Every Good Deed Deserves A Bottle Of Champagne

“NICE JACKET!” I was bent over my travel bag in the Portland Airport, putting away my raincoat from the train ride, and realized the loud voice was talking to me.

I looked at my sleeve to see what I was wearing. My Boston Marathon jacket. The one I rarely wear because I don’t like to draw attention to myself.

An older woman and her husband stood just behind me. I noticed he was wearing the black version with green stripes. “I like yours better,” I told him.

“Really?” she said. “I love that blue color. What year did you run Boston? Actually, that’s my jacket. He wears it all the time, though.”

She was probably ten years older than me and didn’t seem like a runner, especially one who had run Boston. She asked me what other races I had run, which one was my favorite, how fast I was, how many miles I logged each week, on and on and on. She was like an avalanche of questions and words, and I couldn’t catch my breath.

She went on to say she hardly ran, she was slow, she wanted to run more, and did I live in Portland? I managed to tell her I had just run the Eugene half marathon and was flying home to Dallas.

“Oh! SO ARE WE!” Her husband grinned and remained silent. He hadn’t said a word the entire time.

I vowed not to sit next to them on the plane.

I didn’t see them again until we boarded. We flew Southwest Airlines, and I was in the last group to board. I grabbed a middle seat fairly close to the front of the plane, next to an elderly woman who looked confused when I asked if I could sit in the empty seat next to her. She made a feeble attempt to get up, decided against it, and gruffly said, “Slide across.”

I smiled at the talking woman and her husband as they passed on their way to the back of the plane.

I wasn’t being rude; I just wanted to read my Kindle and maybe sleep a little on the plane. I needed some time to think about the past week, the race in Eugene, and the time spent with my daughter. I wouldn’t see her again until her wedding in July.

There was a brief layover in Kansas City, and before we landed an announcement was made asking “the couple celebrating their thirty-seventh wedding anniversary” to please see one of the flight attendants before they left.

Thirty-seven years of marriage? Impressive.

When the plane landed, a flight attendant carried back a bottle of champagne to the couple celebrating their anniversary. Most of the people disembarked, and the passengers continuing on to Dallas moved up to the front of the plane. I slid over to the window seat and looked forward to stretching my legs and using the restroom before the plane reloaded.

The talking woman and her husband moved up and sat across the aisle from me. They were holding a bottle of champagne. They were the anniversary couple.


The elderly woman sitting next to me went to use the restroom. The talking woman and her husband asked if I would watch their things while they went to use the restroom as well. I said, sure, even though I needed to go myself. Surely there would be enough time before the next group of passengers boarded the plane.

I kept looking back at the restroom. Unfortunately for me it was a very quick turnover, and the first passengers made their way onto the plane before they returned.

The plane began filling up and the three travelers still weren’t back from the restroom. Person after person tried to sit in the aisle seat next to me, until I finally put the elderly woman’s travel bag in the seat. Over and over people asked who was sitting in the seats across the aisle. Again and again I had to explain that the seats were taken, the occupants were in the restroom.

It was stressful. I repeatedly got an irritated scowl when I told someone the seats were already taken. People looked at me as if I wasn’t telling the truth, as if I was somehow cheating or breaking the rules. The man behind me laughed and said, “You’ve got a tough job!” How did I get this job anyway???

Finally, the plane was full, and the three passengers came back to claim their seats, oblivious to the stir their empty seats caused. The woman next to me asked why her bag was in her seat, and I patiently explained that I put it there because people kept trying to sit in her seat. She smirked but didn’t thank me.

The talking woman and  her husband settled in and immediately started up a conversation with the young businessman next to them. He had earlier asked me who was sitting in their seats, and frowned when I told him they were taken, as if it was my fault his business partner couldn’t sit next to him.

I never made it to the restroom during the flight. I was too worn out from saving the three seats to squeeze past the two pairs of legs next to me. I was ready to be home.

Just before we landed I saw the young businessman looking at the label on the bottle of champagne, discussing it with the talking woman and her husband. I watched them from my seat, thinking what a nice thing it was that the flight attendants had given them a gift for their anniversary.

And then, incredulously, I watched as the young businessman stood up and walked off the plane with the bottle of champagne still in hand.

I hadn’t expected or wanted that bottle of champagne until it was given away. The young businessman had done nothing other than sit next to the talking woman and her husband–and he walked away with an unearned prize.

Which is exactly why I didn’t deserve the bottle of champagne.

Instant karma. If I couldn’t do a good deed without the expectation of getting something out of it, especially from someone I found irritating and a bit of a nuisance, then I certainly didn’t deserve to be rewarded.

Even if the reward was an expensive bottle of champagne.



  1. averageinsuburbia

    But you knew them longer than he did and you saved their seats! No, that champagne belonged to you. I’m sure when you were shooing people away you weren’t expecting them to reward you with their bottle of wine. That is a sad story 😦

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      I knew you’d understand. He didn’t earn it. That champagne was rightfully mine! Seriously, I was ashamed of myself for feeling so slighted, but it was the perfect ending to a stressful flight home.

  2. westerner54

    But it gave you a great story – and I was hooked the whole way through, trying to guess what was going to happen between you and those folks. And I’m thinking back to your post about being an introvert…this is a great example of introverts needing alone time in order to recharge.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      Michael laughs when I say I’m an introvert, but I do need my alone time. I’m sure everyone I met that day was a very nice person, but having to deal with saving those seats on the plane was a little too much.

