• Last modified 2978 days ago (June 23, 2011)


Off the record

Good to go but good to come back

Vacations are wonderful. We anticipate them for months — or in my case, for years. I just returned from a great week with my daughter and grandson in the sunny state of California.

Christina and I had planned this trip with Dylan since he was about 2 years old. Our focus was Legoland in Carlsbad, Calif. Of course, we knew we had to take in other tourist traps, including Disneyland, L.A., and the beaches. I have a couple of friends who live in Long Beach. They always said if I was ever out their way, to let them know. So I did. They were great hosts, taking us to see all of the tourist sites and some sites off the beaten path.

We flew into San Diego, drove to Carlsbad for two days, and then drove on to Long Beach for the remainder of the week. People, people, everywhere. Bumper-to-bumper traffic across freeways was far different from driving across town, but we soaked up the atmosphere and enjoyed every minute.

I made an observation that somewhat amazed me. No matter where we went, people were friendly and helpful. I know the Midwest has a certain friendliness that is unique but I have to say California people were just as friendly. Of course you expect it at the tourist attractions, but we experienced it at restaurants and retail shops. Even the people at the car rental agency in San Diego were helpful and courteous.

After similar trips like these, I usually come home disappointed in customer service and the overall behavior of retail clerks and food servers.

Another pleasant surprise is observing people helping others. On our return flight, we changed planes in Denver. As we boarded the flight from Denver to Wichita, I sat next to a young mother who was flying for the first time with her infant daughter. She was alone, leaving her husband in Denver while she visited family in Wichita. She was late boarding the plane — diaper bag and purse flung on her shoulders, baby in a firm grip in front of her with one hand and a coffee latte in the other.

I held her coffee while she stuffed her purse and bag under the seat and fastened her seat belt. Then the baby began to cry.

“She’s hungry,” the young mother said with a forced smile.

The 3-or-4-month-old baby was small but her cry wasn’t. As people began turning around and staring, the mother kept apologizing to me and others around her.

I told her not to worry about it and offered to help.

Then a man in the seat in front of her turned around and said with the gentlest of voices, “No worries. Relax and take care of your baby. Everything is fine.”

Now, I’m a woman, a mother, and a grandmother. It’s in my DNA to offer support and assistance to another female. Not every man would do the same.

Well, the baby continued to cry as the mother desperately tried to breastfeed her baby. The baby cried over the flight attendant as she explained the use of the seatbelt and the disaster plan. The baby cried over the roar of the plane engines as it taxied down the runway. People continued turning around and staring. What were they thinking? A dirty look would scare the baby into silence?

The mother continued to apologize to me. I told her to do whatever she needed to do. The harder the mother tried to nurse the baby, the harder the baby fought her.

I put up the armrest that separated the two seats. She repositioned the baby and began singing to her. Then it happened. The baby began to nurse, eventually drifting off to sleep.

When the flight arrived in Wichita and before I could offer, the man in front of her turned around and said, “Let me help you get off the plane.” And he did. He carried her purse and diaper bag, escorting her to meet her family who was waiting for her in the terminal.

People are people. Marion County people are friendly. But there are friendly, helpful people all around us, thank goodness.

Yes, vacations are great, but coming home to routine and our community is great, too.

— susan berg

Last modified June 23, 2011