Out of the Blue

Angel at the Gate

When the paper trail goes cold

By Deborah Salomon

Let me relate an experience — every detail accurate — that touches on COVID, technology, luck and the basic goodness of mankind. Or, as it happens, womankind. After months, if not years, of tribulations we must treasure every crumb.

My grandsons live in Montreal, where I lived for 26 years. They are now 23 and 25. The older one is an attorney, the younger, a certified auto mechanic/service department manager. They are tall, wickedly handsome, happy, affectionate and self-supporting.

Their father, my son Danny, died when they were 6 and 7. I was a presence in their lives from birth until I moved to North Carolina in 2007. Until recently I flew back to see them every six weeks. Now, I go three or four times a year, a joyous reunion with many hugs.

Due to COVID I’ve only seen them twice in the past two years. Flying, especially internationally, is a hassle; fewer and more expensive flights, lots of paperwork.

I prefer to depart from Greensboro — PTI is a fantastic airport, not crowded, with convenient parking and plenty of flight options.

My most recent trip began March 15, the infamous Ides.

I knew the ropes from a trip in November: passport, vaccine card, results from a specific COVID test within a specific time period. Other information (like quarantine location at destination, if required) was loaded onto an Arrive/CAN QR code.

I’m good at details. Everything was in order.

I presented the vaccine card and paperwork to the American Airlines agent in Greensboro. He separated the pages, took a quick look and handed them back. I put the bundle in my purse.

The flight to Charlotte was quick, followed by a long layover before connecting to Montreal. At the departure gate I was asked for passport and vaccination card. Without them I could not board. My vaccination card was not among the papers the agent had handed back. I emptied my purse, pockets, wallet. No luck. I felt panic rising. Not only would I be denied boarding, I’d be stuck in the airport overnight before returning home.

An off-duty AA agent in the gate area observed the developing catastrophe. She was a larger-than-life, friendly woman with a loud, happy voice. She was about to become my angel.

“Don’t you have (the card) on your phone, hon?” she asked,      in disbelief.

No, I’m not cell-centric. Hard copies remain my style.

“How about on your laptop?”

Don’t own one, but there’s an image on my desktop, at home.

Problem: Nobody at home.

However, I did have my IT guy’s phone number. And I had hidden a key outside in case the cat sitter forgot hers. But would Bill, my trusty techie for 13 years, even be home?

He was — a miracle. He heard my desperation, dropped everything and drove to my apartment, found the key, booted up my computer, accessed the file with the vaccination card.

Now what? I was afraid to have him send it to my phone. “Email it to mine,” angel lady suggested. He did. It came through. Sigh of relief. She photographed the image on her phone with my phone so I would have it for the return trip. Passengers witnessing this drama (including my mini-meltdown) applauded.

When I returned to Greensboro three days later I told the American Airlines manager what had happened. He was borderline rude, said it was my responsibility to keep tabs on documents, snapped, “Check the lost and found.”

Remember the 1990s TV series Touched by an Angel, where an angel in disguise played by the late Della Reese helps someone out of a crisis? Once home I Googled the show. My jaw dropped at the resemblance between Della and my American Airlines guardian.

I don’t believe in spooky stuff. My favorite angels were painted by Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli. However, this was the third event in my lifetime with paranormal implications. One happened at the dedication of Danny’s gravestone, in 2005. This one enabled me to hug his little boys, now grown men, and prepare their favorites for dinner. They laughed at my story, teased Nanny for not being more tech-savvy and hugged me back.

In a world plagued by death and destruction, once in a while an angel flaps her wings over a disbeliever.

My turn came at Charlotte Douglas International Airport on the Ides of March.  PS

Deborah Salomon is a writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She may be reached at debsalomon@nc.rr.com.

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