The aircraft was empty except for a couple and their two grown daughters. Below us, ramp workers were busy unloading the gentleman’s 280 pound wheel chair from the cargo bin. There was no sense in rushing the man off the jet until his wheelchair was ready and waiting in the jet bridge.
We spoke with the family. Immediately, the husband/father captivated all of our attention. He was a fascinating individual… a loving dad, husband and very successful businessman. While he waited patiently, he showed us photos from his life and told a few stories. There was nothing in this man’s demeanor to even hint of his handicap.
As the rest of the crew continued to interact, I silently wondered if my attitude would be so positive if life ever dealt me that hand.
Once the wheelchair was brought up and assembled by his family, it was time to say goodbye. Since our guest was paralyzed from the waist down, he needed to be wheeled by aisle chair from the first class section to to the jet bridge. The agent boarded, positioned the chair and assisted the man onto the seat. He strapped him in, tilted the chair and started walking backwards towards the front of the plane. I’ve seen it done countless times before… but, I watched with interest. In the few minutes we spent with him, we all developed a liking for the man.
The agent turned the chair just before the cockpit entrance to line it up with door L1. He stepped down and prepared to lower the guest the few inches between the aircraft and jet bridge.
“Hold on a second.” he said. The agent stopped.
The gentleman looked up at us standing outside the cockpit.
“Guys…” he began with a hint of a grin. “You know how they say a ‘good landing’ is any landing you can walk away from? Well, I guess tonight, you didn’t do a very good job, did you?”
His grin progressed to a full blown smile.
The captain and I just looked at each other. Did he REALLY just say THAT?
Yes, he did.
We both laughed. The guest laughed. The family laughed.
Minutes earlier, we learned he flew over one million miles on another airline before he “discovered” ours. With that many flights, I’m sure he’d used that landing joke many times. But, he delivered it like it was the first time he’d ever said it. It was a priceless moment.
Some may be offended by this gentleman poking a little fun at his handicap. However, I will always remember him as a man who overcame an obstacle and lived life to the fullest.
Sir… at the end of a very long day, you truly made me smile.