Saturday, January 15, 2011

12 Minutes

Today, I was browsing the news with my usual amount of "tut-tutting" at how the world continues to rush toward hell without the benefit of a handbasket - an easy attitude to take following last week's events in Tucson - when I came across a story that jolted me out of my world-weariness. You can read about it here (and CNN picked it up here), but the essence is this:

A businessman is traveling when he receives word that his three-year-old grandson has been viciously attacked (that's a separate element of the story; I won't dwell on it here) and is due to be taken off life support and his organs donated - a generous decision that had to be heart-wrenching in itself. The grandfather is in LA; the grandson is in Denver. Immediately, the grandfather begins traveling to Denver to see his grandson before the boy is removed from life support. This is a journey that involves going from LA to (ironically) Tucson. The LAX airport is jam-packed and security is a nightmare, with no exceptions being made for a grief-stricken grandfather on a sorrowful mission. He gets through security and runs down the concourse, not even taking the time to put his shoes back on. He gets to the departure gate - late - to find the pilot waiting for him. The pilot expresses his condolences and says to the grandfather, "They can’t go anywhere without me and I wasn’t going anywhere without you. Now relax. We’ll get you there. And again, I'm so sorry."

The plane takes off twelve minutes late.

Now, twelve minutes might not sound like much, but in the airline world - it's eternity. Airlines completely turn planes around in twenty minutes - it's both art and science. Airlines simply cannot (and do not) hold flights. That's why they tell you to get to the airport two hours early (the grandfather in the story had gotten there two hours early, by the way - LAX was just crammed). Were other passengers probably wondering why they were still on the tarmac? Sure. One or two of them might even have been Grinchy enough to grumble about it. The airline higher-ups might be startled at the pilot's decision, but probably not. The airline in question is Southwest and the official line is that they completely support the pilot's actions in this case. Southwest has quite a good reputation in the area of customer service, much like Piedmont did back in the day, which my daddy flew for.

Think about it. Twelve minutes. Twelve minutes that meant everything to that grandfather, because things were so wildly out of his control. He's in the middle of the worst day of his life and no one seems to care. Then someone tosses the rule book and said, "Nuts to that. This person needs help and I can give it." And - maybe only for a minute, but there was that minute - a crazy, cruel world got just a little saner and kinder for someone in pain. That person knew that his pain mattered to someone else - "They can't go anywhere without me and I wasn't going anywhere without you."

I'm going to try hard to remember that. School's started back and students are always flummoxed at the beginning. I'm going to try to remember that the extra minute or two (or even twelve) that I can give somebody might really, really matter.

And all it'll cost me is time.

Golden Rule, people. There are worse ways - many worse ways - of living one's life.



dropped by and i enjoy your blog

amnbsdad said...

Great story, thank you for sharing.