Just Give Out Free Bagels OR Why People Are Meaner After Christmas

December 26, 2013

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So, we were eating breakfast in New York over the holidays and in walks a homeless woman – face red from the cold.

She approaches the rustic take-out counter at this fairly trendy restaurant.

I watch, waiting for the woman working there to throw the lady out.

She doesn’t.  It’s December 29th.

The waitress patiently answers the woman’s questions about the menu, and explains that there are no muffins – only bagels right now. She speaks to her for ten minutes. She explains, repeatedly, what they serve and what they don’t.

She doesn’t raise her voice or grow impatient.

The woman finally decides to order a muffin and reaches to pay for the meal.

“Don’t you worry about it. Have a happy New Year.” The woman nods in thanks and walked off.

That time between Christmas and New Year’s seems to bring out the best in people.

Just as the time right after brings out the worst.

Let’s jump to the terminal at LaGuardia waiting to return home to Montreal.

Flights to Canada are notoriously cancelled.

This is Friday, January 3rd – the northeast is ‘recovering’ from thousands of cancelled flights – but has yet to learn that this will be a long, brutal winter.

Our morning flight has been cancelled and we’ve been scheduled to fly out that evening.

We have a wonderful, extra day – if you’re ever in the East Village, go and check out East Village Books (99 St. Marks Place btw. 1st & A).

We get to the airport. I’m still reading The Goldfinch. We wait. The flight gets delayed. We wait. Delayed. Wait. Delayed. On this goes for two hours until, red screen blazing, it’s cancelled.

The American Airline woman announces the cancellation and that the next available flight out is Tuesday. Four days from now. And then she walks away.

People yell. The airline can’t do this, they plead.

Unfortunately, there are no more planes or seats and the whole thing is a big mess.

There is a mother, travelling with an infant and toddler, who seems shaken.

“I’ve been here since Wednesday, and I need to get formula for my baby.” The woman at AA hears answers, verbatim:

“Yes, I understand this. However, the onus is on you to provide food for your child.”

Perhaps the people working at the airport over the years, as the purveyor of irritating news, are sick of being yelled at. Maybe they’ve lost all empathy.

Some of them simply don’t care anymore.

One airline worker told a young girl from France that she should simply go to Penn Station and catch a bus. Or rent a car. She was so flustered that she had to move aside.

We were lucky that family friends happened to be there and we could get a ride home. Otherwise, we would have rented a car and driven.

We were reimbursed and the others were put up in a hotel in Long Island.

We were lucky that we had my brother’s place.

I’m not sure what the point of this story is except to look at how easy it would be to pause, hand out a free cup of coffee and a nice, freshly baked bagel every now and then.

Just saying.



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