by Caitlin Mercer
It didn’t start out as a big deal. We were waiting to board our flight out of Portland, Oregon, heading to Ontario, California on a Friday evening. The gate had been changed, and everyone was now just anxious to get on the plane and get home.
A man escorted an elderly Asian couple through the line. I assumed he was their son. At the head of the line, it was clear the couple spoke almost no English. A gate attendant was kind enough to escort them out onto the tarmac and onto the right gangway to our plane.
I boarded the plane a few moments behind them and witnessed some confusion. The couple had taken the first two open seats, not understanding the seat numbers on their boarding passes.
A tall man tried to show them how to identify the correct seat numbers, and when they didn’t understand, he motioned to them to follow him, and kindly guided them to their correct seats.
I noted his kind act and smiled, though I figured it was the sort of little kindness any one of us would do.
We waited for an eternity to depart, and finally the captain announced that there was minor trouble with a cargo net and we would be delayed. After more time passed, we were advised we would need to deplane and wait for another plane.
I thought immediately of the Asian couple and how confusing this would be for them. I waited for one of my carry-on luggage pieces to come out of the cargo hold, and when I got into the terminal I looked for them. I needn’t have worried. The same tall man was with them.
He guided them to the terminal where we were to wait, gesturing for them to stick with him. Our terminal was now overcrowded with impatient commuters waiting for the replacement flight, and there was nowhere for them to sit with three adjacent seats.
The tall man spotted a woman sitting alone with an empty seat on each side of her and explained that he was looking after the couple. He asked if she would be willing to give up her seat, and she graciously did so.
We waited another 45 minutes before boarding the new plane. The tall man sat with the couple during the wait, made sure they found the restroom, got a cup of coffee, a snack, anything they needed.
Maybe another aggravated, tired commuter would have seen this as a pain in the neck. But this man didn’t. I’m not sure if it “put him out” to help them. When the opportunity arose, he took responsibility for seeing it through. Really, it seemed he hardly saw it as an inconvenience at all — just a chance to do good.