by Brian R. King
I am an adult with Autism and my consulting work requires a lot of out-of-state airline travel. Airports and air travel are very overwhelming for me. One day this October I woke at 4:30 a.m. to travel out of state, traveling and working until 10:30 p.m. that night.
As I flew home the next day, after two hours wait at a layover airport my flight home was canceled 20 minutes before boarding. I called customer service, and by the time I reached someone I was told to go to the customer service desk.
The line was at least 100 people deep — and not moving. Then they announced that there were no more flights that night; we’d have to stay overnight after booking another flight. I began to shake and my eyes began to tear up as I contemplated standing in this 100-person line for a prolonged time.
Due to my Autism I was overloaded and beginning to shut down, which made it hard to think and hard to speak.
I called my wife Cathy for help. She heard how much difficulty I was having even thinking. She remained calm and guided me step by step.
Cathy told me to look for a person who transports special needs people around the airport. I found someone and said, “I have Autism, they canceled my flight and don’t have any more flights and I need to get home.”
The woman, Shawn, gently took my bags, told me to sit down in her tramcar, and said she knew someone who could help.
Shawn drove me to another part of the airport, then left me briefly to talk to someone about helping me. My wife kept talking to me the whole time. Shawn came back with a gentleman, Dale, who held a boarding pass with my name on it for a flight an hour and a half after my original flight.
I am grateful and humbled to my core by how generously and tenderly I was taken care of by my soul mate and two complete strangers that day. Thank you doesn’t even describe it but I’ll say it. Thank you, Shawn and Dale at the Philadelphia Airport, you did your employer, U.S. Airways a tremendous honor by how you conducted yourselves.
There is absolutely no value in going through your life stubbornly refusing to ask others for help. I was seconds away from a full-blown meltdown at the airport so I called my wife Cathy who helped me find Shawn. Shawn led me to her supervisor, Dale, who found a seat for me.
Needing other people isn’t a sign of weakness, it never was and it never will be. It is, and always will be, the precious gift of service that human beings give to each other.