Help Find the Badger

Recently, DCA shared this tweet:


which was met with the usual Twitter combination of snark, eye-rolling at first world problems, and genuine helpful concern that somebody helps reunite this poor girl and her badger. In the week where Hurricane Harvey has devastated the western side of the Gulf Coast, helping a girl find a stuffed animal may seem petty, but it means the world to that six year old. I remember being six, and having a favorite stuffed animal, and I would've cried until I couldn't make sounds anymore if this had happened to me. As I'm sure is true of most people.

I hope someone finds the badger, or found the badger and returns it to the airport for the family to collect. Just like I hope the people sprinting through the airport make their connecting flight on time. Or that I can find an outlet and a quiet space to make that phone call with my dying cell phone.

We -- meaning everyone who travels, especially involving an airport -- like to complain about how dehumanizing the whole process is. Flights get delayed for hours by bad weather or mechanical issues or some previous impetuous genius breaking the latch on the tray table which has to be up for take-off and landing and which now cannot be kept up. Loyalty programs no longer seem to value loyalty. We complain about the airlines, the hotel chains, our fellow passengers who are doing something dumb to hold up the security line.

All of this would be more bearable if the process felt somehow human at some point. Like DCA going out of their way to find a child's favorite stuffed animal. Or when people actually sit down and wait for people with a tight connection to get off the airplane first (which I do, and which as an affirmed aisle-seat resident I force my neighbors to do as well, but which too few people do, presumably because they're in a hurry to grab a Cinnabon and wait for their own next flight). Or helping lift a passenger's luggage into the overhead bin because they're too short to reach (if it's too heavy for them to lift, which I've helped with before in Italy and actually kinda hurt my shoulder for a few days as my reward, then that's their problem).

These all seem like obvious things we do to help other people's lives improve way more than it inconveniences us. But something about reaching a security line, and I'm guilty of this too, triggers our most atavistic impulses. We stop in the middle of a walking path to talk on the phone, ignoring the people behind us. We yell at customer service people who, let's be real, if you're on a flight that is cancelled and that's making you have a bad day, imagine them having to deal with two hundred of you. We go out of our way in the terminal to stake out little fiefdoms, the most valuable of which have seating AND power outlets AND are off in a quiet corner, and spread out our group's luggage to form a defensive perimeter against interlopers. We throw on entirely too much perfume before getting on an airplane. And on and on and on.

But here the thing is we are all passengers, and while we don't necessarily have control over ground stops and mechanical issues and hotel reservations disappearing into the void, we do have control over how we respond to these things. We can choose to be helpful at almost no cost to us the dozen times the opportunity will arise in a given trip. We can choose to approach the desk folks with an attitude of "well, what dumb luck" instead of red-faced screaming -- after all, they didn't break your plane or lose your reservation (probably). We can opt to let people in a hurry go ahead of us, to stay out of the way of other people, to help a six year old find a toy. In the words of a writer a lot better at this than I am:

Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.