Reflection: Pay it Forward

This is the original blog post in it’s full length for those of you who just can’t get enough!

If you made it here by mistake and would prefer the short version, check it out here- Pay it Forward.

September 2013 //

I’ve seen the movie, I’ve heard stories, but I’ve never had it happen to me. I was sitting in a little Italian restaurant today eating some pizza and watching the people stroll by when an older couple walked into the restaurant. I heard their accents and it sounded pretty similar to my so I politely interjected myself into their conversation. I inquired about their accents and asked if they were from the US. The man laughed a little and said that they were actually from Canada. We got to chatting and I told them about my trip, which they seemed genuinely interested in. They told me that this was their second trip to Ireland and we mutually agreed that the Irish were so friendly. The man said he thought it was in their nature and I thought that was a really wonderful thought and most definitely agree with him. We talked for quite a bit and I really enjoyed how open they were to me interrupting their lunch and they seemed very cheerful about it. I went on with my lunch and my writing and at the end of their meal they told me how very nice it was to meet me and the woman said that they had paid for my lunch. I was absolutely shocked! They had already graciously let me interrupt their lunch and then they went and paid for my meal!

I can’t say how much it meant to me that they did that. I teared up a bit to be quite honest. I told them that I hoped to see them again and made sure to give the woman the address for this blog. I hope that I get to connect with them again, I didn’t even get their names. She told me that they had kids and knew what it was like for them when they were younger and in school. She said that they liked to pay it forward and I very much intend to pay it forward as well. I’m only here in Galway for one day and I know that this will be one of my most memorable moments here in Ireland.

Speaking of memorable moments I will get back to where I left off yesterday about my flight to Ireland. I was in the Boise airport and security had taken an unusually short amount of time. I wandered around the airport for a bit, but there wasn’t much to see. I got a bagel that sounded good on the menu, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I think it was the special, a bagel dipped in pizza sauce and baked. It was more of a soggy odd tasting bagel, but the woman at the counter was very nice. I waited the two hours for my flight and eventually boarded the plane. It was by far the smallest airplane that I have ever been on. It only had fifty seats on it and it was very full. We were headed to the San Francisco International Airport. I had a window seat as usual and I would usually recommend it. I was in the very back row and I sat next to a very nice man probably in his forties. We talked about where we were from, he was from San Francisco, and what we liked about each place. We talked a bit about what I was doing and where I was going. He said that he had traveled a bit, but had never made it to Ireland and had always wanted to go. After that we didn’t talk much until we got into San Fran.

The flight in was beautiful! There was a wonderful view of all of San Fran, which was really nice for me because even though I had a six hour layover I wasn’t about to risk leaving the airport and traveling to downtown. The last thing I wanted to do was miss my flight, as I had no idea what would happen if I did and I couldn’t buy another ticket to Ireland! I talked a bit about what I loved about San Fran and what I disliked and after that we parted ways. The plane let us out on the tarmac which always makes me nervous. I’m not sure why, it just does. I haven’t been in the San Francisco Airport before and it was huge! I headed over to the currency exchange to get some euros. I could have done it through my bank for free, but had waited too long to try and get them. It would have taken the bank three days to get them and by the time I had tried to get them I only had two left. After the currency exchange I walked around and found out where my terminal was. At this point I decided that the best thing to do would be to get a drink. I mean what else are you supposed to do in the airport for five hours?

I found a Mexican Bar & Grill near my terminal so I went to the bar. The bartender asked me what I would like to drink and I decided on a rum and coke. I don’t usually drink that, but every once in a while it just sounds good. The bartender took me by surprise when I asked for that because he said that I didn’t look like I drank rum and coke. He tried pretty hard to convince me that I wanted a margarita, but I said that I just wanted the rum and coke. Though by the time the drink was in front of me, my taste buds wanted a margarita! The bartender was so friendly, he asked me a lot of questions about where I was going and the places that I had traveled. He was from Columbia and wants to go to Brazil for the World Cup (I think that’s what it was anyways) but he doesn’t know if he can get a whole month off from work. His mother and brother are still in Columbia and his sister lives in L.A. She wants to live with him, but he doesn’t want to go back to L.A. and she doesn’t seem to want to come to San Fran. He has been there for ten years and has been a bartender at the airport for two.

At this point my rum and coke is gone and the man next to me had ordered a margarita, which looked delicious, so I ordered one as well. The bartender started to talk to the man next to me in Spanish. I really enjoyed listening to them as I think Spanish is a very beautiful language that I plan to learn someday. I got a lunch menu and decided on a chicken quesadilla. It was pretty good, but probably not worth what I paid for it, but that’s the way it goes at the airport. There was an older couple that came in and ordered a couple of dry martinis, which I really would like to try someday. Then the bartender went on break.

