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Let’s take a moment and do a little math: The average person with a full-time job works eight hours a day. Factor in the average commute of 30 minutes each way, and there’s another hour. We’re supposed to get eight hours of sleep each night, but most of us don’t, so let’s say we get six hours a night, for argument’s sake. That leaves us a mere nine hours out of a 24-hour day for “me” time, or “family” time, as it were. (Trust me, these are very generous estimates.)

Here’s my point: Many of us spend more time with our careers than with anything else we do. And that’s fine. In fact, that’s more than fine. That’s capitalism. But since we spend as much time with coworkers as with our own families, it stands to reason that we should get as much out of our jobs as we possibly can. We should make life as pleasant as possible for those around us while we’re on the clock. We should think not only of ourselves but also about the task at hand, the end result, and the person who pays us that check so we can spend our nine hours of “me” or “family” time enjoying services provided by others while they’re on the clock. It’s as Bob Dylan said: “You’re gonna have to serve somebody.” All of us do. So do it right.

Let me illustrate this point with a true story: A couple of months ago, Michelle and Todd Grizzle were on flight 1008 from Portland to Dallas/Fort Worth.

Sitting one row in front of them was a seven-year-old girl traveling alone. Watching the way she powerfully gripped her teddy bear and the rapidity with which she dug into her backpack and started coloring the minute she was in her seat, Michelle and Todd noted to each other that the girl looked scared.

The flight attendant, whom we’ll call Frank, had a full flight and a tough day ahead at the proverbial office. He was tasked with keeping an eye on the girl, but even still, he was also tasked with addressing the needs of the other 120 people on board.

He started off the flight by helping the girl into her seat and informing her that if she needed anything, she should ring the call button. She responded with a timid nod. Frank left her with a smile, which made the girl smile, which made Michelle and Todd smile.

After takeoff, Frank popped by with a pint of milk and a giant chocolate-chip cookie. “Here you go, dear,” he said, and the girl eagerly accepted the gift. No sooner did Frank return to the galley than the girl spilled the milk all over herself and dropped the cookie on the floor.

As this was happening, Frank on a whim decided to bring the girl some chips. When he got to her seat, she sat there, soaked in milk, lip quivering, with a look that said, “I’m sorry,” and, “Don’t be mad at me,” all at once.

Frank took over. “Oh, you poor thing,” he said. “Let’s get you cleaned up. Follow me.” He escorted her to the lavatory in first class and handed her some towels. “Go ahead, dear. Take your time. I’ll be right outside if you need me.” The girl returned to a new carton of milk and a new cookie. After that, Frank checked on her every 10 minutes of that nearly four-hour flight. Each time he did, the girl smiled, which made Frank smile, which made Michelle and Todd smile.

Frank escorted the girl off the plane to her waiting mother and chatted with her for a long while. He wasn’t anxious to part, and he wasn’t watching the clock. Frank took pride in his work. His pride made those around him proud. And this story made me smile.

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Adam Pitluk

Send Adam your stories from the skies. He can be reached at adam.pitluk@aapubs.com.

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