Traveling with kids is never easy.
Traveling with kids...
Through the Newark airport...
During the anniversary week of 9/11...
Well, that's a nightmare.
New Yorkers are a tough crowd. So many times you hear about people being beaten and mugged on the street while pedestrians just walk on by. It's the type of atmosphere where you pretty much feel like you're on your own ... or so I thought.
I was flying with a relative and her two sons, ages five and seven. The connecting flight to Newark from our small hometown airport was canceled without warning. We literally found out the moment we stepped up to the counter to check in. Newark was going to be our transfer stop where we'd change planes in order to reach our final destination. Needless to say, things were off to a bad start when we had to jump in the car for an unexpected road trip and drive - instead of fly - to New York City. Talk about a last minute headache, induced by an endless barrage of "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"
Once we finally arrived, we had a little over an hour to make our flight. Standing above the security checkpoint, my heart sunk. I saw a deluge of humanity swirling beneath me. There was no way we were going to make it through in 60 hours, never mind 60 minutes. It seemed to stretch and loop and snake around for miles. Our eyes glazed over as we descended into this teeming mass of humanity, already giving up hope.
And that's when a Sary appeared. As we were trudging along, trying to find the end of the line, a stewardess disembarking from a plane, took one look at the kids' faces and told us to follow her. Even though we didn't know exactly what was going on, we hurried behind her, pulling our carry-ons. She never broke stride as she escorted us to the very front of the line. All she did was whisper in the ear of one of the attendants and he quickly unhooked the barrier to usher us forward. As you can imagine, the entire horde of weary travelers started complaining when they saw we were getting special treatment. I don't know why this woman singled us out, but she did, and I wasn't going to question why. We removed our shoes, put our bags on the conveyor belt, and ran like hell to the gate.
Needless to say, we made our flight.
Thanks to a seasoned flight attendant who took pity on two women traveling with kids.
And you would think that would be the end of the story, but we still had to fly home.
A little over a week later, we touched down. We were back in the Newark airport after a day that began at the crack of dawn. And it was just about dinner time when we trudged into the food court. After purchasing a box of twenty-piece chicken McNuggets for the boys, it became apparent that there wasn't an empty seat to be had in the entire complex. Combing the area, I finally located a small round table, just large enough for the kids to sit and eat at. But there was a problem - it only had one chair. So I began marching up to every table with an empty seat, asking the occupants if they could spare it. And do you know every single one of them said no? Even though it was obvious the only 'person' they were saving it for was their luggage.
As I made my way around the concourse, a cleaning lady (or should I say, a Sary in disguise?) saw what I was up to and joined me on my quest. But unlike me, she didn't take no for an answer. She barged right up to a table full of seat hoarders and confiscated their chair before they even had a chance to blink. She even removed their bags, placing them on the floor. Now that takes some serious balls. I followed joyously in her wake as she carried it back to our table. But she wasn't done there, oh no. She proceeded to round up two more, so that everyone could sit down and relax, even the adults.
She went out of her way to help us, when she didn't have to.
Just like the stewardess before her.
All I can say is sometimes you find guardian angels in the strangest places, even in rough and tumble New York.
I know I'll never forget my encounters with the Sary in the Newark airport. They'll be two stories my family will be talking about for years to come.
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