Embarking on an adult college education is a little like leaving the comforts of ones familiar surroundings to travel. The obstacles encountered on our way to our destination often arise from information we don't have. Often, we find ourselves dependent upon the kindness of strangers to see us to our final destination.
Most of us have experienced the ups and downs of air travel – literally and figuratively. My particular travel woes on a recent flight out of Manchester NH were not the result of flight delays but rather from not knowing that airlines stopped accepting luggage thirty minutes before flight time - the dead line I missed by two minutes!
What followed was an agonizing three and a half hour wait on standby for the next, and last, flight of the day. By the grace of wonderfully kind gate attendant, literally minutes before the doors closed, I took the only unclaimed seat.
If I thought my travel difficulties ended when I took that seat, I was mistaken. With only an hour and a half between the Manchester flight and my connection in Detroit, the pilot’s announcement (as the plane sat idling at the gate) that "we" were over the weight limit generated more than mild anxiety. The solution, he said, was to burn off fuel. So we sat, the engines revved and the minutes passed.
The pilot then backed the plane away from the gate and proceeded to take us on a tour around the perimeter of the airport. Coming to a stop at a runway, the engines revved a final time before taking off. The entire process reduced the one and a half hour layover between my two flights to less then thirty minutes. During the flight, my panic and anxiety rose, in spite of reassurances from the two men sitting on either side of me that I'd make my connecting flight.
The minute the plane landed, the man on my left pulled out his Blackberry and asked for my connecting flight’s number. In minutes, he told me what gate the flight was departing from. Now, he said, we need to know this plane's arrival gate number. If the number was a single digit, he explained, I’d have to take the tram to the next terminal and I'd more than likely miss my flight. The gentleman to my right craned his neck to see out the small window and minutes later announced "Gate A49!" Once you enter the concourse, the Good Samaritan on my right directed, turn right. Your gate is straight ahead, at the very end of the terminal. Doing the math in my head, twenty-eight gates (half on the left and half on the right), didn't seem that far.
I thanked them both for their help and raced up the ramp, turned right as instructed and raced towards gate A77. But the reality of the distance I had to cover was so different from the cold, hard math. Only half way there, time was running out. Spotting an airline attendant manning Gate A59, I stopped, gasped my name and asked her to notify gate A77 that I was almost there and continued on my way as she reached for her phone.
In a few minutes, Gate A77 was in sight and I felt a surge of relief seeing the line of people. But my relief was short lived because the line turned out to be for gate A75! It was then that I saw gate A77’s door closing.
"Wait" I yelled. "Wait!" But the door clicked shut. Turning, the attendant held up his hand, telling me to stop - or so I thought until I saw the smile on his face and realized he was telling me to take it easy. Removing the electronic key card from his pocket, he opened the door and motioned me in.
The fact that I arrived at my destination at all is a testament to the small kindnesses of strangers who crossed my path that day. If any one of them had not offered his assistance, my day would have had a different ending.
The staff and faculty at Granite State College are like those strangers who helped me reach my destination - ready to get involved, eager to be of assistance. Granite State College staff and faculty do whatever they can to insure that Granite State College students arrive at their educational destination. However, there is one difference between my Good Samaritans and Granite State College staff and faculty. By the time Granite State College students graduate, they call many of our staff and faculty "friend."