By MITCH TRAPHAGEN
Thirty-two thousand feet above Middle America, I saw my wife smile. What made that amazing was that I was in seat 2D on AirTran flight 409 from Kansas City, and my wife was in our home in Ruskin.
The flight had onboard wifi and a software program on my iPad allows me to log into my computer at home and see the screen as if I were sitting right in front of it. Having that ability allowed me to turn on my home computer’s camera, which allowed me to see inside my home from the airplane.
With the camera on, I could see our dining room and Sam the giant dog sleeping on the floor. The camera’s indicator light caught Michelle’s eye because soon she entered the frame. I could see her looking at the computer as I remotely controlled the mouse.
Michelle’s face broke into a huge grin as she realized that we could communicate directly while I was in the air over America. Yes, a telephone program such as Skype would have made communication even better, but those services aren’t allowed in-flight. As such, typing back and forth in the same document on my home computer was as close as we could get to talking. Plus, I could see her.
Although I’ve been around computers since 1979, I’m old enough to still be amazed by technology. There was a certain incredulity and instant gratification, if you will, in being able to directly communicate with someone thousands of miles away, while I was thousands of feet in the air.
Being at the tail end of the Baby Boom, I’m part of an entire generation that loves everything “instant.” In my lifetime, microwave ovens have revolutionized making popcorn and baked potatoes. The Internet has changed breaking news from waiting for the afternoon newspaper or the evening news with Walter Cronkite to simply typing “cnn.com” into a web browser.
But there is another kind of instant that predates the Baby Boom. I call it “Instant Karma.” Perhaps it is more traditionally thought of as “what goes around comes around.” Karma is a funny thing. I think there is some kind of a balance in the universe that makes it happen in ways large and small. Unfortunately, it isn’t always instant. But sometimes, just when you need it, it is.
At the Kansas City International Airport I waited in line for lunch at a fast food restaurant behind an airport security guard. After paying, I walked around the counter to pick up my order and saw a dollar lying on the floor. It had to have fallen from the guard’s pocket — there was no one else around. By that time, the guard was already gone and the cashier didn’t know him. It’s a small airport, so I stuffed the dollar in my pocket and hoped to see him before my flight took off.
Twenty minutes later I went through security at my gate and saw the guard near the x-ray machine. As I gathered my shoes, cameras and most of the clothes I had to remove for the security process, I caught his attention and asked if he had just bought lunch at the counter down the concourse. It was an odd question considering the circumstances, but he said he did. I told him I had something for him and handed him the dollar bill.
“Yeah, I remember you behind me,” he said. He seemed taken aback as he looked at the dollar bill in his hands.
Yes, it was only a dollar and that doesn’t go far in today’s world. But the guard was a young man and I have feeling it meant something to him. Losing even a dollar can give someone the feeling that life has somehow ripped them off. Giving it back gave him the opportunity to see that sometimes life is fair and sometimes even a stranger will look out for you. Plus, I think he may have needed that money.
Not ten minutes later I was walking back to my gate from the restroom. An oddly dressed and scruffy-looking young man approached me and held out a Blackberry. “Did you just leave the restroom?” he asked. I instinctively reached for my belt to find absolutely nothing in the place where my Blackberry was normally clipped. That young man walked across three gates to return it to me. He could have kept it and I never would have known. I would not even have discovered it was missing until it came time to turn it off while on the airplane. By then it would have been too late to do anything about it and I would have had a miserable flight wondering where I lost it and who had it.
Karma. Good fortune. What goes around comes around. Whatever it is, I believe it. I don’t believe my actions influenced the person who returned my cell phone — I think he was a good person regardless of what I did. But perhaps through the millions of tiny, invisible threads that tie us together in the universe, what I did caused that good young man to be the one to pick it up. I believe I was repaid 100 fold for that dollar. I am grateful that a stranger was looking out for me.
“Wow! This is amazing! I hope you fly safe,” my wife typed into the word processor I was connected to from the sky.
“I’m just riding. Someone else is doing the flying,” I typed back.
“I know but it is really something talking to you while you are hurtling through the sky,” she typed.
What is really something is how connected we all are. Not just through cool technology but through human kindness and decency. As I looked at my wife’s smiling face from more than a thousand miles away and tens of thousands of feet over America, I reached over to feel my Blackberry clipped securely to my belt.
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