“Special Services” Takes On a Whole New Meaning

Aug 16

Last week I was at LAX at five in the morning checking in at Delta for a flight to Greece via Atlanta. I was in the “Special Services” area, as I was unable to electronically check in at one of Delta’s kiosks. So along with other travelers who had “special” needs, I found myself in a line that was moving at a snail’s pace. I noticed a young guy of about 16 at the Delta counter looking lost with money in hand and suitcases that were not making it onto the scale to be weighed. As I made my way further up the line, I could see that he was pleading with the Delta rep to please accept his 40 Swiss francs and $15.00 for the extra luggage fees…he didn’t have the total amount in US dollars. She simply couldn’t do so. “We don’t take Swiss francs. Go exchange it.” The problem was that nothing was opened that early in the morning. He was stuck.

A half an hour later I checked in and the Swiss boy was still standing there and no closer to making his way back home. I flashed back to when I was 22 and in Madrid, Spain. I was traveling around Europe for about four months and was into my trip about three weeks when my knapsack was stolen at a public park, complete with American passport, return ticket, traveler’s checks, and about $100 in pesetas. I was crying, couldn’t speak the language, and was frantically looking everywhere for the knapsack when a Spaniard came up to me and asked what was wrong. He spoke English. I explained and he summoned the police who heard my story while the Spanish man translated. Then this kind man and his wife told me everything would be okay, and that while the police searched the area I should join them and their family for some good Spanish food and wine. “Really, you want me to eat even though I have lost everything and have no way of getting around?” Yep, that’s exactly what they wanted me to do. And we did. And believe it or not, the police found the knapsack abandoned in one of the bathroom’s stalls, everything intact except for the pesetas. I’ve told this story dozens of times since that fateful day I met a couple who turned an upsetting situation into a fond and wonderful memory, taking the time to open their hearts and comfort a stranger.

Now years later as I took my luggage to TSA security, I looked back at the Swiss teen who was still being told that he needed to pay for his extra luggage — and with US currency. I dropped my luggage off and went back to “Special Services” and up to him. He explained to me what was going on and that the 40 Swiss francs were almost equal to $40.00 but not quite. I gave him the dollars for the francs. “Really?” “Yes, really.” He gave me a big hug and smile that will stay with both us I am sure for a very long time.


  1. Kim McGraw /

    One good deed deserves another. I recently read that a woman in NYC gave a homeless man her credit card to buy some items in a CVS. She didn’t have cash so she offered her card. Her friends thought she was crazy.

    The man bought the items he needed and returned the card.

    You did a good thing.

  2. “Ugly Americans” indeed — sometimes we can be quite lovely, as you’ve shown! The diplomats and politicians can do all their moving and shaking among the high-falutin’ big wigs, but it’s everyday people like you who are the very best ambassadors for our country. Taking the time and effort to lend a helping hand — yep, this is a story that Swiss young man will be retelling with a smile for a long time!

  3. Bill Quinn /

    Good show, Annie! If we had more people like you out there, the “Ugly American” labels would shrivel and die.

  4. Thomas Plesser /

    That’s a great story. The memories that we make along the way! I remember a time when I had a learners permit and my uncle had a new Cadillac. This car had less that 200 mile on the odometer. He asked if I wanted to drive it. I said yes, not thinking I ever would. He threw me the keys and said get in. Although we did not go very far, this memory left a lasting impression on me.

    I now let everyone with a new license or permit drive my new cars! Its was my way to “pay it forward” in memory of my uncles kindness.

  5. You are truly amazing!!! What a beautiful story!!And yes, he will remember you for the rest of his life. I love you!!! Micah too.

  6. Great Story Georgie Girl…pay it forward…when I hear stories like this I’m reminded that life is short and it’s not about the amount of breaths we take but about the moments that take our breath away…and you took his…thanks…

  7. christine carewprinciotta /

    eARLY july we took our alexandra to jfk for her trip to ibiza spain for an au pair position for 6 weeks.on an incredibly long line we realized this lovely old man with so much luggage got on the wrong line and would really be inconvenienced staying on that line-my daughter could not let it go and went over and helped him -he was greek = and helped direct him with many language challenges- i was very proud of her as a daughter and a new yorker!

  8. Annie George /

    Thank you, Charlie.

  9. Annie George /

    How lovely! Has she been enjoying Ibiza?

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