Recently, as I waited to exit a Southwest flight in Baltimore, a fellow traveler — who also turned out to be a fellow retired lawyer — laughed and asked me whether retirement had changed my life much, or perhaps had even changed my view of humanity.
The two of us had met and decided to sit together in the Boston airport while waiting to board from positions A-1 and A-2 for business class seating.
Now we both were waiting patiently to exit from the middle of the plane because the 22 wheelchair-assistance passengers who had pre-boarded would be exiting from their aisle seats, which they had taken when they entered the plane.
I decided to answer the two questions separately. First, I told a brief story to illustrate what my life was like as a practicing lawyer:
One afternoon around 4:00 o’clock while I was actively practicing law years ago, I developed chest pains. I was on the phone with a witness for an upcoming trial, so I decided that I would finish the call before I dealth with the pain in my chest.
After the call, I decided to try hanging off a door to ease the pain.
I found a door that was part open, put my hands on the top, and hung from the door to see if the pain would go away. Ater a while it did so I went back to work.
Later that night at dinner with my wife and children, the pain returned. I didn’t want to trouble anybody, so I left the dinner table, found a door and hung off of it for a bit until the pain subsided again. Then I flushed the toilet for cover and went back to dinner.
But later, around 1:00 o’clock in the morning, the pain returned. I got out of bed to find an open door somewhere in the house. My wife woke up, rolled over, and saw me hanging from the bedroom door. She told me to go immediately to the hospital.
However, when I went into the closet to get dressed, the only clean shirt that were readily available was a white shirt just back from the dry cleaner. I put it on and looked for a pair of pants. I found only a suit, which I immediately put on and then I was stuck with a problem. I couldn’t possibly go in a white shirt without a tie, so I just reached into the rack of ties and put on the first one I grabbed. I didn’t turn on the light because I didn’t want to wake up the house, so I didn’t even know what color it was.
Finally, I got lucky. I had no problem tying the tie in the dark.
It was about 2:00 o’clock in the morning and the roads were empty as I sped down the highway toward the nearest hospital. The pain was getting pretty bad and for the first time it occurred to me I might die.
In that moment in the dark, my mortality became very real to me. I concluded I might never leave the hospital.
It was a remarkable revelation for me, so I reached into the glove compartment and pulled out what I considered would probably be my last cigarette.
At the emergency room parking lot, I started to get out of the car, but realized that my briefcase was in the passenger seat next to me. I was concerned that there were confidential papers belonging to my client pertaining to the trial that were in that briefcase so I brought the briefcase with me into the emergency room and politely let the nurse know that I was having chest pains.
Before I knew what was happening, I was being pushed back into the seat of a wheelchair with my briefcase squarely riding on my lap and then wheeled at a high rate of speed toward cardiac care by a nurse in the night time hospital. She patted me on the shoulder and asked in an exasperated voice “So you think you might have a heart attack at 2:30 am and be back at the desk by 7:00?”
Well, the nurse overreacted. It wasn’t a heart attack. It was just gallstones that nearly killed me, but I had been right, hadn’t I?
As my story ended, we began to move down the aisle and exited the plane. Gathered by the gate were almost 20 wheelchairs. None of them had been used to take any of the passengers into the airport.
My traveling companion and I both laughed good-naturedly. “So, what about my second question,” he prompted. “Has your view of humanity changed?”
“It’s all how you look at things,” I replied with a wry smile. “Isn’t it wonderful that Southwest doesn’t charge extra for miracles?”
We laughed, then hurried to our next transportation.