Small Opportunities Surround Us
Once a week, I don a Stetson and a green blazer and I man an Airport Ambassador booth at Gate D-22 in the international terminal at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
Airport Ambassadors answer all kinds of questions about the Airport and the region, and we do everything that we can to provide a pleasant experience for the traveling public.
A friend recommended that I become an Airport Ambassador, and I agreed immediately, since I spent 30 years as a business traveler and I worked on numerous airport financings.
I can spot the seasoned business travelers right away, and they look like I used to look — dragging a suitcase, lugging a briefcase, talking on a cell phone, texting on a Blackberry. (Often, they look as tense and tired as I used to look, too.)
Business travelers rarely need help (at least, they rarely need help navigating the airport) but they usually appreciate the offer, and they always appreciate a smile and a wave, since it is not unusual to spend all day in airports and hotels without seeing a smile or a wave.
I am always on the lookout for occasional travelers, who are less familiar with the Airport, and I especially watch for children, disabled people, elderly people, foreign visitors, etc.
I never wait to be approached, because I know that some people will never ask for help (even if they need it) and that other people have not yet figured out that they need help — “No, I know my gate.” Great, do you know how to get there? “No, how do I get there?”
During a four-hour shift, I might approach 500 strangers, asking if they need any help. Before I got my Stetson, I probably never approached 500 strangers in my whole life, and before that time, I certainly never offered to help 500 strangers in my whole life.
Now, whether I am working at the Airport or not, I am more likely to approach strangers, to notice people who need help, and to watch for children, disabled people, and the elderly.
I am always greeting people, too. After I posted “The Mayor of Everywhere,” on the blog, a friend asked if I ever get strange looks when I greet people, and I explained that I do not, because I am always wearing some kind of name tag or shirt or uniform.
(As I thought about it, I realized that even when I am “out of uniform” I am “in uniform,” since my ponytail, sleeveless shirts, cargo pants, and reef shoes clearly signal “retired guy” and that I probably get some strange looks anyway, whether I am greeting people or not.)
Anyway, being an Airport Ambassador has subtly changed the way that I live my life, and it has made me notice the small opportunities to help, whether I am at the Airport or not.