Last week's true story examined the peculiar behavior of a family named Cohen at Stapleton Airport in Denver during a raging winter blizzard.
Few experiences in today's modern world put to the test the basic character of people quite like a crowded airport cut off from the world by a prolonged winter storm.Manners are forgotten, tempers rage, thoughtful acts are rare and kindness most often gives way to selfishness.
While most people choose to read or sleep under such circumstances there is always a curious number who spend their time affixing the blame for the storm on someone or something.
Mrs. Cohen was such a person. She reached a conclusion in the early hours of the Denver storm that Mr. Cohen was the offending party. Unfortunately, she was not the kind of person who kept such things to herself. Which might explain why she may be in Denver yet.
The Stapleton story was told to me by a friend. He had been a witness to it all. I had to wait until this past winter to have a similar experience.
I was scheduled to fly from Salt Lake City to Houston. It was Thursday, Feb. 2, and my Delta flight was scheduled to depart at 8 p.m. A heavy snow had been falling in Salt Lake since mid-afternoon. When I arrived at the Delta terminal I was told at curbside by an airline representative that their flights were still departing with only a few delays.
I checked my luggage and walked to gate C-13. About a quarter of my way there it was announced that the airport was now closed while the snow removal equipment cleared the runways.
As I waited in line to check in at the gate C-13 counter, a woman behind me said to her husband, "It can't keep snowing like this for long." "Yes, dear, I'm sure you're right." The truth of the matter is, they were both wrong. It kept snowing "like this" for the next seven hours. Salt Lake was experiencing its worst winter storm in years.
Flights coming into Salt Lake were diverted to Las Vegas or Boise or Reno or Denver. The "Arrival" and "Departure" monitor screens that hang at an angle from the ceiling told most of the story. The far right-hand column read simply, "flight cancelled" adjacent to most inbound and outbound flights.
As the storm worsened people began to accept the inevitable and look for a comfortable spot to retire. Airport seating is, of course, designed in such a manner as to make sleep impossible, that is, unless you are a small and agile chimpanzee.
The Delta Air Lines gate personnel did everything they could to accommodate those who needed hotel rooms for the night. They handled the aggravation level of the passengers with a calm and professional demeanor.
However, by midnight, it was announced that there were no rooms left in the city. A Delta supervisor said that blankets and pillows would be made available to anyone who requested them. A special waiting room along with sandwiches and drinks would also be provided.
Among those waiting at the end of the "C" concourse for a delayed flight to Idaho Falls was a young black mother with her small baby.
At 1:15 a.m. it was announced that this flight was also being cancelled.
I turned and looked at this young mother in time to observe an act of heartfelt kindness and genuine concern.
An attractive Delta gate agent whose name tag read "Erin Bassett" walked from behind the ticket counter and sat down next to the young mother. She put her arm around her and said, "Now, don't you worry about a thing. You and your baby are coming home with me tonight. I have plenty of room and I'll bring you back in the morning in time for your flight to Idaho Falls. Everything is going to be alright."
With people like Erin Bassett in the world, everything is going to be alright.