I have cried three times leaving work at LAX, and I have only worked there for seven days.
The first cry was day one when I was overwhelmed, but the other two cries were very different.
Cry number two happened on day four. A woman came up to check in and was bravely holding her tears back with every ounce of courage she had. She was checking in her dad and grandfather. They both needed a lot of assistance. I could tell she didn't have the strength.
Finally, a moment of clarity came when she said, "I have one more question." and she stood there trying to find the words, but instead just stood there. Slowly she continued, "My brother died unexpectedly..." Her next words burst out along with her tears, "My father is carrying my brother's ashes, is that ok?" And she cried and cried.
I put my hand on her arm as she cried. I tried with everything inside of me not to cry with her, to stay professional. "It's fine. Let me help you." I got a wheelchair for her grandfather; and noted that her dad was hard of hearing. I let her escort the ashes as far as she could. As I did these things she calmed. I'm not sure anyone had been taking care of her.
She composed herself, thanked me sincerely and walked away. I turned around and pulled the tears in my eyes back into my head and pulled all my courage together to help the next person.
Cry number three was yesterday. I was working at the self check in kiosks and an older woman walked through the door. She stopped suddenly and gasped as she covered her mouth. I thought maybe she had forgotten her license or suddenly remembered she was in the wrong airport, so I walked up with a smile, "Everything ok?" She stood with her hand on her mouth shaking her head quickly.
I took the smile off my face, "What's going on?"
She moved her hand to her heart and whispered, "My daughter has cancer and has just dropped me off. I wonder if I will see her again." And she pursed her lips together not wanting to cry. I put one hand under one of her arms and put my hand her back and helped her away from the door. She told me of her daughters chemo and the things she had gone through. She told me how hard it was to watch her go down hill and I listened. Finally, after she had calmed down, she pulled out a piece of paper and said, "I think my daughter already checked me in."
I said, "Let's take a look." Surprising myself, my voice cracked as I said it. The woman saw my kindness and said, "What is your name?" and I said, "Liz." She started crying. "That is my granddaughter's name. I think that is a good sign."
I'm glad that even my name can help someone feel a little stronger. One thing that I never expected with this job was being a source of comfort. I was sure people would disrespectfully rushed by. I expected people to yell at me when I couldn't let them on the flight, but I never expected people to cry; to need me to more than just to check them in.
I sometimes wonder if I will get callused to it. I sure hope not.