“Never, ever underestimate the importance of having fun.” –Randy Pausch
We landed in Zimbabwe at an airport about the size of a football field. Baggage claim was a corner of a room with bags everywhere. It was like a ball pit of luggage. The kids in our family had to rummage through to find all ten suitcases while the adults took care of the visas.
After collecting everyone’s bags we walked to find our taxi van. As we walked out, four African dancers in tribal garb began singing a song from The Lion King. The moment I recognized the song I began singing and dancing with the performers because, why not? Moments into my dancing, a man, who I could only assume was a customer service clerk at the airport, noticed me and joined in on the fun. After the brief dancing, we exchanged pleasantries and he helped us load the van and we parted ways.
After our two days in Zimbabwe, we headed back to the airport. We approached the counter and presented our passports in age order.
Everything seemed to be going smoothly, they began to check our bags when suddenly I heard the lady behind the counter say,
“We do not have a seat for Max. We can put him on the next flight.”
All of us were shocked, confused, and wondered if the lady was blind or something. We looked at her and then my dad said what we were all thinking,
“Max can’t fly alone. He’s 13. And in a foreign country! When is the next flight?”
To which she responded, “The next flight is tomorrow morning.”
I saw my dad about to have a meltdown, as he usually does if something gets messed up while he travels. So I decided to walk away, and as I did, I bumped into the man that danced with me when we landed a few days earlier.
I told him our situation and he told me,
“Not to worry. I will take care of you.”
Confused, I followed him back to the check-in desk. My new friend walked behind the check-in desk, as if he owned the place, and said,
“We need to get this whole family on this flight no matter what!”
He ended up getting my dad a seat in one of those folding seats where he was treated to unlimited beers for his troubles. We were unaware of his special treatment until we watched him walk sloppily off the plane with a big smile.
I took that experience to heart because being friendly and outgoing can actually save you from disaster. As the late Wilson Mizner once said,
“Be nice to people on your way up because you’ll meet them on your way down.”