We taxied down the runway in the tiny little four seater Cessna, props humming and the pilots of Anchorage chattering in our headphones. We were loaded to the brim and were sitting with luggage on our laps.
To my left sat the pilot that we’d met earlier that day via Craigslist. To Katie’s left sat the girl from Quebec, the 18 year old gypsy who’d been traveling the world for the past three years. We’d just met her an hour ago.
We ran down the tarmac and lifted off in the rattling tumult of a slightly enlarged sardine can with wings riveted on going 100 miles per hour. Before we knew it we were looking down on the city of Anchorage and the waters of Cook Inlet.
About 15 seconds later, the pilot spoke the words that we were really hoping not to hear that particular day: “we’ve got to land the plane guys, we have a problem.” The next five minutes were spent thinking back on all the good times we’d had, Katie holding hands with the gypsy girl and I patiently awaiting the terrible fireball that was about to consume us.
As it turned out, we did not meet our doom that day. It was just an alternator fuse that blew and the pilot made a prudent decision to come down early, but at the time we didn’t know that.
Late that afternoon, after kissing sweet terra firma, we found a guy that was willing to drive us all three to Homer, an 8 hour round trip, just for the hell of it. Faced with such an act of kindness to these random strangers he’d met on Craigslist, we automatically assumed he was a rapist or homicidal maniac. But we had him outnumbered three to one, and we really wanted to get to the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival the next morning, so we took our chances.
He turned out to be one of the kindest people we’ve ever met. At 26, he was a 2nd Lieutenant and the leader of a squadron of paratroopers. He regaled us with stories of jumping out of planes, and told us how he missed his wife who was studying in Australia, and said he just liked helping people out. He’d been a traveler himself and had been helped by strangers around the world, and now he was doing his part to pass along a little good will.
We’re keeping our eyes out for the chance to pass it on ourselves.