The following is a story I resurrected from my email garbage can. It was the first of many stories I shared with a guy I corresponded with most of last year and probably the only story you will get from me about the airplane. I gave up writing the man in question as I decided the whole thing was a waste of time and energy....I beat myself up over it as time is currently my most valued resource.
Night flight from Seattle to Chicago, last one of my trip. The plane was a little over half full, with everyone crowded up front. I'm working in the back, better known as B position, better known as the Bitch in the Back with the Book. I come out to take drink orders, there's an Army soldier in my section. I know this as he is wearing his uniform. He appears to be in his mid twenties and he's one of those people you can tell by looking has had a hard life. He orders a Jack and Coke. I bring it and tell him it's on the house and thank him for what he does. It's our policy to buy drinks for military types at Southwest and it would be my policy even if it wasn't. The young soldier is blown away by this small act of kindness, thanks me over and over and tries to give me money. No, I say and get as drunk as you want to, on me, within reason. He asks if he can come back and talk to me during the flight. Sure, why not. It's a four hour flight and it'll make it go by quicker. I really did get back into customer service as I love to talk to people...sometimes I lose sight of that when it's talking to people about the bathroom, but it's true. He comes back and drinks some Jack and talks some smack. He tells me he's been discharged from the Army as he's been hurt and I can read between the lines that it's not a physical injury. He tells me about the terrible things he's seen and how all the psychotropic meds in the world won't make it go away. So, what's the plan now, I ask. He says he has no idea. He grew up in Bolingbrook just outside of Chicago and took the Army gig just to get the hell away from his family. He takes out his challenge coin. I know not of the coins....he tells me all about the coin that proudly announces that Tony is a Private First Class. He is insistent that I trade him my wings for the coin. Sorry, Tony, gotta keep the wings. I tell him to give me his address, I'll send him an old pair when I get home. He makes me PROMISE that I will. Of course, Tony, I took the coin. A deal's a deal. He asks if I will sit with him before we land. Sure. He looks out the window, staring at vast expanse that is Chicago from the air. He tells me he's going to place that he doesn't know anymore, back to a family that only cares about him now that he's hurt. I hold his hand while he cries. He tells me he has never, ever cried in his adult life and that men should never cry...a sure sign of weakness. I tell him that's not the case, that crying takes courage and it should make him feel better. I tell him that he should let his family take care of him right now, that is deserving of their love regardless of what happened in the past, that he should take care of himself and find a new path that will bring him joy. At this point, we're about a minute from landing....I have to go sit in my jumpseat. Hang in there, Tony. We land and Tony's gotten it together. Everyone's leaving and Tony runs back to the galley and lifts me in the air and kisses me square on the mouth. Such a thing could get me in hot water at work if someone were to report it, but at that moment it didn't matter. He had touched my heart and I think I did the same. He then turned to a mom travelling alone and grabbed her car seat and her carry on bags and told her just to carry her sleeping kid...he could carry the stuff until they found her husband. She could not believe his kindness. I went home and mailed him the wings.
I realized in hindsight that I didn't write the stories for my unworthy pen pal, I wrote them for me. Our stories are love letters we write about ourselves, for ourselves. And when we share them with others, we can change our little piece of the world.
Things to be learned from this blog post:
1) Things considered to be a waste of time can surprise you.
2) There is treasure in the trash.
3) Kissing drunk people half your age is awesome.
4) It's never too late to find your bliss.
Ripped from the book of Xanadu.....we have to believe we are magic and NOTHING can stand in our way. Has Olivia Newton John ever steered you wrong? I didn't think so.