The Nice Thing About Strangers

Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.

On Gratitude


It is an intensely long line at passport control. Flights keep arriving and people keep cutting. A tall man and I are both determined to stick to the vaguely orderly line, though streams of people march around us in a mob. The tall man says, “We must be the Americans, right? Single-file like a pair of suckers.”  We aren’t even into the maze of silver bars yet.  It’s been 20 minutes and we’ve moved about four steps.

A family from India stands in front of us, also waiting, until they see that we’re parked next to an open space that would put us ahead of the mob and into the lines ordered by the bars. At least we could stem the tide. The father mutters it to the grandmother, the set of boys in matching striped shirts get wind of the idea as well. They stare at the opening as their elders contemplate the move. We should go ahead of the people ignoring the line, after all. It would be just!
Grandma is remarkably spy. She hustles through first, then the father, then the boys, then their mother. Then the tall man from California nudges me to follow suit. He also steps through. We’re at least in the labyrinth now and the boys are delighted. They’re dying to keep cutting forward. The shorter of the two boys beams at me. “Come on! Let’s break some rules!”  Yet, there isn’t much headway from that point. The wait is long and toasty. Tiny steps of arriving passengers, glares toward people who had cut in front of us before, chatting of the boys, unearthing of passports. I think of my father’s grandparents who came to America on a boat from Sweden when they were children. I think of that authentically long journey, and remind myself that it is a gift to have ready access to a protein bar and clean socks. And to be able to go on a trip to Turkey in the first place, on a whim, via an airplane, with good books and an ipod.

A toddler girl in a flowered dress and red shoes stops the slow procession forward. She gives up, crosses her arms, and begins to cry. I know that feeling. I would have been with her before, but now I am too busy counting my blessings.

–Istanbul, Turkey.

Selcuk, Turkey, Ephesus travel

Selcuk, Turkey.

13 comments on “On Gratitude

  1. M. R.
    February 3, 2014

    Confused about where you’re going, when, and also why, Paige … Am I being stupid? – this is simply one of your marvellous incidents?

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      February 3, 2014

      Ah, yes! The stories don’t run in an order, I’m afraid. This is from a notebook of a trip in 2013. I have a tendency to post from this year, last year, then three years ago. Back and forth to remind myself where I’ve been. The two Croatia photos back to back reminded me I should check out some of my other notebooks. 🙂

      • M. R.
        February 3, 2014

        No worries. I’m just an old pedantic busybody. 😀

  2. Nia Simone
    February 3, 2014

    Well done. Gratitude provides so much relief. It’s so stressful for me to be in uncontrolled lines. I’ll have to remember your tip next time.

  3. Maccabros
    February 4, 2014

    I know that feelings, standing in the Queues – and I wonder where you were all around the world – a busy time…:) thank you for sharing your memories…Danke Dir…

  4. suej
    February 4, 2014

    Queues! I hate waiting, but I have got better at it, and just let my thoughts slide off into an interesting direction d….

  5. Maccabros
    February 4, 2014

    but I loved it in 2013, to stay in the Wimbledon Queue and we got on the holy Gras… 🙂 !

  6. greenlightlady
    February 5, 2014

    Counting our blessings is never a waste of time. Good on you!

    Blessings ~ Wendy

  7. thenicethingaboutstrangers
    February 25, 2015
  8. smilingtoad
    February 25, 2015

    Love that last line!!! So true!

    Ah, to trot over to Turkey…what a beautiful exquisite place. I cannot imagine how wonderful that would be. Best wishes,

    smiling toad

  9. ChristineR
    March 25, 2015

    “The wait is long and toasty.” ❤

    • It was toasty. I still have to take off my cardigan when I think of it! 🙂
      Thank you for heaping on all this kindness upon me tonight, Christine! 🙂 I’ve been struggling with writing lately, and you were a wonderful, supportive, burst of good energy for me. Thank you!

      • ChristineR
        March 25, 2015

        Paige, I’m so glad to be of some support. I picked a good time to wander by, then. You are an inspiration to me! ❤

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