I have little to say professionally this week, but I have been thinking a good deal about a great many things. So, I’m double-dipping on musings . . . .
On Monday of this week, after a busy weekend in Brooklyn visiting Alex, our older daughter, Nancy and I accompanied Alex back to Tennessee for some midweek events here honoring Nancy. Alex is still in pretty rough shape and could not have traveled alone.
We were flying out of Newark and were scheduled to leave at 2:30 for a nonstop flight back to Nashville. But even as we were driving to the airport, I could see thunderheads forming to the west, piling on top of one another, like hulking gray boulders in the sky. I figured we would be fortunate to get out on time. Hah! Little did I know . . . .
We boarded, taxied, stopped, waited, waited some more, waited a whole lot more. Eventually, we taxied back to the gate, and eventually after that, we were allowed to deplane into the terminal so that we could get food, use the restrooms, stretch our legs, etc. By now, it was 5:00. Again, Nancy and I were traveling with our daughter who has cancer, who is weakened by treatments and generally exhausted. This was already going to be a long, trying day for her. Now it was getting worse.
An hour passed. And then another. The storms finally moved through, leaving the sky fiery and gorgeous. We were allowed to board again, told we would finally be leaving. We taxied, stopped, waited. Again.
We took off at 8:30, six hours late, and by the time we arrived, got our luggage, got the car, situated Alex, and drove the 90 miles from Nashville Airport to our house, didn’t get home until close to midnight. Too long a day. Too tiring. Too stressful. And yet . . . .
We are fine. Alex was tired the next day and had some relatively minor, unexpected issues crop up. But we got through the day in good spirits and in good shape. This musings post, though, isn’t about us. Not really, at least.
You see, the storms that stopped our flight from leaving, grounded every flight out of Newark, indeed out of all three New York airports (and also out of Boston’s Logan and others across the Northeast). When we returned to the gate after our initial attempt to leave, we found the terminal packed with people, all of them in the same situation we were in. I went searching for food and wandered far and wide, trying to find the exact thing our poor girl wanted to eat.
Not once did I see anyone complaining. Nor did I see anyone being nasty or berating gate agents or losing their patience with the crowds of fellow passengers. People were smiling, laughing, striking up conversations with strangers, playing with their kids, talking to their travel companions. You never would have known that every one of them had been inconvenienced for hours.
As I said, this was Monday. September 11. And I was reminded of that terrible day twenty-two years ago, and of the days after, when New Yorkers and New Jerseyans and Washingtonians and Pennsylvanians drew together in the wake of tragedy, treating one another with kindness and courtesy, with compassion and humanity. This year’s September 11th was a far easier, gentler day. We were delayed; we weren’t confronted by evil. But the same spirit of cooperation and good humor suffused our experience.
I’ve lived in the Southeast for more than thirty years now. And still, when I tell people that I’m originally from New York, I am often told how unfriendly people are up there, or how fortunate I am to live among the welcoming communities of the South.
And in some ways I am fortunate. Nancy and I have had a wonderful life in our little blue corner of Tennessee.
But let’s be very clear: In my experience, New Yorkers are no less friendly than Tennesseans, they are no more prone to rudeness, they are no less considerate, they are no less community-minded. In many respects, they are MORE considerate of others, more accepting of people on their own terms, more inclined to go out of their way in service to the well-being of those around them. I have lived in New York and New England, California and the South. No region has a monopoly on courtesy. No region has a monopoly on ill-mannered boors.
And for those who believe the New York metro area is populated by unfriendly, unrefined jerks, think again. Need proof? Spend a flight delay among the region’s people.
Enjoy the rest of your week.