On the Kindness of Strangers

13 10 2006

Here is a True Story, gather ‘round.

In January of 1999 my two very young children and I were headed home to Spain after being in the states for two months during the holidays. Wait, let me bulk up that sentence a bit. My kids (my 2 year-old and 8 month-old) and I were headed home with: a sprained ankle (me), two car seats, and three huge bags that pushed the limits of airline weight restrictions. From Houston, this was going to be a 598457-hour flight and I was not looking forward to it. But we were to meet up with the (con)artist formerly known as my husband at JFK Airport so I didn’t worry overmuch. Lo and behold, I was paged in New York and informed that SH was bumped from his flight and was not meeting us after all. (He was on a later flight that was routed through Atlanta.) Ok. While awaiting take-off I doped up those of appropriate age with Dramamine and settled in. Chloe had her own seat beside me, Nolan was in my arms. At some point during the flight our plane dropped. It spent some time dropping and had I not been busy being air-sick (and you try being air-sick with one hand holding back a frantic 2 year-old and one arm holding a squirmy 8 month-old!) I would have probably died of fright. But alas, I did not.

Eventually we landed in Madrid, where I was to meet up with SH at the train station and head for home via the bullet train down to Rota. Bust my buttons, I was once again paged and learned that I was to head on down without him. How was THAT going to happen? SH had all of our money! There I stood in the train terminal with three huge bags, two screaming kids, their car seats, and my sprained ankle. I stood rooted to the floor and instantly and thoroughly burst into tears.

Whatever that term is which describes the migratory movement of sponges, that term describes the speed ot my movement towards the train ticket window. I was $11 short for one ticket. One ticket for the three of us, to moosh into one train seat. Let me tell you something about Spaniards. They are, in general, shorter and thinner than my German/French/Polish heritage has made me. So I shuffled away figuring we could wait until SH’s flight arrived, whenever that would be.

As I stood there looking absolutely pathetic, a man in ragged clothes and no small amount of facial scruff wandered over to me. My first thought was “Crap, he’s going to ask me for money. Please don’t let him ask me for money, I don’t want to give this man any money.” He smiled at me, mumbled something in Spanish, and started heaving my cart back over to the train ticket window. I was too tired and hopeless to do anything but stand there (with two kids and a sprained ankle) and watch him steal our luggage and buy himself a train ticket. A minute or two later, he returned, smiled, and stuck a train ticket and three meal coupons into my hand. He then continued to push my luggage cart towards the train boarding area and waited with us for the train to arrive. When it did, he heaved my 569546547 pounds of luggage up onto the train, smiled, patted my babies on their heads, and wandered off.

This is a true story. I have no idea who he was, and forgive me, but I was exhausted after our trans-Atlantic flight that almost ended in tragedy and never asked his name. I’m sure I said gracias, in my ugly, American Learning Spanish in Southern Spain Accent, so it came out “Grah-thee-uh.”

(If anyone is curious, SH was “bumped off” his flights voluntarily. He stayed behind in Atlanta because he was having in affair with the sister of the woman his best friend had just married. I SWEAR I am not making this up.)

Anyway. There are a lot of Knitties that are that man in the Madrid train station. It is an astonishingly gorgeous thing that people will give their time, their money, their homes, whatever they have to give to those who look like they need it. And now, lest this turn didactic, I bid you good evening.




9 responses

13 10 2006

Particularly heartwarming in lieu of recent Knitty happenings…

14 10 2006

I love it when OLPP shares a tale…and this one was a good one.

14 10 2006

Awww, that’s so sweet.

15 10 2006

::happyface::: i am smiling ear to ear right now.

how beautiful. how blessed we are to experience things like that. to have people like our knitties to remind us of how beautiful people are. no matter how dark it is, if you turn on a light, the dark goes away. no ammount of dark is stronger than even the dimmist candle.

15 10 2006

That was exactly what I needed to read 🙂

Something similar happened to me in Amsterdam. To make a long story somewhat less lengthy, I was travelling back to the US after leaving Sweden a few weeks short of the total amount of time I was supposed to spend there as an exchange student. In short, I had gotten into a really bad situation and ended up being asked to leave… I was miserable. Terrified. Mad at the world, at one man in particular, and livid with myself for the entire thing. Stranded in Amsterdam for an especially long layover, I discovered that my ATM card wasn’t working. Neither was my credit card. I was starving, upset, and feeling very much alone. On the verge of tears, I just stood there in the middle of the hallway wondering what on earth I should do and what would become of me. Apparently someone had noticed, because a man walked up to me, handed me 50 whatever-the-demonination-was-at-the-time, and told me to have a “Merry Christmas”. This was in June, mind you… So, slightly comforted, at least I was able to get something to eat – because despite all the bad apples, I’d at least like to believe that there are a lot of good people in this world.

15 10 2006

I loved this story. And I love the generosity and niceness in people. I am turning into a stereotypical bitter New Yorker (I’m a born and raised one…), and everytime I hear a story like this, the bitterness dies just a little bit more and my faith in humanity is restored. Thanks Kathy. 🙂

15 10 2006

What an amazing story! Thank you so much for sharing this. It is amazing what people will do for each other at times. Maybe he was your guardian angel in disguise!!


Jody (SP9 hostess)

20 10 2006


21 10 2006
the kitchener bitch

That’s an awesome story. It’s stuff like that gives me pause every time I try to insist that I hates people.

Were you on Iberia? Because my husband and I took our honeymoon in May 1999 in Spain, and our flight to Madrid also dropped some terrifying distance. The flight was so turbulent and scary that at one point we turned to one another and said, “If this plane goes down, WE’RE the couple that they’ll pick for the human interest story on the news! ‘Lovers on Honeymoon Doomed in Crash Hours After Wedding!'” We were serious, for reals. I vowed never to fly Iberia again…

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