Rough Grace


It was 30 years ago, just before Thanksgiving weekend, on one of the busiest travel days of the year. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) was crawling with pre-holiday misery. Planes were late and tempers were flaring. The holidays might be impending, but the holiday spirit was nowhere to be seen. And then the announcement came: Our flight to Denver had been cancelled. No reason was offered. Which meant the airline was responsible; if the airport or weather were to blame, it would be the first thing they’d say.

Cranky passengers were greeted by an even crankier Steward. Allen (my partner in the comedy act Mitch & Allen) and I knew that FAA regulations required them to put us on a competitor’s flight if they didn’t have one of their own leaving within four hours. We also knew they would not offer this unless it was demanded.

The only person who seemed truly cheery was the man in front of us, a Texas CEO-type in an expensive suit with tailored Western lapels and (surprise, surprise) boots and a Stetson—in which he stood at least 6 foot 5 (7 foot 5 with the hat). He was warmly encouraging the “little lady” in front of him, a skinny single mom with wispy blonde hair and watery blue eyes, hefting a baby and towing a toddler.

When the young mom got to the counter, the acerbic Steward said flatly, “Sorry” (he didn’t sound like it). “Our next flight out is tomorrow at 9:15. Here are your tickets.”

The young woman began to cry. “But I…I got two kids and I don’t got no money for a hotel. All our family is in Colorado and—“

“Sorry. Next,” said the Steward, waving her aside.

The young mom stood there, quietly sobbing.

“Next,” the Steward repeated.

The Businessman gently shifted her aside and stepped up the counter.

“Sorry,” the Steward began. “Our next flight is—“ But his speech was cut short by the sudden tightening of his collar around his neck.

The Businessman had reached across the counter and with one hand lifted him approximately eight inches off the ground.

“You’re gonna put the little lady and her cubs on the next flight out of here. Aren’t you?”

“Well, no, sir, I’m not allowed to—“

“Right, you’re not ‘allowed’ to, you’re required to. And your gonna do it. Aren’t you?”

“Y…yes, sir.”

“And you’re gonna put ‘em in first class to make up for all the inconvenience. Aren’t you?”

“Well, I…”

“Aren’t you?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. I knew you’d have a change of heart, it bein’ the holidays and all,” the Businessman said warmly. “And don’t forget to apologize real loud so everybody can hear when you give her the tickets.” Then he quietly returned the Steward to terra firma.

thanksgiving-hornAt that moment, at least eighty weary, cranky passengers broke into raucous, spontaneous applause.

The holiday spirit had arrived.

In a Stetson.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Culture, Humor, Memoir and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Rough Grace

  1. JJAzar says:

    What a heartwarming, humorous story, Mitch. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. What a wonderful story! You just have to find and accept grace in whatever form it takes! Thanks for the share, it made my day.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. sanseilife says:

    Santa in disguise!

    Liked by 5 people

  4. aresonantone says:

    Wonderful story, indeed. Sometimes grace and good manners need to extra firm on petty functionaries trying to just get through on minimum effort.

    For me, it’s something I deal with every day. My “day job” is a night job working logistics (telling truckers where to go and what to do when they get there) and managing a DC’s incoming and outgoing loads. There is nothing I hate more than telling a driver who just came in from 400 miles away that his load’s not ready, or it got cancelled/rescheduled/picked up by someone else/rejected/put on the wrong trailer/hung out to dry. Sometimes, the problem is self inflicted, other times… often… it’s them just getting the short end of the stick because of their broker or company getting information wrong or not giving the driver the right info to begin with and they bear the brunt of it, and I have no other choice but to send them away, or worse, take their trailer for someone else’s load who’s before them. That makes the stomach go sour.

    I have been there when I used to do short haul intermodal trucking, in a day cab and no money for a hotel either. I know what it’s like to be staring at the guy through the glass when that person is not so nice and throws you out of the yard with all the ceremony of a garbage bag in a dumpster and all your company’s dispatchers are gone for the night. I always try to be as helpful as possible for them, offering them alternatives, and telling them where they can go to safely park and wait for new orders to come down or accommodate them. I make sure there is someone who cares in that glass box, but has very little power to help them out, but what I can do I will.

    Thankfully, most of those truckers are not totally helpless, as they have sleepers or Comchecks for hotel rooms. But none the less, I always remember what it was like to be thrown out of a rail yard with a load on my back that had to get to Perth, Australia on that next train if it was to make the ship and all the stress that could have been prevented with just a word of kindness, and understanding or even an extra search on the terminal for where the load was really stored.

    So, that’s my little thing to say. Kindness costs only a little bit, but can go a long way to saving someone’s sanity in an insane time. (And that’s not even my best story of saving someone in that kind of a situation!)

    Liked by 6 people

  5. Great reminder of people out there who do step up and make a difference! So often we ( that would be me ) observe and go on our way.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. carhicks says:

    A Wonderful reminder about what the Christmas Season should be all about. Keep these wonderful posts coming Mitch!

    Liked by 5 people

  7. n3v3rm0r3 says:

    A great reminder to make this season about others! God bless that Texan!!

    Liked by 7 people

  8. richp45198 says:

    Yup. There’s some good folks down here in Texas.

    Liked by 5 people

  9. Ellen says:

    Love this

    Liked by 4 people

  10. blmaluso says:

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful story!

    Liked by 4 people

  11. Loved this Mitch. I got caught in the aftermath of the Icelandic ash cloud at Gatwick Airport on my way to Madeira, and met with similar treatment from the airlines. I know my rights now!

    Liked by 5 people

  12. ronbrownx says:

    Great example of caring for others. Thanks Mitch

    Liked by 5 people

  13. Random Acts of Kindness. Love it. Thanks for sharing this, Mitch.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. tabitha59reachingout says:

    Great story. I am sure it is true too. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  15. nancyehead says:

    That was SOME kind of holiday spirit. Wonderful story.

    Liked by 4 people

  16. Thank you Mitch! Don’t look good in a Stetson but this makes me want to get out there and help the helpless… 🎉😊👍🏼

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Nancy Ruegg says:

    Oh, to be 6′ 5″ tall and be able to “convince” folks to see things correctly! You mentioned “angel in disguise” to watchingthedaisies, above. That’s what I was thinking. If Jesus could wrestle with Jacob, I guess an angel could lift an insensitive man off his feet for a few mind-changing moments. Wonderful story, Mitch, and well-told as always!

    Liked by 4 people

  18. gwennonr says:

    I am planning to place this story in the “Favorite Things” folder of my inbox so that I can read it often and retrieve it easily to read aloud to my children. Thank you so much for sharing it.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. aresonantone says:

    Reblogged this on Resonant Point and commented:
    My own personal comments are below in the thread if you wish to hear them. Great retelling of a great memory, Mr. Teemley.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Laura Jinkins says:

    Being a born Texan, I enjoyed this story immensely. We don’t cotton to people being mistreated where I come from. 😉

    Liked by 3 people

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