denver was absolutely huge. I followed the other people off the flight hoping that someone, anyone, would be going to the same next flight as me.
The man who had sat next to me on the plane caught up with me and must have seen the fear on my face. He asked if I was okay, and I was only too happy to admit I had no idea what I was doing, where I was going, and admitting how little time I had left.
He checked my ticket to see where I needed to be and quickly began to lead the way. We walked around and through places I never would have made it through alone. With a smile and three easy instructions – “go down the stairs, get on the subway-like thing, and get off at the end” – and a smile, he wished me the best of luck.
As I took a moment to watch him walk away to his own connecting flight, I smiled, realizing I could have missed the rest of my flights to Australia if not for him. And I didn’t even get the chance to ask his name.