Saturday, October 18, 2014

Zen Fibbing & Sewing

I found a kids' battery-operated sewing machine at the Thrift Store yesterday, so now we can do safe and simple and slow sewing projects at work.

We have a lot of donated scraps of fabric, perfect for quilting. When I suggested to the residents that we could make a collective quilt, one woman said we should make a crazy quilt. 
Yes, how perfect: a demented quilt!

I brought up a big pile of scraps to fold, which people really enjoyed. I relate to the enjoyment of sorting and folding that people with Alzheimer's commonly have.

Here we are. Except for mine, I blurred the faces for privacy, but you get the feel, and you can see the little white and pink sewing machine in the center of the table.

When the fabric was mostly folded, I took the pieces into the hall, shook them out, and brought them back in to be folded again. 

"Therapeutic fibbing," that trick is called. It feels a little weird at first, but it so obviously facilitates ongoing comfort and satisfaction, like facilitating a Zen state---all enjoyment of the process, with no concern for the outcome. 

I'm a little surprised to find that being around the residents is rather restful (though being in charge is a lot of work). When I leave work and see the rest of us racing around, engaged in getting and spending, really, I do rather wonder who is wasting their powers...

NOT to romanticize dementia: the people I work with are in a Zen-like state––sometimes––not by choice but because their brains are dying. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

I don't have TB, and other good news.


Finally, I'm not tired!I slept eleven hours last night––really slept, didn't just lie there worrying about my new job. I woke up at 6:30 AM, refreshed.

I'm starting to trust that things are going well at work.

Yesterday we water colored pictures of pumpkins.  This one here was the only round and orange one. It's cheeriness, I think, is accidental, but I like it a lot. 

[Me (to resident who usually wears pants): You look lovely--you're wearing a skirt today.
She: It was an accident. ]

The woman who painted the cheery pumpkin paints like a careful child. She's the most well-intentioned of the people on second floor--always offering to help me do the dishes or move furniture.

"It's better than sitting around doing nothing," she told me.


Boredom is a real problem, I see: it's as if people with Alzheimer's have lost their start switch. If someone else (me) starts a project, they get going, many of them; otherwise they are often lightly agitated but inactive, like moored boats.

Already coworkers, family members, and the residents themselves have let me know they're very happy, even relieved, I'm there. 
One coworkers told me that the activities assistant before me didn't do anything, which is weird, because when people can't rely on words, communication becomes all about actions, including simple touching and looking.

I try to start and end each of our activities by gently touching each person's arm (if it seems welcome), looking them in the eye, and saying I'm glad they're there.
Though, in fact, activities don't usually have discrete beginnings and endings--one thing flows into another, so I have to remember to tuck that acknowledgement in, here and there.

Like finding a nurse to give me the Mantoux test for TB--they are here and there, out and about on the floors, but finally I coordinated with one, got injected, and the result is negative, which relieved me.

The nurse seemed surprised I would be worried about it.
"Do you live with someone infected who coughs on you?"

"No," I said, "but I live in a crowded neighborhood with lots of people from other countries, and I ride the city bus, and that feels like a big Petri dish."

She laughed and agreed.


At the end of my shift yesterday, my boss mentioned that one family member (f.m.) complains to her that when f.m. calls her mother from across the country, her mother tells her she's done nothing all day. 

The f.m. doesn't factor in that her mother forgets what she's done five minutes after she's done it. 

It just so happens I'd taken a photo of her mother and me, out on a walk in yesterday's weirdly warm weather. I sent it to my boss to forward to the daughter--maybe it'll comfort her.
Here it is, cropped for privacy. >
The full-size shows her grinning mother holding up autumn leaves.


Other good news--my sanitation book is getting great reviews, which makes me happy. One blogger wrote, "It’s like a lite version of a Mary Roach book!
(I haven't read any, but Roach writes popular science books, such as Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal.

It makes me happy partly because my brain is far away from words in my new work. Once I'm not so wiped out by it, I'd like to write more in depth about what I'm seeing. Or not. I could just keep jotting impressions down here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The People on Second Floor

So tired...
I am loving my new job---it is meaningful, and interesting, and, often, fun... and exhausting, physically and emotionally. 

After too many years sitting at the computer, my body feels like a silted up riverbed---heavy with accumulations of many, many tiny little heavy things...

So, I'm going to drink some white wine (muscle relaxant!), watch some Boston Legal (Alzheimer's on a television show!), and then go to bed.

But first I want to show you all the water colors the People on Second Floor (Mad Cow Floor) did today. 

