After a change in travel plans, I called the airline to see if I could get on an earlier flight, but I had bought a “no changes allowed” ticket. The airline representative told me, though, that the gate agent could let me board an earlier flight, so I decided to go to the airport early to see if the I could make the switch.
It was my birthday, and I thought that if the gate agent knew, it might help my cause. So, I bought a button that proclaimed Birthday Girl and pinned it to my coat.
I am happy to be alive and grateful for every birthday. I have never lied about my age because every birthday reminds me how blessed I am and gives me the opportunity to think of family members and friends who died young, all those who did not reach my current age.
In the shuttle from the car rental agency to the airport terminal, several people wished me happy birthday. A man across from me asked me how old I was, which startled me since people don’t usually ask. I told him I was sixty-eight, and he said, “You look great.”
I don’t know what sixty-eight is supposed to look like (or act like, for that matter), but I appreciated the compliment.
The TSA agent looked at my birthday girl button and checked my driver’s license before wishing me a happy birthday. “Just checking?” I asked. “I didn’t want to be made a fool,” he said.
The surly cashier at the donut shop looked at my button and asked, “Is it really your birthday?” I assured her it was. She broke out in a big smile and wished me a happy birthday.
The birthday wishes continued as I walked through the terminal to the gate, and it made me happy to think of the impact of one little button.
When I got to the gate, the monitor indicated that there were fifty open seats on the earlier flight.
I approached the gate agent and explained my situation and asked if she could help me. She said there was nothing she could do. I relayed my conversation with the airline representative on the phone, but nothing—not even knowing it was my birthday—softened her.
I wondered what had happened to this woman that prevented her from doing this act of kindness. Had she just gotten some bad news? Was she preoccupied with her own problems? Had someone said “no” to her that morning?
I understood that she was just doing her job, that she had every right to deny my request, and so I walked away. I was sad for her and prayed that she would find joy.
And I didn’t allow her surliness to impact my happiness. As I boarded my flight, the flight attendant said happy birthday and asked if I was thirty-nine. “I crossed over to forty this year,” I joked. Complimentary bubbly and extra cookies added to my birthday celebration.