Monday, March 20, 2006


We went to a St. Patty's day parade Friday and then trekked a couple blocks to The Ironhorse, where Jim had been drinking with friends half the day. I was standing there, awkwardly trying to make conversation with a woman I didn't know, when the Missoula Chamber of Commerce Bagpipers (not really sure about this, but it could be right) crowded in all around us and struck up a tune. Madeleine was sitting on Jim's lap and started to cry. It was the loudest thing I've ever heard. But did I whisk us out of there? Of course not. There were drums! I can't leave when there are drums! Quinn was in the backpack, so I took him off and cradled him with my hands over his ears. He was asleep in less than 5 minutes. I shit you not. He slept through the whole thing, including the part where a drunk guy tried to squeeze in between me and, well, me and spilled half a Guinness down my back. Look, can you see Madeleine burying her head in Jim's shoulder?

As you can see in the picture, the troupe surrounded our table, and played for us as if my rich BIL was shooting hundies out his bum. It made me happy. And also reminded me of other serendipitous occasions in my life. One, actually. One serendipitous event.

I went to college in Connecticut, but my family lived in Southwest Washington, which meant a lot of flying back and forth across the country, a lot of money spent on tickets and a lot of time spent in airports with giant duffel bags full of dirty laundry. My sophomore year I bought a ticket home for Christmas using frequent flyer miles. I had to fly out of La Guardia on Christmas Day. Or barely Christmas Day, because the flight left at 6:30 in the morning, which meant I had to be at the airport before the rest of civilization was awake. It also meant I had to either stay in a hotel room around the airport (scary! and too much money!), or take the Peter Pan bus to the airport the night before and sleep in the terminal (scary! but not as much money!). I chose the latter, took the bus, and found a nice bank of plastic chairs next to the Northwest Airlines ticket counter. I could literally roll out of bed and check in the next day. I had my enormous duffel bag propped under my knees, my pea-coat was a pillow, and a stocking cap pulled over my eyes. I read a discarded newspaper for a while, then settled in for a restless night's sleep. And then someone tapped me.

"You can't sleep here miss," a voice said.
"Huh?" His English was heavily accented. Farzad smiled and repeated himself.
"Should I go somewhere else? I have to fly out in the morning..." I wasn't sure what to say. I had looked around the airport briefly before picking my spot. My bag was too unweildly to go too far, and I didn't want to be in a secluded area. That seemed more dangerous. Did he mean there was another place for people in my situation?
"It's not safe. A young woman shouldn't be sleeping in this airport."
"Oh. Okay. But I can stay here, right? I can just sit in this spot?"
He smiled again. "Yes. You can stay here, but try to stay awake."
So I did. I tried really hard. Or maybe I didn't. In either case, I soon tipped over again. Farzad came back.

"Miss. Miss? You have fallen asleep again!" He gently tapped my shoulder.
"Oh.... oh." I rubbed my eyes. "I'm sorry. It's been a long day. Maybe I'll try to read..." I looked around at my pile of belongings, confused. Farzad sat down next to me.
"I will talk to you to keep you awake. I am worried about you."

My first thought was "Here comes the part where he tries to hit on me and make me a Muslim." But he didn't. He was lonely, and he just wanted to talk. He told me about his family in Iran. His wife, his children, his elderly father. He and his brother were both security guards at La Guardia, but he missed home. He asked me about college and my family. He offered me an Iranian cigarette, and I smoked it, trying not to cough and embarrass myself. I told him about my new boyfriend and he laughed at my story about our first blind date. We talked for at least two hours, then, mid-sentence, he jumped up remembering some duty he had neglected. He told me to stay where I was, he would be back soon, and he ran off. "Don't sleep!" he yelled as he was hurrying away.

I woke up an hour later, and the airport was coming back to life. Lights were coming on in check-in counters, and employees were walking in groups to their jobs, chatting about the holidays. I wiped the drool from my cheek and sat up. As I did, something fell to the floor, and I bent to pick it up. It was a card. Farzad had left a Christmas card on my shoulder. The cover was a drawing of holly, and inside, in strange penmanship it said, "Enjoy your holiday with your family! I enjoy talking with you. Regards, Farzad." It made me feel grown-up and young at the same time, and I think that was how Farzad felt. Stuck between two worlds.

It's these random encounters like this that make me think. I wish they happened more often, but then they wouldn't be special would they? Do you have a Moment In Time like this?


Anonymous TB said...

"My first thought was "Here comes the part where he tries to hit on me and make me a Muslim." - That so would have been my first thought too.

What a great story, Mignon. You always make me think about stuff I haven't thought of in years.

3/20/2006 9:45 AM  
Anonymous Nancy said...

That is a great story. Thanks for sharing. :-)

3/20/2006 9:57 AM  
Anonymous honestyrain said...

how nice that he left you a card. that's a great story.

ps, i hate drums.

3/20/2006 11:30 AM  
Blogger wordgirl said...

I'm scanning my brain for a story as good as that one and wondering if you still have that card.

3/20/2006 12:31 PM  
Blogger Jess Riley said...

Oh wow, that was the best story I've heard in such a long time! Thank you for sharing it with us. :)

I've got a few good Samaritan encounters under my belt, mostly of strangers stopping to help when my old jalopy cars would break down. Nothing really neat or cross-cultural, though.

3/20/2006 1:06 PM  
Blogger Jaye Wells said...

It's that kind of story that restores my faith in humanity. Thanks for sharing. It's sad how suspicious we've all become of each other, and it's nice when someone surpises you like that.

3/20/2006 2:39 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

I had a conversation with a man in an airport about the silver "OM" I wear around my neck. He was a Buddhist and thought it was the most wonderful thing he had ever seen - He said "All the Christians have their crosses - why shouldn't we wear our Om?"

I was tickled - and kept explaining to him that we were still new to Buddhisim - still on the path and that wearing the Om helped me to focus when I am nervous.Like being on airplanes.

3/20/2006 4:17 PM  
Blogger mama_tulip said...

Do you still have the card?

When I was working at a very small community newspaper I had a few people write me notes of thanks for articles I'd written. One couple left me flowers. One girl, an artist, painted me a picture on canvas. I have it hanging in my family room. Those gestures, that recognition...stuck with me.

3/20/2006 8:12 PM  
Blogger Brooke said...

Can't top that! Thanks for sharing it.

3/20/2006 9:21 PM  
Blogger robey said...

I love your story and it immediately reminded me of an encounter I had while traveling. I started typing it in these comments but eventually realized it was too it's my post for March 21.


3/21/2006 5:42 AM  
Blogger Arabella said...

Wonderful story.

And you're a really good writer.

3/21/2006 6:11 AM  
Blogger Tink said...

Aw! That could have been a friggin Hallmark commercial!

My Dad once gave me a "lucky" silver dollar. I carried it with me for seven years. One day while skipping school a girlfriend and I got really really hungry. We ended up spending the dollar for lack of any other funds. I felt horrible about it. I told her the story as I handed it over to the cashier. As we sat eating our food the customer that had been behind us walked past and placed something down on the table. It was my coin. I sat there, stunned. "You shouldn't give those things away." He called over his shoulder. I didn't either. I still carry it around to this day, 7 years later (14 years total).

3/21/2006 7:01 AM  
Anonymous kathie said...

fantastic story...I'm thinking...

3/21/2006 6:24 PM  
Blogger DebbieDoesLife said...

Loved the story....but what's a hundie???

Bagpipes are the loudest thing on earth.

3/22/2006 5:00 AM  

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