I took a respite and sat in a chair watching my colleague handle the traffic at the counter.Our gate at the New York airport was as usual busy with flights leaving every 30 minutes.After the gate is closed for one flight,,the boarding work began for the next flight immediately.I saw the old couple from India I surmised from the dress of the lady.She must be in late seventies and her husband in wheel chair looked past 80.The lady stood in the line for every flight at the gate to be asked when her turn came to wait.May be they were wait listed passengers or had the buddy passes that entitled them to accommodation only if seats were available after meeting those who paid for tickets in full.
I could see that they had missed three flights already.Whenever the lady asked something, I saw , my colleague was irritable and even said once “You have to wait.I do not know how long” She could not follow his accent with the American drawl.I felt both had a difficulty in comprehending one another and my colleague did not exhibit the patience and helping disposition needed in a front desk job.She lingered trying to explain when my colleague said with certain acerbity. "Please move away.There are passengers waiting in the line.” I could discern the irritation in his voice even from this distance.All eyes were on her.Embarassed the lady wiped her eyes with her upper robe and came near her husband in wheel chair.He looked sick.
I decided to do something.I am a very tall black American unlike my white colleague and when I went near her she looked so small.I bent low and asked her slowly word by word ’You seem to have some problem.I would like to help you.Please show me your tickets”
She looked at me wondering whether to hand over the tickets to me though I was in airline uniform with badges and name on it.Her husband nudged her and told her in whisper in her dialect to give me the tickets.When I saw the tickets I found they were bound for Fort Lauderdale and the tickets were buddy passes entitling them seats only when available..I told both the lady and her husband that I will take charge of the counter soon and that the lady should come along with her husband towards him when signalled.
I went to my colleague and released him for some rest.The next flight to Ft Lauderdale was full and there were no spare seats.The next flight had only one spare seat..I could see a slight disappointment in the lady’s face when the counter closed after those two flights. I smiled at her and tapped my chest to show that I was there to help her.
The next flight was for Miami.There were two seats available.There were others waiting with buddy passes.I ignored them and called the old couple..”This flight is for Miami. Please ring up your family and ask them to pick you up at Miami. It is not far from Ft Lauderdale.I hope you have a mobile.Give me their number .I will inform them.” They said they have a mobile and would do the needful. I took them inside and spoke to the airhostess to help the old couple who I said were waiting for more than four hours.She promptly put them in the vacant Business class seats though theirs were economy.
Before exiting the plane I turned to look at the lady. She waved her hand with a smile. It left me wondering whether I felt an affinity towards them because their brown colour was closer to my dark complexion than the fair colour of Americans or whether it was a natural concern in me for very senior citizens or my maternal grandpa’s Kenyan ancestry and his study in India. Be that as it may, I must admit that a thought crossed my mind what I would have expected of others had it been my mom in a far off Eastern land.
.The counter opened for the next flight for Ft Lauderdale and I got busy..