I arrived at Bradley International Airport at 5:00 AM on Sunday for my flight to Cleveland, expecting to find the airport empty.
I was sorely mistaken. In fact, I’ve never seen it busier. I can’t imagine why.
Adding to my problems, my TSA Precheck status was not added to my American Airlines ticket, thus requiring me to line up like a plebian in the cattle lines of security.
I wasn’t too concerned. I knew I would be cutting it close, but I had little doubt that I would make it to the gate before the door closed.
As I waited, I saw a couple making their way through the line, cutting person after person to get ahead. The man was young and looked worried. The woman, whose hand he was holding, also looked concerned. As they drew near me, I heard the man tell someone standing ahead of him that they were just starting their honeymoon, trying to catch a flight that would eventually bring them to Hawaii, and they had less than 15 minutes to get to the gate. “Can you please let us through?”
The man smiled and allowed the couple to cut ahead of them.
As they approach an older man behind me, the younger man made his appeal again, asking to cut through. The older man replied, “We all have a plane to catch, buddy. Wait your turn like the rest of us!”
I was so excited.
I can’t fix a damn thing. My hands can’t build or repair anything. I can’t hit a golf ball for more than 170 yards. Can’t haggle with a salesperson to save my life. A bee sting can kill me, and enough mustard might do the job, too. I’ve never successfully tied a sheet bend.
But I know how to use my words. I am exceptionally adept at verbal sparring. I love to do battle with sentences.
It’s my superpower.
My brain works exceptionally quickly in a verbal confrontation. I see a multitude of options, choose wisely, and never lose my cool. I remember what was said, and I love turning another person’s words against them. I was a two-time Connecticut collegiate debate champion, and much to the dismay of my opponents, I never took notes during a debate. I adore confrontation and become overjoyed at the prospect of battling someone with my words.
So I was ready to blast this older man. My systems were rapidly coming online. Adrenaline was firing through my body. I was poised and primed for a verbal battle.
Seconds before I was ready to strike, a man to my left leaned closer to the older man and said, “I think that sometimes, in situations like this, people deserve a little grace. Don’t you?” His voice was soft. His volume was low. He was calm and almost serene, despite the commotion around us.
The older guy melted when he heard those words. Melted, I think, on the word “grace.” All the tension and anger in his body instantly disappeared. He actually smiled. It was kind of remarkable.
“You’re right,” the older man said. Then he turned to the young couple. “Go ahead, kid. Keep that wife of yours happy.”
I’ll never forget it.
I was going to come to the defense of the newlyweds with weaponized words, biting sarcasm, and a desire to make that older man feel small and stupid. I was excited about the opportunity, more for my personal enjoyment than for the benefit of the newlyweds.
My plan was to have some fun while also doing some good.
Then someone showed me another way. A decidedly less amusing way. Far less fun and a lot less exciting, but probably a hell of a lot more effective.
Sometimes the best way isn’t your way. Sometimes the best way isn’t the best way for you, but it’s the best way for everyone else concerned.
It’s an annoying truth, but I think it’s something I should consider more often in the future.
Just because you can do something well doesn’t mean you should assume that it’s the best or most effective means of solving a problem.
It might be best for you, but sometimes, regrettably, it isn’t about you.