Thank you, Paul Nakamoto. You’ve reminded us why we’re in the tour and travel industry. On a day-to-day basis, those of us who are in the industry likely don’t give much thought as to why we are doing what we do—why we’re not constructing homes or office buildings, checking inventory in a department store, or working in a real estate business—until, every once in a while, someone we know reminds us: We really care about others. We like to help others. It is who and what we are.
If anyone of us did not believe this, we could not serve as a step-on tour guide, help someone in a wheelchair to make it from one flight to another in a crowded airport terminal, put on the same show five times a day in a theme park venue—smiling all the while, clean up after a child drops an ice cream cone while waiting in line, move from one seat to another in an airplane so a family or friends can sit together, or nod and smile endlessly and evenly at the legions of people who board or depart one of our tour buses.
We’re the same way when we are not working at our jobs. It doesn’t matter when or where we are.
So, it’s inspiring, every once in a while, to be reminded of that. And last week, Paul Nakamoto, executive vice president of Gray Line of San Francisco, San Jose & Monterey, gave us a solid example. What he did speaks for itself. He wrote about it in a Sept. 9 Facebook post and we decided to share it with our readers, as he posted it, and remind us of why we’re in this industry:
“I flew back to San Francisco last night as I’ve done so many times before but this flight was a bit different because I was sitting next to a very talkative but friendly Hawaiian woman named M (or Emma). In her very distinctive Pigeon English that reminded me of my grandmother, she seemed very edgy so I asked her if she was traveling to San Francisco for pleasure, hoping I could sell her a Gray Line Tour (kidding of course).
“She introduced herself as ‘M’ and I said M like the letter and she laughed and she said ‘no’ as in Emma. I laughed and said wow you’re named after Royalty and she said yes but I am not a Queen. M said she was traveling to Stanford for treatments. I said I hoped things were okay and she said that her doctor in Kona referred her to a specialist for her lung cancer.
“For someone battling this terrible illness she was in very good spirits and had the Aloha Spirit for sure. When we landed and were at baggage claim I saw her retrieving this very small bag and I jokingly laughed and said that’s all your luggage and she said I’m not traveling to a resort! She was looking around and I asked are you waiting for someone and M said no, where can I catch him a taxi?
“I said you’re taking a taxi to Stanford, thinking there’s no one here to pick you up? She said my daughter is on a later flight from Los Angeles and she is meeting me there. I realized M was a bit lost so I said, Stanford is a long ways from here, let me drop you off on my way home and she said no thank you I can’t let you do that and I said no worries it’s on the way. Of course from SFO, Stanford is not on the way to Downtown San Francisco* but we made the drive and I asked are you going to a hotel or to the medical center? M said the medical center.
“I thought wow this woman is traveling all by herself from Kona and checking herself in to the hospital. So we got to Stanford, I grabbed her bag and said can I walk you in to check-in and she said no thank you, you’ve already done your Boy Scout duty today. I laughed and said what?
“She said there is a Boy Scout belt buckle on the floor of your car and I laughed as I realized there is a Camp Pico Blanco Belt Buckle that’s been on the car floor for over a year. So I wished M the very best, she gave me a hug and she tried to pay me and I said no, consider this my good turn for the day and she laughed. She said I have two Eagle Scout sons.
“As I drove away she waited for me to drive away and she waved. All I could think was wow what a brave woman she is. Her beliefs and Aloha Spirit are alive and well and it’s my hope that the medical team at Stanford can do their best to help her. You just never know who you are going to meet on a plane these days but sometimes you can meet the nicest people and it reminds you just how precious life really is; good luck Emma!”
*Editor’s note: Stanford Medical Center is a 25-mile drive south of SFO, while downtown San Francisco is 13 miles north of SFO, almost a 40-mile difference.