I'd taken scissors to the plantings outside the building this morning and gathered a bouquet of fall flowers as a subject to paint.
I love seeing how entirely differently people interpreted the painting prompt. 
It took hardly any time at all once I'd started this work for me to stop seeing the residents as "people with Alzheimer's" and to start seeing them as "X, whose precision reminds me of electrical engineering diagrams", and so forth.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

That Which Remains

Scene from the Memory Care Floor

Me: It's your birthday today!

Craig: [baffled] It is? 

Me: Would you like to join the others and watch a Shirley Temple movie?

Craig: Shirley Temple? Oh God, no!

Sawing Sticks at 7 AM

My finger is bleeding. 
In my quest to engage  some of the men I work with more in this, my 2nd week as an activities ass't, I got up at 7 AM and trimmed the sharp ends off these sticks using a coping saw whose blade kept twisting around––finally nicking my finger.

I'm bringing in sand paper so we can smooth the rough edges, and eventually we'll make mobiles by hanging pine cones and wood beads  and something shiny (what?) from the sticks.

I'm hoping the women will like this project too...
The active ones seem to like most anything I offer: the stretch exercises, the water coloring, the baking, but the men are mostly unmoved––literally, I can't even get them to walk over and join us. Or if they do, they don't seem to enjoy themselves at all.

So I'm going to plunk sand paper and a stick in front of them and see if that interests them... or if they hit me with it.
Only one man has gotten angry--when I tried to stop him going into someone's room, he yelled at me.

Turns out, he goes from room to room every afternoon, harmlessly. (It sure would help if I'd known this--say, if gotten more than one day of orientation before being tossed into this world on my own.)

"What are you looking for?" I asked him.
"Everybody!" he roared.

The other project I'm bringing in later is a kid's bike: as luck would have it, this weekend the apt. building where I'm house siting was clearing abandoned bikes out of the basement, and I asked if I could have this one for my work.

Isn't it cool?
I coveted these stingray bikes with banana seats when I was little. 

I imagine lots of the people I work with assembled  bikes for their kids' birthdays... and I'm hoping they get into washing this dirty bike and taking its wheels off and on and cleaning the chain.
Then we could donate it to a kids bike charity and get another one and do it again.
Or they won't be interested at all... 
I have no idea. This is all an experiment. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Fishing Net and the Wiffle Ball

A couple people wondered if my new job working with people with Alzheimer's might be like working with toddlers.

Before I started, I wasn't sure how to respond: 
I didn't think it would be, and I also hoped it wouldn't be since I've never been particularly interested in toddlers.

After one week, I can report that they are profoundly different. 

One of the first activities I led was making pumpkin cookies from scratch with the residents. I suppose making the cookies was somewhat like it would be with toddlers––lots of me shrieking, "No! Don't put that spoon back in the bowl" because the person who was supposed to be stirring the batter had instead started to eat it. 

But on the other hand, one of the most silent women quietly and competently used two spoons to form the cookies––one spoon to scoop up a ball of batter, and the back of the other spoon to push it onto the cookie sheet. 

Though only four people had agreed to come help make the cookies, once they were out of the oven, smelling of cinnamon and nutmet,  six other people instantly materialized. I felt like the Little Red Hen, except instead of refusing to share with the same people who wouldn't help bake, we all sat at a table drinking tea and eating the cookies. It was nice.

Out of the blue, one woman said, "My husband died."

The woman next to her looked stricken. "Oh," she replied, "that's like . . . [ pause ] That's like . . . cutting off your [ pause, search for word ] . . . hand."

So, no. Not like toddlers. 

I don't know about the neurology, but I picture toddler brains as fishing nets, trawling for any and all information and hauling it up to be safely stored.

And the brain of someone with Alzheimer's is, as a character on Boston Legal says, like a wiffle ball. There are disconcerting gaps in it, but some of the material is still connected. 

Ah-ha. Here, yes, I found a chart. Toddler's brains---they're voracious. We start trawling before we're even born.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Demented Pine Cones

Does this photo suggest I am just a little over-revved, not to say demented, at my new job?

I'm holding a tray of table decorations we made: pine cones glued onto circles of felt.

They were supposed to be pine cone owls, with glued-on eyes, but I have learned that the people I work with do not wait for nor follow instructions---they just start glueing stuff on! The results tend to be more interesting than cookie-cutter crafts. 

 Thursday is my one full day, and by mid-afternoon, one of the residents told me, 
"Sit down and take a break. They will run you ragged."

She's very with-it, obviously, and I thanked her for seeing that I was going full tilt the whole time, which is not sustainable.
It's odd to see the various stages of Alzheimer's--this resident was so right about me, but when we talked more later, she couldn't tell me where she used to live.

