The Nice Thing About Strangers

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

My Journey Home

TSA airport security in O’Hare is making me cry. I receive glares, short-tempered orders, eye rolls, and blank stares. After twenty hours of travel, I have tears in my eyes during my pat-down. I realize that no one I’ve dealt with at security has seen me as a human being, including the woman with her hand inside the waistband of my pants.

At my gate, a huge, strong man from Chicago asks if I’m okay. I try to keep the details to a minimum so I can aim to let it go, and he shakes his head. “How could they be mean to you? If I were there, I would have told them to leave you alone.”

“Then you may not have made it through,” I smile and sniffle.

“My flight’s delayed, girl. I’ve got time.”

His name is Antoine. He works with concrete on overpasses in Fort Worth. He’s come to town to see family and look after his mother. We talk about heat tolerance, Peyton Manning, and going to the gym. He works ten hour days and comes home exhausted, but he said he still has to lift weights so he can have more energy. Strong work ethic is one of my favorite human qualities–right up there with compassion.

Then in line for my flight, I am greeted with a huge, warm smile from a young man who just joined the US National Guard, just as his father and grandfather had. Cody is kind, quick-witted, and happy. We become fast friends and fill the jetway with our laughter.

Cody and Antoine are the best of America. They welcome me home. They step in to help me smile through the frustrations of the last leg. As I sit in the plane, I realize how similar these encounters are with the Hungarian checkout clerk and apple-giver. So while one may always encounter the day-spoilers, here’s to the day-savers.

–Home. USA.

Paige M.J. Erickson, the nice thing about strangers

21 comments on “My Journey Home

  1. Jeff Walker
    December 19, 2014

    You’re awesome. Welcome home and Merry Christmas Paige. I’m looking forward to more of your travels/writing in 2015. 🙂

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      December 21, 2014

      Jeff, thank you, my friend! I feel lucky to have gotten to you know via our blog-lives this year. Merry Christmas to you as well!
      Paige

  2. Vicki Busseno
    December 19, 2014

    Awww…..another story to tug at the heartstrings. ❤ Hope you have a wonderful Christmas, Paige, and an awesome 2015!

  3. evelyneholingue
    December 19, 2014

    Welcome home, Paige, and happy holidays. TSA is no fun, I agree with you. Driving is another thing that can be frustating. Like you I believe that for one agressive driver there is a courteous one. Actually there are more good and caring people than the other way. We tend to pay more attention to the unpleasant as we tend to remember the bad moments in life. But I agree with you again that if we train ourselves to see the good and positive more than the other way, it’s great.
    I’ve met an Antoine, many, many years ago at Logan Airport. Although his face is fading in my memory, I still remember his kind words and help and won’t forget how he made all the difference as I was overwhelmed with a baby and tons of luggage.
    Happy Holidays everyone.

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      December 21, 2014

      I agree that it becomes easy to spot the negative, especially when in a rush or feeling exhausted. The blog has helped me to have to look for the nice things, so that’s been a gift, in many ways.
      Aw, I’m glad you encountered an Antoine when you needed him! 🙂
      Paige

  4. Browsing the Atlas
    December 19, 2014

    I can so relate. On my 27-hour trip home from Singapore, it was the last leg in Chicago that finally reduced to exhausted tears. But happy tears. There were a group of sailors heading home for the holidays. It made me think of my son (Air Force) and my daughter-in-law (Army) and that’s all it took to make me so happy to come home.

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      December 21, 2014

      Oh wow! Thank you to your loved ones for their service! I guess there’s something about crying in Chicago. 🙂
      It was definitely a comfort knowing family was on the end of the journey. Mom and Dad greeted me with hugs and pumpkin bread.
      Paige

  5. piratehunter1977
    December 20, 2014

    Welcome home, Paige. Don’t let the TSA get the better of you! They’re schmucks. Incompetent ones.

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      December 21, 2014

      🙂 After going through security in various European countries over and over, I get even more aggravated to return home to the TSA. At least smile when you pat me, forgoodnesssakes. 😀
      Paige

  6. la_lasciata
    December 20, 2014

    As someone who travels so much, Paige, you must have more than your share of the good and the bad in the people around you.
    I like it that you always find something good to tell us …

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      December 21, 2014

      I am realizing I started this blog 3 years ago, and I’ve never been at a loss for nice things to share. It’s sometimes tough for me to sit still and write, but it has really helped me to hunt for the good. 🙂
      Paige

      • la_lasciata
        December 21, 2014

        There you go, me old china ! – blogging has a very real purpose ! 😀

  7. markbialczak
    December 20, 2014

    Merry Christmas, Paige. Welcome home. It’s interesting to me that it was those on the job that treated you impersonally and those on their own time that had the light of shared life shining with you. That says something about TSA pressures, maybe?

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      December 21, 2014

      Mark, I think it does! I was also looking for a way to take a lesson from my experience, as I’m sure it’s not a pleasant job for them either. I’m writing to my Congressman, and I’m aiming to remind myself to see others as my fellow humans. (As long as we’re not in traffic…hehe.)
      Paige

      • markbialczak
        December 21, 2014

        I hope you have a lot more of the latter encounters than the former during holidays, Paige. I look forward to reading more. Be careful in traffic, please. 🙂

      • thenicethingaboutstrangers
        December 22, 2014

        Hehe, I’m a very cautious driver because I never want to buy another car. 🙂 Thank you, Mark! I hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year as well.
        Paige

  8. tonyarmitage
    December 20, 2014

    You’re home. Relax and enjoy the season 😊

  9. Brandon Woodruff
    December 21, 2014

    I’ve heard and come to believe that like attracts like, so if the best of America were inclined to engage in conversation with you and aided in the release of that negativity, then you must also be….. Yep, that’s right. Welcome home, ma’am. 😉

  10. Cindi
    January 8, 2015

    Just reading this now, almost a month after my return (through O’Hare) from my visit to family in Iowa to my life in Norway (and two months after my trip [through O’Hare] to Iowa).

    Going through TSA lines does make us feel like a big bag of meat standing among other bags, doesn’t it? Impersonal, grouchy, cold. I make it a little game to look them in the eye and try to get a moment of humanity out of them.

    But it’s the real humans we meet in line that make the trip bearable. So enjoyable to read of your interactions with those real people.

    I hope 2015 has begun well for you!

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