TSA & Zagnut

Act of Random Kindness {repost} from April 2010

     Today was a travel day for me.  As much as I love to go to different cities and satiate my wanderlust, I find the travel process tedious and angst-filled.  But I guess like all good things, we have to endure a little of the bitter first.  I was pushing my time limit by getting to the airport a little late and I didn't anticipate the longer than usual lines at security.  This is a stressful process even when you aren't running late but today the air in the security arena was charged with irritability. I felt myself getting stressed and anxious but took a few deep breaths and resolved myself to the fact that there was nothing I could do but wait.  I inched through the line and finally made my way to the screening area and dutifully removed my belt, jewelry, shoes, and laptop and set them on the conveyor belt.  Feeling confident that I was almost at the end of the process, I proceeded through the metal detector and "BEEP."  Darn it - I almost got through.

     The TSA officer asked me to step aside into a glass holding room for a full body screening.  Just great.  Boarding for my flight had already started and I was still stuck in security.  Again, I took a deep breath and tried to relax; knowing that getting frustrated was not going to help anything.  Minutes passed and an officer finally came to check me for traces of explosive powder and rifle through my bags.  Three officers were checking me and they all were gruff and defensive.  I patiently waited and didn't say anything.  When they were finished, one of the officers shoved my things toward me and said I was 'free' to go.  For some reason, this statement bothered me but I swallowed hard and tried to put myself in his position.

     These officers work in a thankless job with angry and frustrated travelers all day.  It is mundane work but unfortunately has to be done.  It was not these officers' fault that I was running late--it was my own.  As I gathered my things, I looked directly at the officer and he seemed braced for me to blast him with ingratitude.  Instead, I said, "I appreciate the job that you do."  The officer looked stunned.  There was an awkward few moments of silence while he absorbed what I just said and then he told me, "We don't hear that very often."  "Well, you should, " I said.  "

     I appreciate you."  I rushed away feeling elated.  I might miss my flight, but I knew that I made that officer feel good for a brief moment.  After all, they are working to save our lives and protect our airlines; keeping them free from all the hazards that unfortunately have become obstacles to all air travelers.

     Thankfully when I made it to my gate, the flight was delayed and I could take a few minutes to grab a  magazine and compose myself.  I was still on a "kindness high" as I got in line at a little kiosk and found what I was looking for and got in line to pay.

     Behind me was an older gentlemen eyeing the candy bars.  He said to me, "I don't need a candy bar, do I?"  I smiled, turned and answered, "Of course you do!"  He chuckled at me and said, "No I don't" and at that moment he spied a Zagnut bar lined up neatly with the large assortment of other candies.  "Oh my gosh" he said, "a Zagnut bar!  I haven't seen one of those in years!  I thought they quit making them."  I replied, "well then, that settles it.  You need a candy bar!"

     He went on to nostalgically tell me that Zagnuts were originally made by the Clark company in Pittsburgh where he grew up.  As a boy, he rode his bike by the factory every day.  He was so sweet and I could tell the Zagnut brought back pleasant memories for him.  When it was my turn to pay, the gentleman turned to the woman behind me and began explaining about his Zagnut bar.  The cashier overheard the whole conversation and both of us were tickled by his excitement.

      As I paid for my magazine, I quietly told the cashier to include his candy bar.  He seemed a little surprised, but then I could tell that he really liked the idea.  After I paid, I turned around to the gentleman who was still telling his story and said, "enjoy the Zagnut."  He smiled and waved as I ran off into the crowd at the gate.  I glanced back for a moment and saw him trying to pay for his candy bar and the cashier must have just told him I bought it for him because he glanced around, looking a little bewildered.  My heart felt full as I watched the puzzled look on his face turn into a giant smile and he turned to look for me in the crowd.  I ducked away to my gate, smiling broadly and knowing I had made someone happy for the second time today.  I guess he will be telling the story later, but more importantly, I hope he passes the kindness forward.  Judging by my brief encounter with him, I'm sure he will!

"Kind words are short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless."

~ Mother Teresa