Bullet in Bosnia

Thursday, February 23rd was supposed to be an ordinary albeit busy day.  Ordinary for me means well planned and perfectly executed in my head. I had a consulting job that required flying to Tampa for a few hours and returning the same day.

It all started well – for the most part I was on time (people who know me, hush). I left the ‘boro and headed to BNA and as I rounded the ramp to I24 – knew it was time to get my Nascar drive on. Dodging traffic, necessary dumping onto shortcut roads ensued and I made it through security in a record 9 minutes. As I approached the gate, I could see the plane barely backing away. First EVER missed flight, other than those I have on purpose rescheduled, and I think I do more flying than the average person. The gate attendant smiled big and said “Good morning Ms. Hoyt, I have put you on the next flight to Charlotte” Agh! Good time to have permission to have a bad attitude.  So I took my little bad attitude to the coffee shop to review the notes for work. I fired up the IPAD and settled in. Waiting over an hour is not something I am good at. I finished my notes as they began boarding the next flight.

I normally do not fly US Airways. Not because they are more expensive (and they are) – but because I feel their customer service as a whole is dreadful. Case in point: Emergency seat #14 was empty on this flight and they offered it to a retired Sergeant Major. This seat gives a little extra leg room but also some responsibility in case of an emergency. He said yes, and without any gratitude the staff informed him that there is a fee to take this seat. The four of us standing nearby were slightly stunned. He politely told her that in case of an emergency – he would do what he could to help but he would not pay to do so. The entire flight boarded – we all sat in our assigned seats. His was next to mine. As the plane began to fill up the 3 guys and I (in our 15th row) wondered if they had sold the emergency exit seat. They did not. After they pushed back from the gate, we suggested that he sit there. He moved. The staff told him he could not sit there.  What is unfortunate for him is something I tell my public service friends all the time – they have you pegged. They know you would help for free. Regardless, we had a great discussion about the stupidity of that policy. In our stupidity conversation, this soldier told me he was on his way to Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC). My first reaction was to tell him to not go there. But he said he was treated there initially and goes there for PT. He quipped that most Army guys are willing to talk about the Army. He did not tell me about his injury or what happened specifically. The all male (plus well – me) conversation turned to the subject of Golf.  He watched me sell some TEAM CLINTON bands and I gave him one. He asked about Clinton. I have a lot to say about Clinton but I was trying to make it relevant and perhaps secure some golfers – so I told him about our upcoming Fall tournament.  The plane landed and we found ourselves walking to neighboring gates for our connecting flights. I had to go a few gates further – so he hugged me and said, you know “If I can take a bullet in Bosnia for people who most of the time do not deserve it, I can certainly play Golf in Nashville, TN for a 7 year old who deserved more”. In retrospect, maybe he wasn’t hugging me at all – he was just helping me remain on my feet.  We exchanged email addresses and he emailed me first. He said he would be inviting a friend of his, named Tom. He said as part of his PT at WRAMC they gave him Golf clubs and he learned to play but he is not any good. His friend’s name – however – Tom Watson. That my friends is a true story and one that I can not wait to watch unfold.

I got to the gate and looked at recent Facebook posts. I found out that my cousin was on the first flight that I missed to Charlotte. I called him and he was already on Post and there was no time to meet up. I only mention this because I am certain that no airline could handle two Woodard’s on one plane, and because it makes me think that had we been on the plane together I probably would not have talked to this retired Sergeant Major. Amazing right? The day had just begun!

I boarded to Tampa and had a boring although smooth flight. I got picked up at the airport, consulted – learned all I could in the 3 hours I was there – noted it was hot as heck in FL and  briefly saw the ocean.

As I walked into the Tampa airport, I proceeded to the tram and a lost couple asked if it mattered which side they entered the tram. I explained no, the doors would open correctly, and asked them where they were going? Home they said. I heard it – an accent so memorable, I felt like I was home.  They said “England” I said, where? As in, try me. (In the same way people say they are from upstate NY). They tell me they are from an ever so tiny little village in Norfolk, England. Then I told them I lived in Croxton, Thetford, Norfolk. Not a town by any means, I mean – we didn’t even have a pub. Their eyes grew bigger. We talked for 30 minutes about so many things. England. Jumpers. Ribena. Cold. Fog. France. Brandon. England. Lorin. Clinton. America. Vacations. Barbados.  At one point, Brian said he is always surprised at how friendly Americans are. The words “oh that’s just southerners” actually came out of my mouth, and I laughed near hysterics when he said “southerners then”? We decided we better get to the other side of the security check point so we moved through and I, like usual got stopped. I could do another blog post on anti-profiling, but suffice it to say -if you have red hair, blue eyes and look them in the face – you will get pulled. Every single time.  As I got to the other side of check point catch that girl, the retired couple from England were waiting. They pulled out a little piece of paper that served as their business card. She cried, said she hated good-byes. I said the only thing I could think of (borrowed from my brother Jeff) – it’s not good-bye, it’s “see you again, then”.

So, I tucked the paper into my bag and had like 5 minutes to get to the gate.  I pulled out the paper after I boarded and read the note on the back. Please do come to England. Our flat is your flat, and our boat in Cedex, France is yours for the asking. How can I not be blown away by this? I just can’t.

Lorin has this dream to live in England on a farm -and sew her own clothes.  It sounds silly, but if you know Lorin – it makes perfect sense. I do not know yet what her dream really looks like, but I can not wait to see it come true. The photo below was taken a few years ago – but it’s one of my favorites of her and I. Ever looked into a mirror and have it look and talk like you right back?

My son Brandon, was named after a tiny little village in England where we briefly lived in a small freezing bungalow, until we moved to Croxton – further away from the Americans.  He has dreams of living in Japan – but he hasn’t been to Brandon, England yet. This is on the list this year. Totally going. One step closer to that too.

Overall, a very productive day. I came away from that day exhausted and back in Nashville. I am certain the English teachers viewing this will tell me that the ending of this story should be longer and tie back into all the components. But this is my story, and I am not being graded. As I drove back to the boro, I couldn’t help but wonder if these experiences are around everyone everyday – we are just too consumed in busy-ness to not look, not connect? ONE day. What a difference it can make.



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