The Kindness Of Others

Aerial View of Ketchikan, Alaska

Growing up on the rock (Revillagegado Island – AKA Ketchikan, Alaska)  One of our goals (mine anyhow) was to get off it and into the “real world”  which meant “down south”.  It was right up there with getting our drivers permit when we turned 14 (yes you read that right) 14 years old and then of course the biggy was our drivers license when we turned 16.

Aerial View of Ketchikan, Alaska
Aerial View of Ketchikan, Alaska

You may have read in my last column piece my experience flying to Alaska last week to see my family and the rough ride (cough – understatement of the year – thought I was going to die flight) into Ketchikan. My plan was to stay a week.  I got up the morning I was scheduled to leave (Thursday) to check on my flight and my reservation wasn’t there, the plane wasn’t even there!  What?  I found out that I should have never been booked on that flight because it was taken out of service for the winter 4 days prior to my scheduled trip off the rock!

I looked online to see if there were other flights that I could get onto, all were packed.  Maybe one seat available here or there but only one seat.  I was flying on a pass (given by a friend in order for me to go up in the first place) so I was low man on the totem pole on any flight.  I started to stress because I needed to get home and didn’t see a flight in my future for at least 3 more days.

Airport Ferry  Ketchikan, Alaska  Image | Sandy Harris
Airport Ferry Ketchikan, Alaska Image | Sandy Harris

Keeping an eye on the flights I decided to take a chance and try to leave on Saturday.  It looked like my best chance to get out.  My son brought me to the ferry that would take me across the Tongass Narrows to the airport; we said our good-byes and I headed down the ramp and onto the ferry.  The flight I wanted to leave on was leaving at 9 a.m.  Once I made it to the ticket counter I told the gal I was flying on standby, she took a look at my confirmation and said she couldn’t help me because I didn’t show up for my flight (that didn’t even exist) and I needed to call reservations.  She gave me the number making it sound like all would be well in my world once again (its 8:00 a.m. now and the plane is boarding at 8:20) I called reservations, thankful that my cell would go through (I hadn’t been able to talk on it since I arrived 9 days ago).

“I can’t help you ma’am. You didn’t show up for your flight.  You now need to go online and rebook your flight”.  The voice on the other end said to me.

Me faking a smile while riding back to Ketchikan on the ferry
Me faking a smile while riding back to Ketchikan on the ferry

I explained to her the flight didn’t exist but she seemed unresponsive to my story.  It did sound ridiculous but it could never be more true… My life.  Getting  a little frustrated at this point I did what I was told and went online.  There was no way I was going to be flying home today, all the flights were full.  As I shut down my computer and packed up my belongings I heard over the intercom “Last call for so and so and if you do not show up at the gate in two minutes your seats will be forfeited”.  My heart sank.  If the gals could have helped me, I could have possibly been on that plane.  Feeling completely deflated I headed to the ferry to go back to Ketchikan.  It’s hard to say good-bye in the first place, but to have to do it repeatedly does not do a body good!  I called my son to come back and get me.

Friends had heard of my troubles and offered their miles to get me home!  Now, I’m a pretty tough person but when people do things like this out of the kindness of their heart, without blinking an eye or being asked it brings emotion out.  I burst into tears! I am probably looking like an emotional basket case but thats okay.  I love my family and friends dearly and begin to miss them the very moment I see them each time I arrive, already knowing how hard it will be to say good-bye but I had to get home to my life; my responsibilities.  I graciously accepted their very kind and generous offer and within a few moments my travel woes were solved.  I would land in Eugene at midnight Sunday.   I made a few rounds to see my friends one last time.  My plane would be leaving the next afternoon at 1 p.m., landing at SeaTac.

Ketchikan Airport Image | Sandy Harris
Ketchikan Airport Image | Sandy Harris

I barely make it on board due to the fact that there are spiders hanging from the ceiling near my gate entrance but I did it (halloween) Once onboard I found a teenager sitting in my seat.  I told him it was okay, I would just sit in the isle seat, his friend sitting next to him.

“Scuse me you are in my seat”  Turning my head, I realized she was talking to me.

I’m in 8D and that was the seat she was claiming.  My eyes darted to the kid at the window (my seat).  He should have been in the middle, so I looked at the kid in the middle, and told him I needed to see his ticket (I put on my flight attendant hat for a second)  “I’m actually in 6F” he states.  Before I knew what was happening I started laughing, my finger automatically wagging at him directing him to his seat.  The 4 of us looked like a three ring circus doing the dosey doe in the isles for a few moments but we got it figured out.

