David Bruce: Travel Anecdotes

• Elsie Clark, a 79-year-old Canadian, was having a bad day. On Dec. 30, 2009, she was returning home to Winnipeg, Manitoba, after visiting family in Texas. She received bad information at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and missed her flight. Another flight was delayed by bad weather. Also, because of a bad hip, she needed to use a wheelchair while traveling. Now, she was on a flight to O’Hare International Airport, and she did not feel well. “I was so thirsty and hungry,” Ms. Clark said. “I felt absolutely deserted, and I was scared because I kept thinking, ‘What is going to happen in Chicago if I miss my plane?’ I would have to sit on the hard airport bench all night.” She needed someone to talk to, and she began to talk to a man with polished shoes because she had learned as a child that people who dressed well respected both themselves and other people. She said, “I wanted to talk to somebody to get my mind off things for a little while. So, I said, ‘Sir, do you mind telling me what you do because I’ve always admired shiny shoes.’” The man, Dean Germeyer, 43, runs a technology-consulting group in Chicago. He remembers, “People were coming by and putting their hands on her shoulders and saying, ‘I hope you get home tonight.’ She was doing OK, but you could tell she was at a breaking point.” He adds, “There was a connection between Elsie and myself. She wasn’t asking for anything at all.” Mr. Germeyer is a good Samaritan. Once the plane landed in Chicago, he wheeled Ms. Clark as quickly as he could to her terminal, but her flight had already taken off. Since she had missed the flight to Canada because her flight from Texas to Chicago had been delayed due to bad weather, the airline gave her a voucher for a hotel. Mr. Germeyer, however, said about Ms. Clark, “She is somebody’s grandmother. And to slide this piece of paper across the desk and say, ‘Here is your voucher, good luck,’ when she hasn’t eaten, doesn’t have her luggage and doesn’t know Chicago … that really aggravated me.” He telephoned his wife, Nina, to announce that he was bringing a guest home for dinner. His wife said later, “This is why I married Dean. He couldn’t [let] this little old lady […] just sit at the airport all night while he went home and had a nice meal and [slept in] a warm bed.” After dinner, he took Ms. Clark on a brief tour of Chicago, and then he paid for her stay at a suite at the Affinia Hotel, which is located next to the building he lives in. He also paid for a limo to take her to the airport the next morning so she could catch her flight home. Ms. Clark said, “He even gave me a new toothbrush and toothpaste. I just sat down when I got to the hotel, and I cried and cried and cried. Everything he did for me was just so beautiful.” She added, “He walked in with me on his arm so I wouldn’t slip and said, ‘Look after this lady.’ When I got up to my room, it wasn’t a room — it was a suite! I had to use my cane just to walk to the bathroom.” As a way to repay Mr. Germeyer’s kindness, Ms. Clark told her local newspaper (the Winnipeg Free Press) about his generosity. As a result, Mr. Germeyer was also written up inThe Chicago Tribune, and he received many emails (many of them from Canadians) thanking him for his kindness to Ms. Clark. Mr. Germeyer said that he did not spend much money on his good deed: the cost of the hotel room and limo were less than $250. He said, “I just wanted to make sure that she got some sleep that night.” Ms. Clark said about his good deed: “Have you ever heard anything like it before in your life? My daughter asked if he had a brother!”

• Fashion designer Vicky Tiel tends to dress comfortably for flights, as do many people of wealth and fashion. For one flight, she wore ripped jeans and a ripped jean jacket. She had a boarding pass for first class, but the stewardess looked her over and made her sit in coach, although she protested. She says, “Didn’t the hostess know that the antitravel look is for those who reallytravel? The well-dressed couple in first class is actually the pretty secretary sleeping with her older boss, hoping to move up to trophy wife.” When she arrived in Atlanta, she wanted to file a complaint, but Leticia Moise from CNN Atlanta recognized her and suggested a story: “The Fashion Designer Who was Thrown Out of First Class.” Ms. Tiel modeled the clothing she was wearing, and Ms. Moise asked a passerby, “Would you let her into first class?” He looked her over, and then he said into the microphone, “Hell, no!”

• In 1982, Ray Bradbury, age 62, took his first flight in an airplane. Normally, while traveling he took a passenger train across land or an ocean liner across sea, but he was attending the opening of EPCOT Center in Florida as a guest of The Walt Disney Company, and his passenger train trip home to California was suddenly cancelled. He asked The Walt Disney Company to buy him a plane ticket home, give him three double martinis, and “pour him on the plane.” All went well. He discovered that he was not actually afraid of flying — he was afraid of being afraid of flying and of doing such things as running up and down the aisles, screaming. In his later years, he frequently flew.

• When dancers Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis were touring, the towns they performed in began to blend together after a while, and sometimes they forgot where they were. Once, they reached for their tour list to find out the name of the town they were in, but they didn’t know the date, so the tour list was of no help. They ended up asking a policeman directing traffic, “Can you tell us the name of this town?”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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