My “Shiny” Day This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

February 8, 2010
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I knew it was going to be a bad day when I had overslept and hurried out the door, only to realize my gas tank was on empty.
As I grabbed a cup of coffee at the gas station, I wondered, “Why was I assigned these early flights?”
I was also wondering how I was going to explain my tardiness. I certainly didn’t have my act together that morning.
Looking back as I arrived at the gate, my supervisor gave me a sympathetic smile saying, “Are you alright?”
After looking at myself I can see why she asked. I had left in such a hurry, I didn’t realize my skirt was on backwards and the buttons of my blouse were off.
“No, but I will be!” I replied.
The flight was about to board and I took my place inside the plane and hurriedly straightened myself.

As the first passengers came in, I gave them my phony smile saying, “Good Morning! Welcome aboard.” I found myself resisting a big yawn.
I would rather have been in bed at that moment, still sleeping, but not long after takeoff there I was taking orders for drinks. As I was serving this particular passenger his orange juice, we hit some turbulence, and the juice spilled all over him. He became livid and then proceeded to yell at me.
“Look what you have done! This is a $1000 dollar suit! Don’t blame the turbulence, for goodness sake. You should know by now that can happen at any moment!”
He kept yelling at me, until another flight attendant, Jenny cooled him down. I was so close to telling him off.
“Keep your cool Michelle, keep your cool,” I thought to myself. Then to make matters worse, a passenger’s baby started crying. I really didn’t need this. The high pitched sounds coming from the baby gave me an awful headache. It was as if the cries were echoing inside my head. As I continued to serve the passengers, an unlucky woman had to squeeze through the serving cart in the aisle to get to the restroom. She was trapped either way.
“Now why did she have to relieve herself at this very moment? There had been plenty of opportunity while we waited to have everyone seated, but noooooo, she had to wait until this precise time to go,” I thought to myself.

As she did so, I accidently bumped into a sleeping passenger. The passenger rudely remarked,
“Can’t you see I was sleeping and I didn’t want to be disturbed? If I had wanted any of your coffee or juice, I would have put the tray down. Isn’t that how it works?”
“Oh yes madam I apologize,” all the while I was thinking, the things I have to put up with.
All of my life, as long as I could remember, I dreamt of flying to international cities and getting paid. I couldn’t believe my dream was turning into a nightmare!
As the baby continued to cry, I could tell the other passengers were getting annoyed. My head was about to explode and I went straight to that mom and gritting my teeth told her,
“Can’t you quiet that baby of yours? I’m feeling the most painful migraine,” and then I walked away.
Thank goodness it was a short flight. I thought I had survived but that was not the case. My supervisor gave me a stern warning, to never treat any passenger the way she had been told, even if I was having a bad day. It was simply inexcusable and I was given a verbal warning.
“Oh great”! I thought to myself. “This is all I needed. This day couldn’t possibly get any worse.”
I was so happy to land and recover from that dreadful flight. As I picked up my belongings from the bottom shelf, I realized that I needed another cup of coffee to help me relax and energize me at the same time.

As I was pulling my suitcase behind me, I found a Starbucks and ordered a hot coffee mocha. I found a seat in the crowded open room and sat down to regroup. I was alone in my thoughts when what appeared to be a homeless man approached me.
He said to me, “Your pedestal has seen better days. May I make it appear good as new?”
“My pedestal? What are you talking about? I asked.
“Why your shoes of course! I can shine them so bright, it’ll put a smile back on your pretty face”. He replied.
I realized I had also worn my older pair of uniform shoes which had gone unnoticed until that moment.
“Oh! These”, I replied, as I looked down to see them. “By all means, work your magic”, I added.
“Well, I work just right over there whenever you’re ready,” pointing to a spot not so far. “ I’ll be waiting,” he said.

I licked my lips as I savored the last swallow of my favorite hot drink and decided to take that shoe shine offer.
As I sat to get my shoes shined, I felt as if the weight of my morning was being lifted with every wipe he took of each of my shoes. That passenger with the $1000 dollar suit? In reality he had hoped to return it for credit. He was very, very worried about possibly losing his job and had invested in a new suit for a job interview for a high level position. He couldn’t afford that suit, but it was like armor that he needed to help him feel less nervous. “No wonder he was so tense and upset”, I thought.
The passenger who insisted on going to the restroom was actually suffering from an illness that forced her to go when she least expected. She was more embarrassed than anything. I realized I had no idea what she was enduring.
The sleeping passenger was actually a traveling nurse who had just finished a tough assignment and was on her way to another job, and had scarcely rested. I didn’t have a clue how tired she really was.

As for that poor mom, she had to travel in spite of having a small baby because her father had just suffered a heart attack, and wanted to be at his bedside with his newest grandchild, which he had not seen in person. “There I was making her situation worse than what she was already facing”, I sighed.
I should have been more understanding. I should have tried to put myself in their shoes. Wait! What just happened? I actually did place myself in my passengers’ shoes by seeing their lives reflected in my shiny shoes. I realized that I had gained a rare insight of what was going on with the people I faced this morning.
No words were exchanged between the shoe shiner and me. His smile and his eyes let me know he understood what was going through my mind.
At the end, my mood had completely changed. “How much do I owe you?” I asked.
“Everyday my FIRST customer is always for free and I offer it as a gift because people like you keep me in service by not judging my appearance,” he replied.
I thanked him heartily and as I walked away I realized I would treat others the same way I treated the shoe shiner and he in turn had treated me. We are ALL on the same path only wearing different shoes.

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