  3. SeniorRunner

    From your perspective, the Laws of Cosmic Justice misfired big-time, and I would have felt the same way. But, let’s face it. Our point of view is very limited. Perhaps the lucky recipient had just lost his job, or recently experienced a major personal tragedy.

    Then, too, I’ve heard that the Lords of Karma work on an unusual time schedule. Maybe a bottle of bubbly, or its equivalent, lies just around the corner.

    Of course, we must consider the possibility that karmic principles just don’t apply to alcoholic beverages.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      All true. My only hope is that the young businessman enjoyed the bottle of bubbly in a fitting a manner. Perhaps he even passed it on to someone else. Who knows, maybe it will be like the traveling garden gnome and make its way around the world before finally returning to its rightful owner: me!

  4. Gary

    I think you should have jerked that bottle out of his hand and pretended you were christening a boat …. or your favorite Dallas County Commissioner!!!

  5. Gary

    You could have told the crew he was stealing it. After all they gave it to the couple. They might have given you a medal … or another bottle of champagne.

  6. monica

    okay. i totally loved that story, but i totally thought it was going to end with you getting the bottle!!! that schmuck didn’t deserve it. you did! your post had me reading intently to the end. and thinking: i always try to steer clear of people i perceive to be talkers when i have to be on a plane. so funny. it also made me think of something hubby loves to say, “no good deed goes unpunished.” ;o) (mostly in a sarcastic way.) i might have to start stalking you (i apologize in advance).

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      I felt so indignant when I saw them give the bottle away, but then I laughed about it. It is strange how some people come into your life for only a brief moment but make a huge dent nevertheless. If you stalk me, will you at least give me champagne? Please?

  7. skippingstones

    Such an interesting post – so much of what we’ve been talking about (and I’m just now reading this finally). I would have felt just like you did. It’s definitely about doing something nice and not being appreciated. On the one hand, we are “supposed” to be doing nice or kind things without the expectation of reward. On the other hand, “Hey!”

    But what a wonderful lesson for us all! Like you said, you didn’t expect or desire it until it was given to someone who “deserved” it less than you – at least in your own eyes.

    A little appreciation goes a long way. Even if they had just been gracious and thankful for your help, you may not have cared one bit about that bottle heading out with someone else. But we are so much alike! I would have felt mad at them, then ashamed of myself like you said, but still kind of indignant all the same.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      Looking back, I think they honestly weren’t aware how stressful it was trying to save their seats–and therefore it wasn’t that big of a deal to them. Now I just think the whole thing was funny.

      • skippingstones

        I wrote this big long comment about that – about the other side of that picture and how much is really involved in these kinds of emotional situations. But I deleted it. Your story is another great example of how hard it is to detach ourselves from that emotional side of things – one of the reasons I think it’s hard to “just be nice”. There are so many variables!!

        I am a person who is to myself. I would get on a plane trying not to engage with anyone. The kind of situation that happened with you would be a big reason for that. But mostly, I just don’t want to get out of my comfort zone, or to be faced with interaction. I hate that selfishness about myself – that I just don’t want to be bothered.

        I don’t equate that with what you felt – I think your intent was clearly different than that. If I had just come off of a busy visiting/marathon week, I would need to decompress, too. But the emotions are similar – feeling overwhelmed by a nosy and way “talkative woman”. Being asked to do something we weren’t comfortable with. The anticipation of another intrusive interaction with these people and the stress of trying to avoid them.

        Anyway, it’s a really great lesson for me – to be able to see a real life situation where we have a kind of emotional backlash from being nice. It’s good to see it all laid out, to see that those feelings are normal, and to maybe go into the next situation with a little more clarity (like they didn’t do that on purpose), so that maybe we can tamper down those emotions a little. Also, it’s a good lesson for us to remember to just say “Thank you” for the little things other people do for us. I don’t think I do that enough.

      • Mind Margins/Run Nature

        I also thought afterwards that I need to remember to thank others when they do something nice for me, and that I’ve probably overlooked someone’s kindness to me in the past, just like the talking woman. So it was a good lesson for me as well.

        I think the majority of people traveling on airplanes prefer to keep to themselves. Sitting so close to a complete stranger is awkward. I’m not big on small talk anyway, and I always make sure I have something to read or listen to. I don’t think it’s necessarily being rude, and I would also hate to make anyone else feel uncomfortable.

        The ironic thing is I usually meet interesting, friendly people when I travel–and get no reading done! This was one of those odd times when things worked out differently.

        At least I tried to be nice, even if it was stressful. Sometimes being nice means you get taken advantage of, even if the other person doesn’t realize that’s what’s happening.

      • skippingstones

        Haha, yes! I guess that’s part of what holds me back, and what I feel guilty about. I want to be nice and kind and go the extra mile, but still I get irritated if I feel taken advantage of.

        What just occurred to me is that I’m wanting to be kind or generous on my own terms, in a time of my own choosing. I might be frustrated or irritated or feel taken advantage of when being kind doesn’t fit in with my time frame, when it’s an inconvenience to me. But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? (I mean for me, what I’m working toward.) To be willingly kind, for it to be a natural and even pleasing thing for me to do for others, no matter what the situation.

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