Every man has his secret sorrows, which the world knows not; and oftentimes we call a man cold when he is only sad. -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
Never was this more apparent than after a recent incident.
My housemate and I were headed off for some much needed rest and relaxation – flying out early from the airport. We duly arrived, checked in, got through security, had breakfast and went to the departure gate. All seemed to be fine. Then when we should have been boarding – silence; when we should have taken off the airline posted “more information at 10:00” (it was a 7:00 flight!).
Of course everyone headed for the lone hostess at the counter – she had announced that they would be giving vouchers for breakfast – with all their questions. As we weren’t in any particular rush having no meetings awaiting, we kind of hung back whilst the more business-looking passengers crowded in. There was one man who managed to get to the counter about the same time we did. Not dressed in a business suit, had we given him any thought at all it would have been “pushy”.
As it was the hostess started to deal with our questions when this man’s cell phone rang – and he shoved it towards the woman at the counter saying in broken French – “it’s my wife”. She reacted as one would – ignored him and keeping her calm continued to serve us. He was slightly agitated – we said we weren’t in any rush, the hostess finally talked with his wife. Normal.
After the short conversation where we gathered that he needed to be re-routed as quickly as possible, the hostess told him to go back out of the departure zone and check with the airline directly. He didn’t understand well and a few minutes later we found him at the Information booth in the departure hall zone still.
It was at this point that we learned that his mother had died suddenly of a heart attack and he was desperate to get to his family in Tunisia. He hadn’t been being rude, he was simply in anguish and unable to communicate in the local language.
We later bumped into him again – and found out that they had been able to re-route him on another airline and that he would be with his family later that day.
It again taught me that often things are not all they seem.
After my husband passed away, I was astonished at the number of friends who shared with me the early death of a parent; the loss of a sibling or other tragedies. These were all persons that I only knew to be happy, smiling and with “no problems”. It drove me to develop the following phrase: “there is often unsuspected tragedy behind smiling faces.”