I try not to put people on the spot by asking such specific questions---it just highlights the deficits in their memory--but I let her emotional insight mislead me. 
I will learn to let people show me who they are. 
And I will learn to pace myself.

But right now I am so tired, I'm going right to bed. 
At 6:30 PM, yes. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


I had a great day at work today, my second day. First we did stretching exercises to Frank Sinatra.
"Frankie!" one woman said. "I love him."

Later I set out real apples and gave everyone little cups of red, blue, yellow, and green tempera paints. 
From such simple elements, people did wildly different paintings.

Here are two of them:

Then I accompanied three people to a church service on a different floor. I asked one of them if I could sit next to her, and she said, "Of course! I love you and I'd love you to sit next to me."

"I love you too," I said.

I feel it already--the heartbreak that attends this kind of work.

Also, the exhaustion. I was on my feet the whole time, always trying to attend to several different people with different needs. 
But all in all, it was a fun day and I'm really happy with this work.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

"I'm Schmidt."

Home again from my first day at work, unharmed by child or adult!
In fact, as I hoped, the toddlers were pretty cute.
I wish I'd taken a photo of our hand-print leaves: they were indeed misshapen blobs.

Exchange of the day:

ME, apologizing to a resident for getting us a little lost going to the elevator: I'm sorry--this is my first day and I'm a little confused.

HER, laughing: That's OK--we're all confused here all the time!

Anyway, I'm definitely the Adult in Charge, and tomorrow I will be on my own while my boss works on other floors. 
If I feel wobbly, I will channel my hero Shirley Schmidt (Candice Bergen), the unshakeable senior partner on Boston Legal

I want to start dressing like her too, since I have to dress up a little for work. Marz says the first step is to make sure my clothes aren't inside-out or stained. OK, so I have a ways to go...

 Boston Legal is so, so great---the main characters are all at least over forty, but Schmidt is the best thing about the show. She is direct and entirely unapologetic about being powerful and smart, and she's funny and affectionate too. What other woman on American TV is like that? 
I am a total fangirl for her.

Year Seven, Day One

Today is l'astronave's seventh birthday and my first day of my new job: 
I leave in an hour to go lead activities with seniors ...and toddlers.


No one told me in the interview that I'd be responsible for activities when the little kids from the on-site daycare visit the "grandfriends" on the memory care floor where I'll be working with people with Alzheimer's and other dementias. 

But I am.

("Memory Care." Ugh. There's no way to name this, I suppose, that doesn't mean to be kind but sound condescending. 
I like instead how Denny Crane, the old lawyer in Boston Legal whose mind is losing its edge, goes around saying he has Mad Cow. 
Maybe it could be the Mad Cow floor? Same initials.) 

The thing is, little kids frighten me: 
tiny sociopaths with high-powered motors and minds like vacuum cleaners that suck up and remember everything.

See > > >
Advertisers know.

The other things is, my new boss e-mailed me yesterday to ask if I had an activity we could do with the kids today.

She had told me she'd handle the first couple toddler meetings, but I guess she's too busy--she doesn't have any assistants until I start.  She didn't say that, but then, she didn't tell me I'd be doing it in the first place either. 

Have I mentioned she is very young?

I think I see the lay of the land here.

At first I was annoyed:
I don't even know what supplies we have, how can I plan an activity?
But then I decided to suck it up and ask instead,  
How Can I Help?

I may only be paid to be the lackey, but in truth, I do kind of want and am capable of handing the power and self-direction of a boss. Ridiculous though it is, I'd prefer to plan activities even before my first day than to walk into a tightly planned unit I have to conform to.

And also, I may feel uncomfortable being in charge right away, but I do have a lot of life experience . . . and the Internet!
I can think up Mad Cow activities myself, but I don't know what little kids can do.

I googled "toddler activities with leaves" and a few thousands ideas popped up. 
Today, we'll trace hands onto construction paper (there must be construction paper around, right?), cut them out, and staple their stems together to made a leaf chain we can hang up.

This sort of thing, but you know no child or Mad Cow made such a tidy item. >

I can do this.
I think I'm going through a Mid Life thing: feeling like a beginner but really being the old hand.
Mad Cows or Miniature Sociopaths, Bosses or Minions---we all have more or less the same hand shapes.

So, off I go!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Gilgamesh/Enkidu meet Kirk/Spock

Orange Crate Art pointed me toward the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh [links to text] from c. 4,000 years ago––the ur-bromance, one might say. The hero Gilgamesh has a dream, which his goddess mother interprets as foretelling the coming of a friend, Enkidu, whom he will love "like a wife"
... but only after they fight, kiss, and make up. 

