Gratitude can surprise me just the way a poem or a song can surprise me, and fling me into another wider air. When the ancient Chinese thought of waking up as intimacy, they were referring to an appreciation for trees and rivers, an appreciation so strong that it amounted to identification—what's outside of us is us too. They also meant that our own innermost experience leads us outward to connect.
The departure estimate was pushed back from time to time, we were moved from one gate to another and another. The attendant at gate 24 was a tall, pale man with the aquiline nose of my Scottish grandfather and an air of disdain achieved through discipline and long practice. He didn't respond to queries about whether this was indeed the right gate, whether the plane had arrived, would arrive, what our ETA would be or why the plane hadn’t arrived. It was as if the questions had not been spoken.
A stir now ran through the passengers and we all watched him, feeling that the plot was at last moving ahead.
“Luggage”, said the red haired man, baffled, bewildered, angry, “Five different gates!”
“Supervisor,” the attendant announced to the air around him, and picked up a phone.
“You moved me to five different gates,” he said, “You lost my luggage.” “The executives are corrupt”, “Corruption in the United Airlines board of directors,” he said. This was clearly an escalation, equivalent to an attack on her bishop.
“I don't know anything about that,” she said, “I just talk to people.” This was a good moment.
Then a year passed and he asked for an interview and arrived in her room.
“Thank you very much,” he told people, “I have no complaints whatsoever.”