While exchanging travel stories with friends the other night this memory resurfaced and I decided it was time to make it public as a way of honouring the kindness of a stranger.
In July 1999 I was travelling with my sixteen-year-old niece, Sally, from America back to Melbourne when our airline tickets disappeared at Los Angeles Airport.
Since leaving Houston, Texas Sally had insisted on taking charge of the tickets, carrying them in her hands along with her fluffy purple purse.
With time to spare before our flight we went to a café not far from the departure lounge. Walking back to the lounge after our snack my niece stopped abruptly. Her face went pale. She could not speak but I knew what had happened. I looked at her hands. No tickets! No purse!
When she had calmed down enough to talk she said she remembered putting both items down on the ledge in front of the serving area when she ordered her snack. We hurried back to look for them. They were not there. Sally’s distress increased. I fought to control my panic. As calmly as I could I explained our situation to the café workers who were very helpful but the tickets could not be found. I recalled seeing a man at the serving counter while we were eating. I saw him only from the back and I remembered he was wearing light brown cargo pants.
We went to the Qantas counter in the departure lounge to report our loss but there was no one yet in attendance. Sally and I roamed the airport waiting areas carefully inspecting men’s trousers looking for the thief in cargo pants. We were in fighting spirit and would have challenged anyone we believed to be the scumbag who stole our tickets. However, we did not see a similar pair of trousers.
Sally was becoming more and more distressed. Finally, we returned to our departure lounge to wait for the staff to arrive. Other passengers offered kind words and reassurance which helped to calm Sally. Finally, a Qantas staff member arrived. After hearing our story, she indicated she would send word through to the check-in counter to see if anyone had handed in our tickets. It was a long and anxious wait until another staff member eventually arrived. I raced back over to the counter and to my great relief she had our tickets and Sally’s fluffy purple purse. Apparently, a gentleman had handed them in.
After we had calmed down we worked out what must have happened. The man wearing light brown cargo pants who came into the cafe for a snack just after us had seen the purse and tickets on the ledge. Rather than take the easy option of handing them up to the café staff he took the time and trouble to do the right thing. He walked all the way back out to the Qantas desk in the main area of that huge airport and handed them in to the staff there.
We never knew who he was but his kind thoughtfulness and honesty made a difference and will always be remembered. JB