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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Ironic Airport Encounter - Helping out a Teen

My plane dropped into PHX airport on Dec 31 at 9:30am and while waiting for my connecting flight to San Diego, I met this very cute (and apparently str8) high school teen boy-jock next to me in the airport lounge. He started the conversation because there was a lone sparrow flying around in the waiting area. He was also going to San Diego but was on stand-by... without much hope of getting home until an evening flight (according to the US Airways ground staff).

We kept talking - I was in a generous and talkative mood.. he seemed to be a genuinely sweet kid and showed interest when I mentioned where I was traveling from (and to). We got into a conversation about his future career possibilities and I encouraged him to consider trying to actualize his dreams and to actually get into medical school - not just sports therapy.

His parents had sent to Phoenix for a week-long professional league baseball camp. He is still a sophomore in high school. We also got on the topic of gun control and he was claiming that Arizona' less strict gun control laws and restrictions on private citizens owning and bearing arms were a much stronger deterrent to illegal hand guns than in his native state of California. We were both enjoying the lively banter... and the sparrow still kept flying around -- in and among all the busy in the busy airport lounger - to our amusement.

A bit later, the airline gate staff called for anybody who had no checked luggage and who would be willing to give up their seat to go on another flight (actually an earlier one that had been delayed in departing). I told the kid (Steven age 15) that I was going to go on that flight so that he could get a seat. I was just about ready to adopt him when he said that he wanted to come with me (nothing 'sexual' intended I presume). He followed me up to the other gate but I made him go back and stay with the flight that had his bag.

He kept saying he enjoyed talking to me...... I was very flattered.

So after a rather long and unanticipated wait again on the jetway, this plane eventually departed and the again still-further delayed flight reached San Diego only a few minutes before the one that Steven (hopefully) was on.

I couldn't help striking up a conversation with the woman next to me. She and her daughter were returning from a visit to her family (parents) in Phoenix and she had only been able to get this flight - since evidently everything was completely booked all day long to San Diego. We figured it probably had something to do with increased air travel to the greater LA area for the New Year's Day Rose Parades (and / or Bowl games).

 This plane was supposed to have departed at 8:45 or so, but due to mechanical trouble (Uh oh!) it had been delayed until a nearly 11:00am departure. Now I was sitting on it, and waiting impatiently for it to depart, wondering if Steven, the high school hottie (he makes Zac Efron look like a dork).

Oh well.. I wondered if I should have encouraged him to come along and catch this flight - instead of taking a chance that my giving up my flight on that flight would actually benefit him. There seemed to be plenty of extra seats on this flight. I could have insisted (as Premier Exec) that Steven's bag be pulled and that he get on this flight with me -- so we would have had a chance to get to know each other better.

He really was a sweet, affable young man. He dreamed of being an athlete, but he was also realistic about his chances of becoming a professional one. So his 'backup' career was to become a sports injury rehabilitation therapist. Maybe the idea of massaging injured athletes' muscled legs and bulky arms or broken bones was appealing to him.. the thought of which certainly got my juices stirring.

When the plan was landing, I realized that my other flight should be landing at about the same time.

Although I thought better of it (for a moment), I know I just had to find out if he had made it or not to San Diego on that flight. So I asked at the gate where we deplaned and found out what gate his planed had landed at. By the time I got there, the passengers had already disembarked so I ran to baggage claim.

There he was waiting around the baggage carousel for his bags.. It first he appeared not to notice me or to not recognize me.. but I waved anyway. I seemed strange that he would look surprised to see me. Then it dawned that he was actually worried to see me. He'd changed this shirt (maybe just taken off his team jersey) and removed his baseball cap - more like he was trying to disguise himself. It made me realize that his parents had probably warned him of the possibility of a my being a stalker or a child molester roaming the airport in Phoenix, trying to pick up teen boys.

Maybe it wasn't anything like that at all... since he probably had assumed by earlier 'flight' had longer ago arrived -- well before his - but in reality our planes landed just minutes apart.

Despite all these thoughts flashing through my head, I knew I really done what I did for him - as a selfless act. I wasn't going to let his possibility misconstruing my act prevent me from greeting him. I didn't let those fears deter I came up to him smiling and told him I just want to know if he'd make it safely and on that flight. I explained that my flight did leave Phoenix until just little while before his - so that why we landed just minutes apart. He seemed pre-occupied. Maybe he was afraid I'd grab him .. he was not the same boy who had so easily and self-confidently spoken to me just a couple of hours before.

He kind of stumbled as if he didn't know what to say.. and I shook his hand and said goodbye, and good luck. There was not even a word of polite gratitude. I know my 'act of kindness' was probably not that critical -- maybe a lot of people had given up their seat and changed flights or whatever.. so he might very well have be able to catch it as a stand-by passenger. I felt I learned a slightly bittersweet lesson. People can accept the act of a good Samaritan, but they don't actually appreciate the Samaritan coming back to seek any recognition or acknowledgement.

It was strange how an act of kindness can sometimes be misconstrued. I don't have any real evidence that he felt that way - -but i seemed so apparent in his reaction to seeing me suddenly appear in San Diego - he looked shocked or suddenly fearful. I just knew he was thinking the worst was about to happen.

Later that night when I discovered that my red-eye flight to Chicago had been cancelled, I thought to myself "No good deed goes unpunished."

I hadn't told anyone this story - and just remembered it when I thought of Abe (some I know who lives in Phoenix - an online-only acquaintance) whom I accidentally found that as a friend of a friend on a popular social networking site). I told him by e-mail privately but later decided to write it as a blog entry because it also strikes at the root of something that really bothers me about American society - the Victimization of the American Teen. We hear nothing more powerfully damaging to our psycho-social status (as gay males) than to be lumped into a category of CHILD MOLESTER. The fear of 'child molestation' is now so pandemic that it is affects how ALL men and women either as parents, teachers, or just innocent bystanders are treating (or ignoring) the education and socialization of children, adolescents and young adults.

I will some day write more about this issue.

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