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  • "What was that?" she asked, my new friend Maureen. "An ice cream container?"

    "Pickles," I answered. "A one-quart container from the farmers market works perfectly."

    "Pickles," she mused as her gaze wandered toward the front of the plane. "It was perfect."

    The one-quart plastic container, the deli kind, just held a dozen homemade cookies and I had about a million of the things. Containers. Cookies, too, sometimes. I was a stress baker and loved pickles. Everyone loved cookies.

    "Was that the first time?" she asked.

    "No," I admitted with a grin.

    I knew exactly what would happen when I gave home-baked cookies to the flight crew. A toiletry bag filled with Philosophy body products. Free wine all night. I knew it would happen (or something like it) because it happened the first and second times, too.

    It all started at Christmas. Stress baking. Flying on a holiday.

    Maybe it really started earlier, a dozen years ago and my longest birthday. I crossed the international dateline and enjoyed 39 hours of a quarterlife crisis. (When I got off the plane, though, I was done.) One of the flight attendants on that trip said it was her birthday, too.

    At some point, it started, and stress baking, Christmas and flights converged with the birthday memory to prompt me to thank my flight crew for working the holiday. I gave them cookies I'd baked. The response was so warm that I wanted to bring homemade cookies on any long flight that I could. Because it was nice. Because it was a good thing to do. Being a solid baker didn't hurt.

    Of course, I got free stuff when it happened, but that wasn't why. The gifts fell a far distant second to the looks of surprise and thanks.

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