I have plenty of time before my flight, so I search for an empty table at the cozy, dimly-lit, seat-yourself restaurant inside the airport.
I plop down at the first vacant table I see. I’m not excited over the menu options of grease in various forms, to be washed down with expensive beer. It doesn’t matter. I have a spot to decompress after my search and seizure experience. My new metal hip had set off the TSA alarm as I traversed the security check. I was suddenly surrounded by TSA agents barking, “Stop. Take your shoes off. Kleenex? Out of your pocket.” So much for my pre-check status.
“I’ve had a hip replacement,” I said as the TSA agents glowered, unsure if I had chosen this medical excuse as my ruse to fool them.
I asked for a pat down as I felt that would be the healthier option over the radiation blast from the full-body scanner. (I know. People like to explain. I get more radiation riding in an airplane or from the sunshine as I stroll to my mailbox.)
The pat-down lady arrived looking no older than 11-years-old. She wore latex gloves and asked me to hold my arms straight out in a flying position. She hardly touched me as she checked for stashed away weapons on my body. I detected a concern on her part that I could scream any minute, “Assault!”
“I have to do a chemical check of your clothing,” she told me. She swiped a paper strip over my clothes and placed it under a scanner. Her machine didn’t explode. With a shy smile, she said. “You’re good to go now.”
Chemicals on my clothes? That was a new one to me.
Now, as I sit in the restaurant, I seek a moment of calm and something to eat. I order the chicken wrap.
I glance over at the lady seated alone in the booth next to me. She has hot tea in a glass mug. The tea has a green color and steam rolls out of her mug. It looks inviting.
“I didn’t see tea on the menu,” I say. “What kind of tea is that? I’m going to order it.”
The lady peers at me with suspicion. She has the why-is-this-stranger-talking-to-me look. With full, pouty lips and natural wavy curls wafting around her face, feathery-like, she reminds me of Carly Simon. Who knows? She might start singing in her commanding voice, “You’re so vain, you probably think this tea is about you…”
With a half-smile, Carly replies, “I brought this tea with me. It’s my tea.”
“Oh, I wished I had brought my own tea,” I say to her.
I start gawking at my phone because that’s what we do these days. And suddenly, I hear Carly say, “This is for you.” She leans over to my table and hands me a sealed tea bag from Trader Joe’s with the label stating “organic mint mélange.” With it, she plunks down two sealed packets of honey.
“Thank you,” I say, surprised at her sudden generosity. I add, “I guess I’ll order some hot water.” Carly grins.
I don’t often receive acts of kindness from strangers. Of course, my friends are kind, kind, kind. But strangers in an airport? Not usually.
“Where are you headed,” I ask her.
“Auburn, California. That’s where I live,” she says.
“Do you mind telling me your name so I can remember you and your kindness.”
“Cher,” she says, which ironically is another celebrity singer from the same 60s-70s rock era.
She doesn’t look like Cher, so I don’t expect her to belt out, “Babe….I got tea for you, Babe.”
I tell you this because I’m reminded how much kindness lifts our spirits and gives us hope in a world where we see so much strife and discord and less sensitivity for others.
The bottom line is, most of us want to be kind and certainly take opportunities to be kind when the circumstances present themselves, and when it doesn’t cost us much.
Much later, when my flight has landed and I’m back at home telling Jerry of this kind stranger named Cher, I will wonder aloud, “How often do I share what I have with a stranger?”
Jerry will say to me, “Bronwyn, if you’re eating a bologna sandwich and someone you don’t know leans over to you (Jerry does an impression of a hypothetical goggly-eyed stranger leaning over with his tongue flapping out of his mouth) and says to you, ‘I wish I had a bologna sandwich’ – I think you would share your sandwich.” Never mind I don’t eat bologna.
But that is in the future. For now, I relax in the airport restaurant and savor my organic mint mélange tea. Its soothing fragrance of peppermint, lemongrass, and spearmint, in addition to Cher’s kindness, have greatly improved my mood. Kindness and tea have a way of helping you forget TSA security guards. My mind is completely away from latex gloves and 11-year-olds asking me to stand with my legs apart and my arms out.
Cher packs up to leave and as she passes my table, she says, “Have a good life.”
With her backpack slung over her shoulder, she drifts into the airport crowd. I realize I will never see her again.
For some reason… as I tell you this story I can’t help but wanting to …sing…I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee, clouds in my coffee and…You’rrrrrrrre so vainnnn….