My job calls for some cross country travel.
It has been difficult this year, not just because flying is such a pain in the ass, but because of the compounded loss of my husband.
James always took me to the airport and picked me up – always. And I don’t mean he sat in the car outside baggage when I returned, but came in and stood as close as legally possible to the gate to greet me. I always knew when I rounded a certain corner he would be standing in a certain spot, arms stretched out with a big grin on his face. “My Angel!” he would exclaim, enveloping me in a big bear hug and planting a long sloppy kiss on my mouth. Didn’t matter if I had been gone two days or 10.
Now, although always glad to get home, I dread rounding that corner, since the ghost of his presence – or lack of – taunts me as I head down the escalator to baggage claim.
But something happened on this last trip to quiet the ghost and get me marching past that point with a small smile on my face.
I was traveling on Southwest, returning from a big client event that had thankfully gone well. However, not being a frequent Southwest traveler I did not pull a low number in the pecking order that contradicts Southwest’s pride over being democratic in its seating arrangements. (If you throw them a few extra bills you are also assured a better seat.) I was in group C. For the uninitiated, C stands for “Can’t get a window or an aisle seat.”
The walk of shame begins as you sidle down the aisle of the mostly full plane looking for that elusive window or aisle seat. Most seated passengers avoid eye contact thinking it will keep you from plunking down near their precious space. Let’s face it- middle seat is akin to the smallest veal cage. And not to be sexist, but anytime I’ve been sandwiched between two men, they invariably take both arm rests, leaving me to fold my appendages into my body as best I can like useless mannequin arms.
But I did manage an aisle seat next to a smiling couple who even said, “welcome to row 26” with a decidedly unusual good cheer attitude that flew in the face of standard plane etiquette. They radiated a welcoming air I had not experienced before on a flight. Almost like they were glad to see me! I settled down much the happier and once we landed with a large lurch, we started to chat while waiting our turn to disembark.
They were musicians as it turns out, returning from a gig in Florida.
“What type of music do you perform?” I asked, intrigued.
“Americana,” the woman replied.
“Oh.. kinda like Daisy Mayhem?” I asked. This being a regional band I really liked and had seen perform a few times before.
“We are Daisy Mayhem!” The woman, who I now recognised as their lead singer Rani Arbo, replied.
I was so excited. Here next to me traveling musicians every bit as charming off stage as on.
I practically danced off the plane. I walked past James’ ghost and almost managed a smile.
Such a small event in the scheme of a very long day, but precious all the same.
There’s a Bruce Springsteen song this band performs called “Reason to Believe” and some of the lyrics go like this:
“Lord won’t you tell us, tell us what does it mean.
At the end of every hard earned day, people find some reason to believe.”