The Stranger I Kissed

by Leslie's AvatarLeslie Jones

Last week was DH’s office Holiday Party. As I started writing this, we began our initial descent into Cincinnati. The leg from Phoenix to Houston International Airport went smoothly. However, once we landed in Houston, things fell apart rapidly.

Four people needed wheelchair assistance once off the plane, including me. Only one showed up. The rest of us waited nearly 20 minutes. That’s not so bad, you say. Except all 3 of us had connecting flights, all leaving in less than an hour.

No big deal, right? The wheelchairs came, and we disembarked. Plenty of time to get to a new gate. Except that the train running from terminal to terminal had stopped working. The crowds impatiently waiting for it to be fixed were staggering. The gentleman assigned to get me from one gate to the next, Danny, tried to spread the word both to passengers and other employees, but was largely ignored; primarily, I think, because no one had another solution. He told me that the breakdown occurred every year when the weather changed, and could take upwards of a day to be fixed.

This gentle giant was simple, with an IQ probably around 80. He was earnest, with a genuine desire to help. None of what happened was his fault, yet some frustrated passengers took out their ire on him. I could see Danny shrink in on himself each time.

“You’re doing everything you can,” I said, patting his hand. He took heart, and realized there was another route to our gate: down the stairs, past the hotel, into the terminal, and back around through security to reach the one remaining working train. Doing something seemed better than nothing, so I agreed to try it.

We made the trek and got in line for security. I was selected at random for additional checks. By that point, I literally had 4 minutes before they would close the doors and push back from the gate. I gave up, I admit it. I turned my mind instead toward finding an alternate flight. But Danny refused to give up. We made the trek all the way down to the gate. As we arrived, a woman was locking the doors behind her. Okay, I thought. We made a valiant effort. So be it.

“We’re not boarding yet,” she said. “It’ll be just a few minutes.”

Music to my ears, but confusing nonetheless. Turns out the flight had been delayed due to a mechanical malfunction! What could have been the last straw in a series of comical misfortunes instead turned out to be a blessing. I turned to Danny.

“We made it,” I said, a big grin on my face.

He saw my smile and spontaneously bent over to hug me. I kissed his cheek and hugged him back. He’d never given up. He’d taken his charter seriously. And suddenly, we two human beings who’d never met and would never cross paths again shared a moment of total connection with one another.

The scent of his lotion stayed on my cheeks all through the flight from Houston to Cincinnati. Whenever I inhaled, I was reminded that grace can come from anywhere, at any time, in any form. I’m not talking about making the flight; that’s irrelevant to this story. This story is about Danny’s can-do attitude and generosity of spirit. I think I smiled the entire trip. Danny, you are one remarkable human being. Thank you.


Leslie's HeadshotLeslie Jones has been an IT geek, a graphics designer, and an Army intelligence officer. She’s lived in Alaska, Korea, Belgium, Germany, and other exotic locations (including New Jersey). She is a wife, mother, and full-time writer, and splits her time between Scottsdale, Arizona and Cincinnati, Ohio.

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About Leslie Jones

Leslie Jones has been an IT geek, a graphics designer, and an Army intelligence officer. She’s lived in Alaska, Korea, Belgium, Germany, and other exotic locations (including New Jersey). She is a wife, mother, and full-time writer, and splits her time between Scottsdale, Arizona and Cincinnati, Ohio.

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