What a wonderful time I had at the AOTA conference! I met some very nice women and made a few new friends too! I took a cab to the airport with plenty of tiime to spare just in case I got lost in teh terminal. But I was prepared.
Sometimes when I’m waiting at the airport, time can fly as I become absorbed in my emails, get engaged in the doodle and drawing program on my iPad, text messages, books on my kindle and a variety of “toys” I bring to amuse myself as I wait at airports.
This particular trip I had gotten absorbed again and when I heard the loud speaker announce “boarding in 5 minutes!” I panicked because I had not yet bought food for the 6 hour flight, so I ran over the closest food place I saw and bought a burger and fries and shoved the bag into my travel case and boarded my plane for home. I found a seat in the middle. Too bad i didn’t get an aisle seat, my favorite. I put my things away and got adjusted in my seat. I was hungry and waited until the captain announced ” we have reached 10k feet you are free to turn on your electronic devices. When i heard this announcement, i happily pulled down the tray table and brought out my lunch. I had taken 2 bites of the burger, when the woman next to me said, ” I’m a vegetarian”, while chewing my food, I smiled and nodded, in acknowledgment. I respect all diets, vegetarian diets, gluten free diets, dairy free diets, snickers candy bar diets. It’s all ok with me. I do not judge what another person chooses to eat.
She kept looking at me and said, “I don’t eat meat” . I was reaching for a French fry, and said, ” my sister in law is a vegetarian, she enjoys it very much, there are some recipes I like too”. I thought this might be the end of the conversation. The older gentleman, who appeared to be in his late 70’s or early 80’s was seated on my right, kept reading his AARP magazine.
The woman turned to look at me as I ate, I knew another comment was coming. I was right. She said, “I’ve been a vegetarian for 18 years, I’m doing my part!!”. First, I wondered what she meant by “doing my part”, was it her her part for the environment?, for humanity?
I put my hamburger back into it’s box and put in the bag. I turned to look at her to give her my full attention and I said very calmly and genuinely, ” I am an occupational therapist, I have worked with autistic children, i work with patients with traumatic brain injuries and teach them compensation strategies to get through life, I work with spinal cord patients and teach them how to be independent in the world, i work with the mentally ill and educate them with coping skills, and I work with aging patients, geriatrics, and educate them on how age in their own home safely. I’m doing my part too.”
With that, I pulled my big Mac from the bag, took a bite and relaxed in my seat. I finished the rest of my hamburger in peace. Of course there is so much more to what I do, and what i could have said, but these are the words that seemed to work at that moment. She finally sat back in her seat.
The elderly man next to me looked over at me, patted me on the leg and said, “god bless you, thank you for all you do” . This was the one of best thank you’s i have ever received and turned out to be one of the best flights I have ever had.