“Excuse me, miss,” a passenger said as she handed me her boarding card. “But there’s a man over there and…I think, I think that something’s wrong with him.”
I was in the middle of boarding a flight, and as I scanned her boarding card and handed it back to her, I glanced in the direction she was pointing. And sure enough, there was a man laying on the floor, square in front of the gate across from us.
I sighed inwardly. Every shift there seemed to be at least one man somewhere, with something wrong with him…And always at the most inopportune moments, too. Like when I had to get a long line of impatient New Yorkers boarded, seated and all of their oversized carry-ons properly stowed and I only had three minutes to do it in.
“Thank you. I’ll go see about him in a minute.” And I meant it. But I had to first board the flight, make the final boarding call, page any missing passengers and assist the handful of people who were crowding the podium and demanding that I switch their seats. A drunk party-goer sleeping it off on the terminal floor would just have to wait.
But then I did something I probably shouldn’t have….I completely forgot all about him. In fact, it wasn’t until I was watching the aircraft pull away from the jet bridge that it dawned on me that in all of the chaos and stress, I’d never checked to see if he was okay. What if he’d slipped, bumped his head and was lying there unconscious? What if he’d had a heart-attack and because I hadn’t assisted him sooner, he was now dead?
Luckily for both of us, he was fine. Well, if you consider tripping on acid, fine. I found him on his back, spread-eagle with his hands folded behind his head. He’d also taken off his shoes somewhere along the line and placed them neatly next to his backpack.
“Where are you headed to tonight, sir?” I asked, towering over him. Planet Mars? He looked up at me and smiled.
“St. Maarten.” Ah, that explained why he looked like he was lounging in a hammock rather than on the hard, linoleum floor of the airport terminal. In his garbled thought process, he’d likely bypassed the part where he needed to fly in a plane for 10 hours and mistakenly assumed he’d been magically teleported directly to the beach.
“Well, um…” I always hate having to be the bearer of bad news. “Your flight just left. I’m sorry.” And I was. That was the last flight out that night, which meant that this poor, confused gentleman would have to wait there until 12 noon the next day.
But surprisingly, he wasn’t upset. He didn’t even look shocked. He just smiled and serenely and said slowly: “Oh. Darn…”
Apparently, he’d been one of the passengers I’d paged for the flight, but he’d daydreamed through the announcement and hadn’t heard his name being called repeatedly over the loudspeaker. This was another fact that he took with surprising ease.
“Be sure to be here on time tomorrow,” I said as I booked him on standby for the flight the following day.
“Okay.” He replied. “My name is Tom,” he said, reaching out his hand to shake mine. “Don’t forget about me tomorrow, okay?”
“Don’t worry, Tom.” I fought hard to keep a straight face. “I won’t ever forget you.”