Sunday, August 14, 2011

Rules of Engagement

I was deeply engrossed in the SkyMall magazine, contemplating ordering a toilet paper holder in the shape of a very long-necked giraffe when Noel leaned over.  “You know,” he said “we have a four-hour layover in Las Vegas.  Why don’t we find the city bus and ride down to The Strip and have some fun?  It’ll be better than sitting in the airport.” 
“You’re kidding, right?  The pilot just announced that it’s 98 degrees there.  I can’t imagine anything worse than traipsing around in 98 degree weather with my carry-on and then having to get back on the airplane for six more hours.  Besides that, we were just there a couple of months ago.”
“No,” he replied, “it’ll be fine.  We’ll jump right on the bus and go to a casino and stay there.  It won’t be hot at all.”
I hate it when he says “It’ll be fine” because it usually isn’t.  I was certainly not convinced about the ‘fineness ‘ of this plan and hoped that he’d give up the idea.  I knew he wouldn’t, but somehow hope always springs eternal.  And then, those hopes were completely dashed when the first thing we encountered as we got off the plane was a luggage locker.  He figured it out, our carry-on bags went in, and we were off in search of a bus within five minutes.  And we only wandered around in the searing heat for about ten minutes before we found the bus stop.  At two minutes before one o’clock we approached the bus.  It left at one o’clock.  As I sat down I thought to myself, “Maybe this will be okay after all.”  I leaned over and said, “The first thing I need is a glass of water to take my headache pill.”  I’d had a migraine for two days and it had taken on a life of its own. It was not happy about the blinding sun or the heat. 
“Sure,” he said.  “No problem.”
Well, we got off the bus by the MGM Grand and wandered around in there for a while looking for a restaurant, but found nothing to our liking.  I was in search of a salad.  Noel wanted a drink.  Everything was too fancy or had too many people.  Back out on the sun-baked street we went up and down escalators, over sky bridges, located the return bus stop for later and then finally into the Tropicana.  Surely there would be something in there.  We went up and down more escalators, down hallways and through the casino floor and found nothing open except a Starbucks and a pizza place.  By now my head was throbbing with the addition of the noise from the slot machines.  Noel announced, “I’m just going to wait until we get back to the airport to eat.  Let’s go find that drink.”  I made some sarcastic comment under my breath about how I wished I was still at the airport and turned to follow.  I had thrown away the breakfast I’d ordered from the fast food place that morning, declaring it “Not fit to eat.”  I hadn’t snacked on the plane either.   By the time we got to the lounge I was in a distinctly sour mood.  I felt like snapping and whining and throwing a fit.  Instead, I dutifully followed Noel to a bar near the gaming floor of the Tropicana.
And then the bartender approached.  His name tag announced that he was Eddie.  I had scanned the bar menu and noted a list of exotic cocktails, but I thought I’d probably just order a beer and looked for the cheapest option.  So, I was very surprised when these words escaped my mouth:  “Hi Eddie.  I am really treating myself today and would love a cocktail.  Would you recommend the pomegranate lemonade?” 
He rolled his eyes in a gesture of sublime pleasure and said, “Oh yes!”
“Well, that’s what I’ll have then.  And a glass of water also, please.”  I smiled at him with my biggest grin and he returned the favor.  I liked Eddie immediately.  He would be my savior.
And I sat there in the cool, dark lounge and watched Eddie’s every move as he made my twelve-dollar cocktail.  I’ve never had a twelve-dollar cocktail in my life, but I figured I may as well splurge, since this was lunch.  Noel just sat there casting surprised sidelong glances at me. 
And then the pricey concoction came and it was truly sublime.  Just gazing at the tapered glass rimmed in sugar with the deep red liquid and floating pomegranate berries gave me pleasure.   But I must say that the cold water and the chance to take my medicine was just about as wonderful.  Between the Grey Goose vodka and the Imitrix I began feeling a whole lot better.  I decided that I could traipse around on blistering pavement under an unrelenting sun more often if that road led to Eddie and a pomegranate lemonade. 
In between sips of this delicious nectar we chatted with each other and with Eddie as he went about his work.  He was an exceptionally nice man with an accent that I couldn’t readily place.  As we turned to leave, I impulsively said, “You know, we’re just on a quick layover.  We’re on our way to see our newest grandson in Maine.”  His eyes lit up and he said, “Please wait here.  I have something for you.”  He rummaged around beneath the counter for a minute or so and produced a lovely, wooden toy car.  “Please give that to your grandson for me.”
Now, I’m not sure how he came to have that toy behind the bar, but that simple gesture made my day.  As I hurried off to show Noel my unexpected treasure I marveled at how quickly a human exchange can alter a mood or the course of events.  Thank you, Eddie, for willingly becoming my savior when I sorely needed one.  Thank you for engaging me in conversation and making me think about something besides myself.  Thank you for reminding me to be kind even when I have a splitting headache.  Thank you for the little toy.
I read somewhere that even during a short exchange you should look at people long enough to tell the color of their eyes and whenever possible, call them by name.  Smile.  It makes a huge difference.  We all want to be recognized and acknowledged and when we make the effort, the pay-off can be magical.  And now, as I write this, my headache is completely gone, the little car is tucked into my bag at my feet, and I am imagining myself presenting it to my new grandson.  I smile.
A simple exchange of more than words.  A simple gesture. 
Life can be simply wonderful, can’t it?

1 comment:

  1. What a great story, I'm glad it ended the way it did, I was expecting that you didn't make it back to the airport in time and you missed the plane. Glad it ended the way it did or it would of been a different story!