Part of the suprise in my package from Duck, Duck Soup was a new book. What a treat! I love the smell of new books. I just love new books. Anyway, I have to talk about this book. It is called The Kindness of Strangers. It is a book of essays on, you guessed it, the kindness of strangers specifically while traveling. Being a Navy wife, I have done my fair share of traveling. Since I am reading and enjoying this book, I feel compelled to share my own story of the kindness of a stranger.
In 1995, my husband was transferred to Singapore. For reasons beyond my control, I was not going to be able to transfer with him. He had waited as long as he could, but he had to leave. I was still stuck in the States waiting on passports (which the lovely PSD worker managed to lose, but I didn’t know it yet) and other government nonsense. So my brand new baby and I waited here for all of our paperwork to come through. Six weeks later, I am boarding an airplane to Japan. The flight was 10 hours from Seattle to Japan. I would change planes in Japan and fly another 7 hours to Singapore. The magnitude of this flight did not hit me while I was boarding the plane. I was too busy juggling my baby and saying good-bye to my family. It was 3 hours into the flight when I realized that this was going to be one heck of a ride. I was sitting next to a man who was obviously very uncomfortable with the fact that there was a very young baby in his row. I spent a lot of time standing in the back of the plane chatting with other passengers. Going to the bathroom in a plane with a 4 month old baby was probably one of the most challenging things I had ever done to that date. The flight was uneventful. I arrived in Japan on time and managed to find my gate in Tokyo. How I did that I have no idea. I barely remember it. I was a zombie at this point and I still had another 7 hours on a plane.
I had to check in at the gate. I remember standing in line dazed and smiling while several people peeked at my baby. I didn’t know it then, but this was going to happen a lot the next 3 years. I stood there in line thinking that my arms were going to fall off. I had my carry-on, a large baby bag, a car seat, and of course, my handsome baby. Next thing I know there is a woman standing next to me and taking my things out of my hands. I look at her confused, but I don’t argue with her. We stood in line together, but we didn’t talk much. She asked me if I was visiting Singapore, but I told her that I would be living there. She smiled and told me that I was going to like it. That was about the extent of our conversation. Finally, we board the plane. She helps me settle in and disappears to the back of the plane.
Sleep. I need sleep. That was pretty much all I was thinking about. This time I am sitting next to an older Chinese man that has made it even more obvious than my previous row mate that he is not happy to be sitting next to a baby. Well, at this point I didn’t care much what he was thinking which was out of character for me at the time. (He did end up telling me what I good baby I had at the end of the flight. Not that it matters.) The flight attendants on this flight were very friendly. The oooh’ed and aahhh’ed over my baby. After the plane was in the air, one of attendants came to me and asked if she could hold my baby. Please. Hold him. She disappeared for a good half hour. I think my guy may have served beverages with them. I rested. I didn’t worry about him. We were up in the air. Where were they going to go? That flight was also uneventful. We landed and immediately everyone was out of their seats grabbing for their things. I am sure you have seen it before. The crush. The pushing and shoving that comes with everyone trying to get all their things out of the overhead bins at the same time. But, there she was. The woman who had helped me earlier. How she managed to get next to my seat still makes me wonder, but I didn’t ask. She reached for my things and I handed them to her. She carried her things and my things. We walked together to customs. She was Singaporean so she made it through quickly. I had to go through immigration which took much longer, but she patiently waited for me. She took me to the baggage claim where my husband was waiting for me. She handed him my things, rubbed the top of my baby’s head and walked off before I could even get a thank you off to her. I remember kind of shouting a thank you and she waved.
I will never forget this woman. I have no idea how the trip would have turned out had she not been there. It seems so little, but she helped me so much. Just the simple act of carrying my bags has earned my unending gratitude. I still think about her when I fly. I would come to learn that many of the Singaporean people are like she was, but she is the one that I will always remember.