I hadn’t closed out my tab yet and it would have been the perfect opportunity to Dine and Dash, but I’m not one for breaking the law, especially in the airport! I ended up waiting for around thirty minutes and had a short conversation with a pretty blonde woman that was confused as to why there was no bartender. He came back in a rush carrying six bottles of wine. I felt bad for him because it sounded like he didn’t really get a break. I enjoyed people watching at the bar, there was a lot of different kinds of people to watch. There was the elderly man that came in for a glass of wine and seemed a bit snobby. He drank about a third of a glass of his wine and left. He didn’t talk to anyone either. Then there was the scraggly man that ran up to the bar and ordered two shots of Jack Daniels. He downed them before the bartender could even finish running his card! He jetted out of there pretty quickly, I like to imagine that he is just afraid of flying. My favorite person was the business hipster. I would have enjoyed talking to him, but he sat alone at a table a few feet away from the bar. He had a really refined way of eating his food and seemed to be very aware of his surroundings.

I closed out my tab and the bartender had given me my margarita for free! I was very shocked considering the fact that it was a ten dollar drink. So I tipped him a larger tip than I was planning and told him I would stop back by to see him when I come back to San Francisco. After that I was slightly tipsy so I decided to get some chocolate. Word of advice get chocolate before you get into the airport. It was some very expensive chocolate. I almost bought a shot glass for my sister there, but I think that she might already have one from there. I will make sure to get her a Guinness one while I am in Ireland. By this time I had a seat at my gate with a couple hours to go until my flight.

There was only one other person there, an elderly lady. I thought that she was alone but a man joined up with her an hour later and I was really glad because I didn’t want her to be lonely. The next people to show up was an elderly and quite possibly gay couple. The one man was in a wheelchair and they seemed to be having a really good time even though they were stuck waiting for so long. A lot of people started showing up after that. This couple that sat near me looked so familiar. I was very sure that I had seen her before, possibly at my gas station. Her hair was very recognizable. Blonde, but the way she curls it is what made it so recognizable, short with tighter curls.

The plane to London was a 747 and much larger than any plane that I had flown on before. I remember thinking that I liked that there was so many people on the plane, if we happened to crash there would be more people to talk to and help me survive. It was an odd thought, but somehow comforting. I again had a window seat and in the case of a ten hour flight I would actually not recommend a window seat. It’s great for being able to see more things and make the flight go by faster, but if you want to get up and move around or use the toilet you have to inconvenience two other people so you can get up. I try to be a courteous flyer so I only ended up getting up twice when the couple next to me got up. It made for a rather uncomfortable flight.

They were very interesting and had the look of a well traveled couple. The man (Roger I think) had on an outfit that made him look like he had just got in from Australia. They were both Americans and we didn’t talk much at the beginning of the flight and right after we were served dinner we had to close the shades on the window because the sun would be rising soon. I didn’t realize that was going to happen, but by that time we were flying over Canada and flying towards the sunrise at over 300mph. I tired to get some sleep, but between the excitement of going to Ireland and the turbulence I didn’t get much sleep. I woke up and had a stretch and then waited in line for the toilet. That’s when I had my first experience with a Londoner. A man came up to me in line and asked me, “queuing or standing.” It took me a moment to realize what he was asking so I smiled back and said, “waiting.”

I took my seat and that’s when I started talking to the American couple next to me. We talked about where I was from and they told me that they had a daughter in Middleton that was a vet. It was nice to have something to chat about. We talked about Idaho for a bit and a lot about fishing. Their son has done a lot of trout fishing in quite a few different areas. I had a nice long chat with Roger about different kinds of spinners and which ones were our favorites. I am going to look for a spinner that he mentioned was his favorite. I like to try out other peoples favorite spinners, they never seem to work as well for me as my favorites do. Maybe it has to do with mind over matter a little bit. Roger asked me about why I was traveling to Ireland and when I told him about my mom he seemed to have tears in his eyes. That really touched me and I thought that they were a very sweet couple.

Before we landed the airlines gave out immigration card to fill out. I wasn’t sure I would need one because I was going onto Ireland, but I decided I should take one just in case. We landed around noon and my next flight was in two hours. The walk through the airport was unusually long. I felt like I had been walking for miles before we made it to customs, where it separated into two different sections. Continuing flights to the U.K. and Ireland and the people that were staying in London or going on other flights I think. I was one of the first people to customs and was kind of nervous because it was unexpected. I gave the man my immigration card and passport. He asked me what I was doing in Ireland for three month and I immediately got the feeling that something was off. He kept eying me with odd looks while I answered his questions. He asked if I had a return flight home and I told him that I did. Then he asked for proof and it was at that moment that I realized I had forgotten to print my return itinerary when I went online to try and print my boarding pass.

he told me I needed to show it to him so I got out of the line, took a seat, and tried to connect to the internet on my phone so I could show him my confirmation email. I finally got in pulled up and got into a much larger line. After waiting for about thirty minutes in line my phone died! I hadn’t planned on using it for a while after leaving the US, so I hadn’t charged it while I was in San Francisco. I got out of line yet again to try and find a place to charge it and I then realized that I left my international adapter in my checked bag. Things were going downhill quickly and at this point I was in a bit of a panic. So I went and talked to a man at information to see if there was anywhere that I could print my return ticket. He told me to go downstairs to see the Air Lingus representative.

