Whenever I get onto a Southwest flight, I read the section of their magazine entitled “You’ve made our day!” Like the true stories in Reader’s Digest, this section of the magazine contains cute little stories of special things happening to people in their lives, in this case, the magic occurs when a Southwest staff member goes out of his or her way to assist a passenger in need. When I flew north earlier this month, I read about the large stuffed rhinoceros accidently left in an overhead bin who made it back to his 12-year old owner wearing a miniature Southwest safety vest. Do they really have tiny vests made for lost stuffed animals?
I also read another story about a 94 year old woman who in her frailty was flying for the first time in 20 years to live closer to her daughter who was flying on her birthday. The staff made a special announcement during the flight and presented her with a crown fashioned from pretzel packets and swizzle sticks to celebrate her special day. Finally, there was the five-year old boy who insisted on carrying his own wallet like a grown-up (of course) but then lost it. It contained his Disney pass, his library card, and the Chili coupons for free meals that his grandparents had given him because it was his favorite restaurant. Since 5-year olds don’t carry ID cards, mom was pretty sure that it was the last they would ever see of the wallet and had already promised to replace the missing items as soon as she could. But… a week later, the local library called because someone from Southwest was trying to find them to return the wallet to its owner!!
Stories such as these often make me weep in pleasure, their simple sweetness is palpable. I often think I wish I had a story like this to tell. Well, today my wish came true! As I stood at the gate waiting to board another Southwest flight chatting to the women at the counter, a quiet realization whispered its way into my awareness – I had left the charger for my computer in my hotel room at the airport. I asked them if they could call the hotel and see if they could find it and one, Jackie, volunteered to see what she could find out. It took awhile to find the phone extension – 1234 – a number henceforth never to be forgotten by any of us. Although the hotel was at the airport, boarding was about to begin and I would never be able to make it back to the hotel and through security again in time. She said maybe she could go for me but this seemed like a big ask to do in such a short period of time, even assuming the hotel actually was able to find it in the ten minutes they had asked us to wait. I thought of the magazine stories and wondered if she would really try to retrieve it for me. I couldn’t deny that it would be nice to get it back, since I was leaving for Nepal three days later and would need to order another one immediately to make sure I had it in time if the one I had left behind couldn’t be found.
Jackie called and they said to call back in ten minutes so someone could be sent to the room to look for it. A less optimistic colleague shook his head, 10 minutes means more like 30, he predicted glumly. But Jackie wasn’t ready to give up. Before the ten minutes was up, it was time for me to board so I went on the plane not knowing whether the hotel had found the charger. Jackie promised to let me know what they said before I left. Minutes passed, everyone had boarded. I asked an attendant on the plane if she could find out if the hotel had found it, at least. She sent someone to ask since she couldn’t get off the plane. Just as the doors were about to close, I saw a hand holding my charger reach out from behind the bulkhead wall towards the attendant and heard a familiar voice starting to explain she was looking for the passenger who had lost her charger. I leapt up in delight, tripping over myself and the passenger next to me in my enthusiasm so I could get to Jackie and thank her personally. I had to run all the way, she said. I then turned to say to any passengers around me who would listen Wow, what they say in the magazine really IS true, Southwest staff really do go out of their way for us!
People around me smiled indulgently at my pleasure, not unlike they would respond to the delight of a child making some new (for her) discovery about the world. It only occurred to me later that perhaps none of them read the magazine and knew what I was talking about. Furthermore, I am quite sure that, even if they had, none of them had recently seen a 67-year old woman jumping up and down in delight. Of course, my pleasure was more about having someone care enough to go out of their way for me than it was about getting my charger back. And, of course, I finally had my own story to submit to the Southwest magazine! Jackie had, indeed, made my day!