Friday, December 9, 2011

A Holiday Help-Me-Out from a Swiss Samaritan

I travel often enough so that I do not ordinarily forget the essentials. In saying this, I am glossing over how my son Antonio had to race to the train station to bring me my passport two weeks ago when I left for the airport without it. Okay, I had a good excuse; I changed handbags the morning of my trip to Copenhagen and neglected to transfer my passport into my new purse. But other than that, really, I have a system and it does not often fail me.

That system consists of keeping my laptop case and my toiletry kit packed and ready to go at all times. What I did not count on was that on my return from Copenhagen, I would have such a head cold that I would go straight from the airport to my bed. With my laptop on my night stand, I finished writing an article and conducted an interview in my jammies.

And that is where my laptop power cord remained when I left the house for a flight to Geneva on Tuesday.  The cries of “Christine you numb skull!” reverberated around my noggin when, already at the airport, I went searching for the cord with 40% battery power remaining and a 10 day trip ahead of me.

With my Lenovo ThinkPad,, my essential travel companion.
Acting on a road warrior survival tip my husband taught me, I asked the receptionist at the Swiss business class lounge if I could go through their box of abandoned power cords and she sweetly allowed me to paw through the three that were there long enough to discover they would not work on my much loved, Lenovo ThinkPad.

Then, across the room, like a vision in black, I spied the distinctive profile of another Lenovo ThinkPad. It was opened, in use and plugged into the wall. Hovering over the keyboard was a man with an approachable face. So, on the extremely unlikely chance that this fellow traveler might have an extra power cord he’d be willing to sell me, I slipped up to him and asked.

I know this sounds ridiculous, but I was desperate! After a 12-hour stop in Geneva, I was headed to Harare and Addis Ababa (on Ethiopian Airlines), where, I was pretty darned sure finding a computer cable for my 6-year old laptop might not be all that easy. Anyway, here’s what he said.

 “I live in Zurich and I am flying home in an hour where I have another power cord. Why don’t you just take this one?”  

You are  re-reading those words undoubtedly because WHO DOES THIS? I did not need to have him repeat the offer because he delivered this statement with a lovely accent in perfect English with a demeanor that left no doubt he was absolutely sincere.

So here I sit at the absolutely charming Armandale Lodge in Harare. And the neighborhood has lost power 3 times, taking down the wifi as well. But this power cord, when it is energized, works like a champion.

My  Good Samaritan of Zurich, you are a gentleman. Even more, you reaffirm my conviction that people will do generous and unselfish things if given the opportunity. I am so glad my absentmindedness resulted in my meeting you which reminded me of this truth.


Anonymous said...

Things like that really reaffirm your belief in humanity don't they? On a smaller scale a gentlemen next to me on a flight from Europe to Atlanta a few months ago gave me a spare headphone connector he had so `i didn't have to suffer with the (economy) airline issue and could use my own in-ear set. I thought he meant it as a loan but he wouldn't take them back at the end of the flight - nice to know this type of person is still out there!

Jim Blaszczak said...


This is a great story about the blessings and generosity of the season. My guess is that the samaritan in you story has the same warm feelings about it as you. It's a natural human characteristic. As God, played by George Burns, responded to John Denver's character, Jerry Landers, who said, "I need help." God responded, "That's why I gave you each other." Life really is a team sport.

The other great part of your story is your self-deprecating anecdotes about forgotten travel items. Certainly, all travelers have been there. The aviation connection comes not just from traveling, but from the human factors reflected in your story.

Here's how it goes. You had a good plan, a "standard operating procedure" that would keep you from forgetting important items. There were unique differences this time. You were ill. Your laptop was on the nightstand. Circumstances required deviation from a habit pattern. An error crept in. This is how aviation accidents happen. We have SOPs, but then conditions change and distract us from a procedure. We focus on the immediate objective, in this case a previously scheduled interview. The rest is history, as they say.

Aviation is, as is life, dynamic. The environment is constantly changing no matter how much standardization we try to apply. For all the manuals, regulations and procedures, we still crash airplanes. I don't have the answer. I don't know how to stop pilots from crashing airplanes anymore than I can tell you how not to forget travel items except to embrace the fact that we are all human and will all make errors. It's just whether or not we will catch them in time.

We are all just one power cord away from "disaster"

Christine Negroni said...

You so "get" what I was trying to say. Thanks for this well thought out and articulated comment. Safe travels to you.