The envelope was rather thick, and I thought I could guess what was in it: an office collection of checks for Children's Hospital.
There were two checks inside. Also several letters.
At first the letters seemed unrelated. The one on top was a communication between a lawyer and his client expressing satisfaction over payment from a major airline for inconvenience suffered when a flight was delayed for five hours.
One of the checks was from the airline to the client, signed over by the client to the hospital. The middle letter was an apology from an airline executive to the client for an earlier refusal by the airline to reimburse the man for "gratuities" and out-of-pocket expenses he had incurred during his unscheduled five-hour layover.
Having been inconvenienced in my day by more than one major air carrier, my sympathies at that point were definitely with the client. But "gratuities"? It would not have occurred to me to include gratuities on a list of expenses incurred while stranded. Why the big fuss over gratuities?
Then I read the last letter in the series and the whole story fell into place.
The last letter was from the lawyer to the airline's passenger relations representative. It flatly demanded reimbursement for the gratuities. "In the normal course of events," the letter said, "it may be inconvenient for an individual to have to carry his own bags, and get taxicabs without any assistance. In my client's case, this is extremely difficult since he is blind."
Well, I guess sometimes there's quite a difference between TV commercials for airlines and realities down here on terra firma. As you can see, the picture that finally emerged was that of a blind man who traveled alone, who managed to cope in spite of his handicap and in spite of the mechanical problems that delayed his flight for five hours, and who, when it was all over, took on a giant corporation on a matter of principle.
And when he won his battle, the airline's check -- and his own check for $200 -- were sent to me to provide medical help for little people who also suffer from handicaps.
When a person suffers what can be among the most aggravating of travel experiences and decides to soothe himself in such a manner, it completely restores my faith. Thank you for sharing your story with us.
Our blind friend's checks helped bring today's contributions from 114 anonymous District Liners to $5,799.41. That's what I call a good day's work. I hope the mail pipeline continues that pace for many days to come.
Among the groups and organizations reporting in today, our first listing is $40 from the real estate agents in the Fairfax office of Carriage House realtors. Sending $45 by personal messenger were the drivers and dispatchers of Arlington Courier Enterprises, a new courier/messenger service (and one that I happen to have found to be conscientious and dependable).
The staff of the Program of Social Development at the OAS chipped in $82.32. Employees of the Network Composing Branch of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center sent in their ninth annual contribution, a check for $87.
Once again, $100 was a popular figure for group statements of support for Children's Hospital. The Zion Zanies, a mixed volleyball team, supplied the first $100. Another C-note came courtesy of the agents at Mike Casey Realtors. Still another arrived with good wishes from members of the Association of American Foreign Service Women, and yet another $100 was chipped in by our friends at Metropolitan Photocopy.
Employees of the Office of Buildings Management at GSA gathered $208. Coming up with a 50 percent increase over last year were the members of the Southern Railway Co.'s Law Department, who forwarded $270. Checks totalling $380 were donated in memory of a former colleague of the laboratory employees at Teledyne Geotech in Alexandria. Mustering for roster with $483 of help for Children's Hospital were 29 staffers at the Army's Coastal Engineering Research Center. The non-exchange of holiday cards realized $517.50 from employees of the National Cable Television Association.
Top honors for the day went to our strong, silent friends at Krick Plumbing and Heating Co. Their envelope contained nothing mysterious -- nothing at all except a check for $1,500.
These 14 groups contributed $4,012.82. Added to the $5,799.41 from individuals, our total for today was a delightful $9,812.23. Inasmuch as the shoebox held $91,402.94 yesterday, the cordless abacus says there must be $101,215.17 in it today.
We are finally over the $100,000 mark! We will now take a two-second break to pat ourselves on the back -- that's enough, don't overdo it -- and now let's get on to Phase II. Our next milestone is $200,000.