Give, and take. You, then me. It’s a common addage, the human nature, a set way of dealing with people we know as well as complete strangers. Friends, family, co-workers, even bosses… But what if we could go just a little further?
I had a very revealing experience today. It was one of those moments where you feel like you have just grown a little bit. Learned a little bit. Maybe wisened a little even. It was a simple moment really.
As I do every time I fly to the airport in Ottawa, I made my way to the terminal building for the airlines. Having spent the night there and with no lunch packed, I was in dire need for food, as the hour of lunch was fast approaching. You know the drill: Arrive at the counter, stare at the menu for a minute or two.. order, pay. Clutching my food, I made for the nearest table and sat down.
Stop. Now this is where it gets interesting. If you have ever been in an airport terminal, you know what it’s like. The people watching. Left and right, people talking animatedly, sharing passing moments in friendship or, like me, simply enjoying a moment of rest. Then my eyes fell on a group of pilots and cabin crew sitting on a table next to me. As my captain joined me, we conversed in hushed tones, trying to decide what airline the crew belonged to without making it too obvious that they were being observed. Our efforts were non conclusive.
Wolfing down my lunch, I casually made my way to our neighboors’ table on my way out. Through the usual dance – greetings, silent eye contacts, handshakes, and awkward smiles – common ground was established. We chatted for a minute, maybe, and quickly learned the identity of our new friends: two crews from the same american regional carrier. Although they had flown into Ottawa, they were now stranded as their airplanes had broken down and were awaiting repairs. Leaving them with short good by’s, I made my way to the nearest coffee shop in order to buy myself a coffee. It was needed, pronto! And then I realized…
For a few hours, this crew of stranded pilots had to make an airport terminal their home, until somebody somewhere was kind enough to find them a ride home. Until then, they were nobodies, just strangers in a strange kingdom, friends but to themselves and with no place to go. I got back in line for the coffee shop and came out with a few extra coffees and creams. Making my way back to their table, I left the loot in their care, compliments of the Canadian Hospitality. Accepting their grateful smiles, I turned and left before anything else could be said. I didn’t do it to get anything back in return, simply the gratification to know that today, I had helped a fellow pilot have a better day.
As I walked back to the FBO, coffee in hand, I pondered on what had just happened. I hadn’t planned on buying anybody coffee today. And before you run away screaming “STALKER” or “creep”, no, I don’t usually buy strangers a drink out of the blue. But you know, pilots are a rare breed…
We are an individualistic tribe. A real oxymoron in itself. One day, thousands of us will stand together for one’s cause. The next day, we are found backstabbing each other for a coveted upgrade or job. But does it have to be that way? What if we could shed this shell of selfishness, mistrust, plotting and really embrace the uniqueness of our common passion? Going to work, and not complain about some petty bit of rumor, but instead try to make our own world a better world – for each other.
What if we could give, take, and then give some more?