At this point I was also worried that I was going to miss my flight. I went downstairs where the information woman said that customs shouldn’t need to see my return ticket. She actually seemed quite frustrated about them being so persistent about me needing to show it to them. So back upstairs I went! There was a moment on my way back upstairs where I really wanted to cry and I seriously thought that I might. I stopped by the Coke machine and I told myself, “you don’t know anyone in this country. You need to be an adult and deal with this on your own.” I took a deep breath and continued on my way back upstairs. Now at this point the customs line had grown alarmingly large. I noticed a sign that said if your flight was going to leave in 45 minutes or less to talk to information. I asked the information guy about the sign and he told me to cut up to the front of the line. I felt pretty bad doing that, but luckily when I got there there was a different customs officer at the desk.

I explained all of the things that had happened and he said he would still need to see my return ticket. Then he asked me a lot of questions about my bank, my money, why I was going to Ireland, why I was staying so long, my mother’s death, my mental heath, and my retirement account. At this point my plane was about to leave and I asked him what would happen if I miss it. He told me to say that I had been delayed at customs and that they would just put me on another flight. I then got my computer out and showed him my email confirming my return flights and showed him some bank statements that I luckily had with me. He then takes all the information he has written down about me, my passport, and my bank statements. He then gave me a piece of paper which he said was just to show that he was going to take my documents and show his boss. I thought that was pretty thoughtful of him until he actually gave me the piece of paper.

Turns out I was being detained! Now I don’t think that this was an official detaining, but it felt pretty serious to me. The paper also said he was detaining my passport which I think made me more nervous than anything. Normally I would have been in even more of a panic, but the exhaustion was starting to set in. I had been in airports for roughly twenty four hours and only had about six hours of sleep in the last two days. I sat there for roughly thirty minutes and all I could think about was if they refused me entry that I didn’t think I could handle getting back on a plane to the US! He cam back and asked me a few more questions and was being quite rude as he was stamping my passport. My heart dropped. I was so sure he was stamping something on there that said I would have to go home. I really did think they were refusing me but the let me through!

I went through a security checkpoint where they took my picture and then had to go through another security checkpoint where they checked my bag again and I went through the metal detector. I made it through with no issue and on my way to the Air Lingus desk I was randomly stopped by an airport guard who said he needed to check my bag again. I thought this was really odd, but I let him wave his little wand thing over it and he let me go. I was really on edge at that point. I thought at any point a guard was going to grab me and say that they had changed their mind. The Air Lingus desk receptionist seemed a little sketched out with me saying that I had been detained and needed a different ticket. Luckily I had kept the paper saying I was detained and she printed me a standby ticket.

I have never used a standby ticket before, but was pretty skeptical of it. In the Boise Airport there had been a few people waiting for standby flights at nine in the morning and they were told that they could maybe get them on a 5pm flight but that they would probably have to wait until the next day for a flight. The last thing that I wanted to do was to have to stay in London a minute longer. I am sure it is a wonderful city and maybe someday I will go back, but it was my worst airport experience ever. Luckily they have flights to Dublin about every hour it seems so I only had to wait another half an hour before I got on a flight. The last weird thing to happen to me in London was there didn’t seem to be any water fountains so I went to buy some and the lady said she could take my euros but would be giving me the change back in British Pounds. I was so confused. I thought that they were on the euro system as well, but who knows? I certainly didn’t. I had an extra twenty dollars US in my wallet so I asked if she would take that. Luckily she did and I ended up with British pounds.

Then the diamond in the rough happened. I was seated next to a wonderful woman, Anna, from London. She was wearing the cutest dress, it was black with white horses all over it. I had never seen anything like it. She was older than I thought she was and when she mentioned her age I shockingly asked if she was joking. I really enjoy when you say something like that to a woman, because it always makes them happy and I truly meant it. We talked quite a bit about many things and she is in my top five favorite people I have met so far. In fact I think that she is my favorite. We got off the plane and she told me that if I was ever in London again that I was welcome to stay at her flat. She gave me her email and phone number in case I needed help in the next few days while she would still be in Ireland. I am really glad that I met her and hope to see her again someday.

Finally I was in Dublin and customs went very smoothly. By this point I was overly prepared and knew all the best/appropriate answers to her questions. These customs officers were much friendlier and she said she was sorry that my mom passed and hoped I had a good time in Ireland. I had finally made it!

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One thought on “Reflection: Pay it Forward

  1. Pingback: Pay it Forward – Adventures in Adulting

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