Flying back from Florida where I celebrated my mom's 93rd birthday, I felt grateful for many reasons. Having Mom here on this earth is one, being able to take the time to visit often, having a good relationship with my family, all add up to a great visit. And the trip is enhanced when it starts with a good seat on the plane.
This trip and airline experience did not start out that well. I was originally seated at the very rear of the plane (not good for me) in an aisle seat (good for me). A man whose family was sitting next to me approached and asked if I'd like to trade seats with him; he was seated on the aisle in row 8. Fantastic! It was a win for everyone; he gets to sit with his family and I get to sit just behind first class. Fabulous. Or so I thought.
Our plane had arrived at the gate with only 30 minutes til departure, so staff was stressed to get the plane cleaned, get us seated and off the gate. If the airline is late off the gate they pay a penalty. With just 15 minutes to go it appeared to me that everyone was boarded and seated. As I approached the front of the plane to seat my self in aisle seat 8, I see more passengers (probably stand by) boarding, and the seat I thought I had is now occupied. A flight attendant firmly states that we need to take our seats as soon as possible for an on time gate departure. I explain my situation and she sends me back to my original seat, which is now occupied by the kind man who wanted to sit with his family. Now I don't have a seat at all. In the meantime, there seems to be some confusion over a number of people's seats and the flight attendant is barking orders to be seated. I explain my situation and she says now there is a seat in row 8, but its a middle seat. Being quite mindful that I don't want to be a pain, I explain that I need the aisle seat. In her stress to get going, she finds me an aisle again in the back of the plane. I resign myself to not make eye contact with this flight attendant as I feel she has been unprofessional and kind of rude. We take off and all is well.
Soon after take off and at our max altitude, the same flight attendant approaches me and explains that an airline employee (non-rev passenger) took the 8 aisle seat, and she will ask him to move to the rear so I can have that seat. She is apologetic, as am I, as I might have been short with words earlier on as well. She says she's been flying for 30 years and nothing bothers her anymore, she just wanted to make my trip a pleasant one. We continue to chat (I decided to remain in my rear of the plane seat instead of moving around) and have some good laughs over being stressed. It all turns out well. My seat was fine.
Looking through my bag for reading materials I discover that I have a 'laughter pill,' a plush toy, purple and orange colored, that when squeezed emits a 3 year old child's laughter. It is the great diffuser for problem situations, fear, annoyance, etc. I decide to gift this to the flight attendant when deplaning. When I approach her, we both smile and I say thank you very much for coming back and talking with me, and that I am grateful for this kindness. In return I give her the laughter pill and suggest that she use it when she has unruly passengers or just for fun with the staff. She is clearly moved by the gesture and hugs and kisses me. I am moved my her response. A great ending to a flight that didn't start off so well, and a great beginning of a weekend of celebration. Not to mention a fun story to share.
So what can start off as a stressful situation, when tempered by honest, vulnerable communication, can be turned around to be a great experience, a kind exchange and a memorable moment. There is always room for joy.