Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

In Good Hands

“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”
-Tennessee Williams

Some time ago I packed up my belongings and moved to California so that Spouse could become properly suited to his name.
I had to return to Ireland a few years later to get a different visa; the process took a year and involved all sorts of checking up- medical, financial and otherwise.
It was a very fortunate thing that the first journey was not paved with those sorts of obstacles- although it was not without pitfalls of its own.
The morning before I was to depart from Ireland, before connecting to the United States via England, I was informed by telephone that there was an inspired Irish airline strike and flights were cancelled. It would not even then have been so terrible as long they had cancelled all flights instead of just the stretch to London.
In a word, I was on my own. The airline had every small-print legality conveniently worked out: they could only be held accountable for the flight that did not take off.
My passage from London was still scheduled- so if I did not get aboard it was quite my own responsibility and all money paid thus far would fall quietly into a deep pocket not my own.
We did not know what to do for the best. The plan of a simple trip to the airport a mere half an hour from my home had turned into a time-sensitive labyrinth of questions and eliminations, head scratching, hair pulling and grinding of teeth.
After a while I agreed to the following: to drive to the train station; take the next train across Ireland to a ferry; sail to Wales; catch a train at the harbour to take me to England and then a bus straight into London's heart.
It was my only chance but for it to work I needed my mother. I was leaving home and my luggage was considerably heavy. I could not by myself drag my entire life's possessions on that monstrous journey; another pair of hands were needed.
Mater and I bought train and ferry tickets with such tremendous speed that we never saw the colour of our money.
As the ferry docked in Wales and we prepared, after a long, sleepless night of anxiety, to step off the ship for the next portion of the trip, I found that there was a strange problem with my luggage.
I could not drag it down the walkway.
I heaved, I pushed, I pulled; I did all but attempt to drag it by my teeth. It was too heavy and I was exhausted.
As Mater stood by helplessly- for she was in charge of the rest of my bags- I felt the hefty green mountain at my feet suddenly give way. Somebody was helping me. Some kind passenger was putting their own woes aside and assisting a stranger.
Tears sprang to my eyes.
Oh, but not merely for the kindness of it all: the helping hands belonged to a woman who was, I insist, at least in her mid-seventies.
The spritely woman wrapped her hands around one end while I took hold of the other and together we reached the waiting train where, as though the mass of canvas was weightless, she helped me once again before saying farewell.
As it turned out I did reach the airport and board my flight with minutes to spare but when looking back it is my furious struggle with luggage that springs to mind: I will always remember my helper with a curious fusion of humiliation and gratitude.
That is why, then, I will be eternally grateful that no medical exam was required for my entrance to the United States at that particular time: I fear that I would have been much disappointed by the results.


polona said...

it's quite amazing how in moments of great need somebody or something shows up to lend a hand... another wonderful story...

julochka said...

i had this feeling that you were going to say that when you got to the airport and looked at the luggage, it wasn't yours! thank goodness it was just a story of a wonderful, helpful soul! :-) sometimes i need to turn off my imagination and just read what's there. :-)

tangobaby said...

Oh! This might be my favorite story of all.

That particular quote always makes me sad because the character who says it is so pathetic, but in this case it's a wonderful choice.

What a kind sendoff on your way to a new world and a new life.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Polona, I was amazed that somebody offered to help without being asked. I'd have done the same if I saw someone struggling, or I'd like to think I would do the same.

Julie, it shows your creative and imaginative side ;) you came up with an alternate ending- nothing wrong with that. You didn't guess that an elderly woman would carry my bag for me :(

Tangobaby, "Oh! This might be my favorite story of all" wow- thank you! High praise.
I thought the quote was apt, too, but not the most cheerful in its context.

hele said...

Just think though. If you did pass your medical examination with flying colours it could mean that you encountered superwoman - still lending a hand in her old age ;)

Pappy said...

Hi Ele, Sounds like you pack like my girls. It takes a village to get them through airports, bus stations and other places where luggage is likely to be seen. I can usually get them to the baggage check-in if I make several trips, but then I am left to wonder if some kindly soul with sixteen inch biceps will be available on the other end. :) Pappy

Anonymous said...

Flying is such a hassle and driving is so expensive now. For me who loves to travel, not good. I will keep at it, but guess we all have to help each other out.

Nice story.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Hele, I never thought of it in that way- that would be frightening- a little bit anyhow, as I only thought of her as a helpful old lady. But you never know...

Texican, well I usually pack really light but that was a difficult one as I thought I would need everything.
If only you could travel with your daughters all the way there and help them with their luggage on the other side, it would make life so much easier :) And nowadays the airports charge money for those carts, too.

Steve, it used to be fun for me but not so much anymore. I won't go on at length about it- we're all aware of the consistent delays and lack of customer service. You're right- it would make it easier if we helped each other a bit.

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