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FROM THE EDITOR'S PEN  / Paying It Forward /   Editorial List

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 Paying It Forward

There was a lady sitting in my assigned seat as I boarded the plane that was to take me to Minneapolis last week. It was painfully early in the morning and as we shifted seats (in the same row), she mentioned that it was her first time flying.  She seemed to be about my age, so I wasn’t sure if she was joking or if maybe there was a tiny hidden camera somewhere and I had stumbled into the taping of a new reality show called “America’s Most Gullible Flyers.”  After a short while, I realized that she was not only telling the truth, but was truly scared about the first takeoff of her life.  I walked her through all the noises and flight attendant instructions and felt good as she regained some color in her cheeks and released her white-knuckled grip on the armrest. During the flight, she told me that she had to race back home because her dad was in the hospital with a heart attack and the doctors thought she would not have much time to see him again.

Walking her through all the aspects of flying made what has become a regular experience for me interesting once again. I remembered how excited I had been on my first flight many moons ago and how magical it all seemed. These days, between missed connections, crushingly small seats and the TSA Tango, I have lost some of that enthusiasm.

As we deplaned in Atlanta to make our connecting flights, I offered some final guidance before we parted.  I explained that it was important to pay attention to the gate assignments on her connecting flight as they can change without notice and I have never had the gate for my next flight be in the same concourse as the flight I had just been on.

In appreciation for my taking her under my wing (so to speak), she said she’ll make sure to pay the same attention to caregivers she would meet at the hospital who were not as experienced with the health care system as she was.  As she walked away, I looked around and realized that the gate where I stood was actually the one that my next flight would be leaving from in 45 minutes. This was an all-time first for me. 

Call it a Paying it Forward dividend.  I hope she gets one, too.



Gary Barg

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