Posts Tagged ‘Pay it forward’

Acts of kindness

January 7, 2011 6 comments

The beginning of the road

It’s easy to be gracious and giving to people you know and love, much harder to do for complete strangers, which is icing on the cake if you happen to be on the receiving end of somebody’s act of kindness.

As I glanced at my Garmin watch today, thankful for its data keeping abilities, I was reminded of one strangers remarkable kindness to me a few months ago, and at the same time thankful to her all over again.

My handy Garmin watch is a great running tool, since it shows your pace over ground at any given time, and its “autolap” feature can be programmed to tell you your time per mile.  Wearing my Garmin has made driving my running routes to determine mileage redundant, since it tracks my distance automatically.  It is an indispensable gadget for runners.

Before leaving for Boston to run the marathon – my personal equivalent to making the Olympic team – I checked to make sure my Garmin and its recharger was packed roughly a hundred times before leaving for the airport; it ranked in importance right after my runners and credit card.

Safely ensconced in my hotel room, I unpacked my baby, unscathed from the trip.  Yet something about the Boston air didn’t agree with my watch, or some deity was playing a cruel joke on me; the day before the race I could not revive its year and half old self for the life of me.  It looked at me blankly, no numbers on its gray facade.

Meeting my idol Kathrine Switzer in happier times, the day before

Naturally, I panicked, and did what anyone would do in the face of such tragedy: I googled it.  Some soul recommended trying a hard reset, which didn’t work, and neither did banging it against the table.  I asked passersby sporting the blue and yellow Boston Marathon jackets, but no one had experienced such a failure.  I was hooped.

I had spent the afternoon previous to this catastrophe at the bonanza of all running expo’s in the Hynes Convention Center on Boyleston Street. It was so big I actually couldn’t find my way out of its maze.  No joke; I got a little panicky.  The thought of returning to the chaos didn’t thrill me, but I envisioned the large Garmin booth with its cash registers going “ka-ching!” and knew that if anyone could help me, it was them.  I had no choice but to return to the mayhem.

The John Hancock Tower, Boston

I got the attention of the person obviously in charge of the operation, Kiata Sleet.  She took one look at my panic stricken face and told me to leave it with her, she would jump start its heart, give her fifteen minutes.  Relieved at her message but not wanting to revisit yesterdays debacle, I shuffled out of sight and waited.

I returned promptly fifteen minutes later, but there were still no signs of life.  We repeated this pattern a few times, despite the fifty other people wanting her attention, bless her heart, and finally she told me to come back at the end of the day.  That meant if it still didn’t work, I was seriously in trouble, because by then it would be too late to make a panicked purchase of another chronograph device, and most likely the cheapest one I could find.  She assured me not to worry, but I was beyond worried.

This happens: devices die. electronics fail, life goes on.  But really? The day before the Boston Marathon?  Like the snowstorm that dumped three feet of snow the day of my sixth birthday party, this seemed particularly unjustifiable.

When I returned hours later, Kiata was looking surprisingly spry given the still large group of people milling in front of her booth.  She saw me, and I knew immediately the news was not good.  My watch couldn’t be revived, but she would bring it back to Garmin headquarters with her and fix it there.  “Great, but what about tomorrow?” I wailed.  She looked behind the counter, but there were no demo watches left, her resources depleted by the hundreds of customers before me.

She looked at my sorrowful eyes – not quite crying over this spilled milk, but red around the edges – and took off her own watch from her wrist and handed it to me.  “Take this,” she said, “it’s the exact same model.”  She scribbled her address on a piece of paper and told me to mail it back to her after the race, wishing me luck.

Now that is customer service, not to mention a leap of faith in humanity.