A SeaTac barge  Image | Sandy Harris
A SeaTac barge Image | Sandy Harris

It was a packed plane, one of the last people to board the flight was a woman with three small children all under the tender age of about 5 settling into the row in front of me and my new buddies in row 8.  The smallest being around 2 years old, a tiny thing she was.  I am not sure if she was claustrophobic but she let out this blood curdling scream that would freak anyone out.  My heart went out to the mother.  I put myself into her shoes and would hate my life had that been me.  I think we have all heard horror stories of little kids on flights crying.  The thing with kids crying on a flight is they can get away with it!  I know there have been times when I wanted to pitch a fit but have to hold it together because I’m an adult, kids get to cry and scream and it’s automatically the parents fault.

This poor little girl was in obvious discomfort the ENTIRE flight.  The sounds coming from her tiny body was scary.  I just knew if I looked over the seat I would find Linda Blair practicing for the Exorcist.  All I could do was laugh because it was seriously freaking me out.  Towards the end of the flight, a man across the isle from her was not happy and decided he needed to give the mom his opinion.  It was then that I could feel the atmosphere in the plane change.  This is when people go mad in flight.

The poor kid who sat next to me in 8E kept cracking up and said something to the affect that the little girl was sucking all of the oxygen from the cabin.  Bursting out in laughter every once in a while at the ridiculousness of the situation, I’m pretty sure he was convinced of never having children.

Kicking back at SeaTac
Kicking back at SeaTac

It was a pretty bumpy flight into SeaTac.  I had to elbow my seat mate once.   He was joking about the plane flipping upside down, seriously not funny after my flight into Ketchikan.  We finally touched down and relief washed over me.  I was in no hurry to get off the plane, I had 7 hours before the next leg of my trip.  With so much time on my hands I decided to ride the train back and forth between the N and C gates at SeaTac for a while until I found a great spot to kick back, plug in and write.  After a few hours I started to feel like Tom Hanks in The Terminal.

I began to learn the ropes around there, found the good spots to plug in (C gates) at the very end of the terminal, you can go down to A gates for some quiet time.  My only problem there was I found myself singing and wanting to bust a move while listening to my music on my head phones!

After 6 hours I was done playing, I just wanted to go to sleep and my plane wasn’t scheduled to leave until 11 p.m.  I decided to walk around to wake up when I heard this thunderous roar… I looked out the window and it was as if there were buckets literally being dumped outside.  It was storming and I knew then I was in for another extremely fun ride in a plane.  Tim Chueys article about planes came to my mind.  It was another rough flight home.  The flight attendant came over the intercom and said “If we get up in the air safely (Excuse me?  There are some things you shouldn’t say, just my opinion) we will have a very short inflight service”   I passed on the snack and drinks.  I realized then that it is best to keep my eyes shut until we touch ground, this way I didn’t have to see the plane twisting or the people and chairs shaking, I could just imagine it.


SeaTac - my home for 7 hours
SeaTac – my home for 7 hours

I didn’t climb into bed until 3 a.m., but I was in my bed.  Waking up way too early I was pretty much dead to everything and tried to relax all day Monday.  Realizing I was hungry, I put my flip flops on (I’m in denial about the rain right now) and headed out my front door, I wanted some fresh picked tomatoes from my garden.  I opened the door and found a bag of groceries, a container of home made chicken soup and a note from my wonderful friend Sonja.

“I figured you hadn’t had a chance to go shopping yet.  Glad you are home!  Talk to you soon!”


I was exhausted from the last few days and to find this on my front steps was a small miracle in itself.  I reached into my refrigerator earlier for some butter and found some items my friend Janet had placed inside for me as well and I am still finding things she has done for me.  My heart is overwhelmed by the people in my life and “Thank you” just doesn’t seem enough.  Often times we can’t begin to imagine what we mean to others.

Because of the rough flights I endured on my trip to and from Alaska I can say I don’t want to step foot onto another aircraft for some time, unless it is headed for the Bahamas.

See you out there!





Sandy Harris is a writer for Eugene Daily News. Sandy grew up on an island in the Alexander Archipelago in the southeastern region of Alaska. Her life's passions include writing and photography. Follow her on (

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