Naturally I thought of the "Amok Time" episode of Star Trek, where Spock in a fit of madness battles Kirk and kills him, or so he thinks. This leads to his expression of love, when he finds the captain is alive after all.

So I put together a fast & dirty little mashup of lines from the Epic of Gilgamesh and Star Trek's "Amok Time" for your pleasure and for my distraction the night before I start MY NEW JOB...!

* * *

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Kirk/McCoy: "Someone to Watch Over Me"

2:09 minute fanvid by Margaret (Marz) of The Captain's Pajamas 
about Kirk & the good doctor (from TOS––the original series––Star Trek)

"Kirk/McCoy - Someone to Watch Over Me" from Milkweedy on Vimeo.

Song: "Someone to Watch Over Me" by George Gershwin, sung by Ella Fitzgerald

Monday, September 29, 2014

Should that be "starship"?

--Boston Legal's Denny Crane (William Shatner)
I want this rocket:

Spartus Rocket cameras were made in 1962. Photo by John Kratz 
And, while I'm clearing my desktop of sci-fi related bits & bobs, I don't really care, but having recently rewatched the original Star Wars, clearly Han did shoot first.
[Sorry, I didn't keep track of where I found this great little drawing.]

Friday, September 26, 2014

Job In, Teeth Out

Hooray! Yesterday I accepted the job as an Activities Assistant for people with memory loss. This is the work I want to do, so I am very happy. And working part-time, I can take classes or otherwise learn more about dementia and activities.
(Any tips on things to read or watch are welcome.)

According to HR, I will be at entry-level, which is ridiculous since right off the bat I will be expected to plan and lead my own activities. 
But here's the cool thing:
I don't feel resentful.

Yeah, I think HR is being narrow brained, but since I negotiated for my extra fifteen cents, I feel mighty!

Yesterday I also went with Marz to her wisdom teeth surgery, which, I'm relieved to say, went about as well as these things can go. I was a little worried, sitting in the waiting room, to see one young woman come out in a wheel chair, moaning.

But Marz chose local anesthetic + laughing gas, and she came out of the surgery all perky saying, "I love laughing gas!" 
Though by the time she was in the taxi going home, it had worn off and she looked like a sad little waif.

This morning though, she's pretty well, just a bit puffy-cheeked. She isn't even taking pain pills.
She's sitting on the couch with ice-packs on her head, watching The Office (US version). She is mumbly, so she's writing me notes. One read, "I sort of enjoyed the surgery––recovering is the hard part ."

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Update: Victory! (Of a Couple Sorts)

A victory of a small sort, re my last post (half an hour ago): 
I checked my e-mail, and HR agreed to raise their offer to me. 
By fifteen cents.

But a victory of a LARGE sort in that I am very proud of myself for negotiating at all

I feel like the love-child of Shirley Schmidt (who wouldn't settle for less than $1 million) and Stuart Smalley v (who couldn't ask for 15 cents without massive anxiety).

The act of asking and then getting a positive response, even if the financial difference is piffling, assuages my wounded pride (my "sulk and feel bad" side).
 I know that a huge part of resentment, which is one of my biggest emotional bugbears, comes from powerlessness---or, rather, from feeling powerless.
Often I don't know if I've got power or not because I don't even try to affect change. So trying in itself is a wonderful thing. A real victory.

I'm going to sleep on it, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to accept. The job is only 20 hours/week, so I can gain experience and still work at the convention center (which pays me $1 more per hour) as well as volunteer at the thrift store, if I'm not too tired.

Oh, hey, the sun has set--it's Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the new year!
Begin as you mean to go on.

Sulk, Feel Bad, & Do It Anyway

Good news, bad news:
I came home last night to a phone message from the activities director at the senior residence offering me the assistant job
. . . but the salary is entry level––what I'd get if I were just out of high school.

So I decided to do something I've heard rumor of but never seriously considered before:
negotiate my starting salary.
But first I spent the evening sulking and feeling bad.

This morning I googled "negotiate salary".  
Got a low-ball offer? An article about negotiation in Forbes advised, "Don’t sulk and feel bad."

I felt better knowing my go-to reaction is so common, a leading business magazine names it.

Asking for [more] money = right up there with FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) in TID (Things I Dislike).
I looked it up and found out I'm not alone, of course, especially among women. The female career coach who wrote this other article in Forbes said, 
"Women rarely negotiate their starting salary. Most of the women I’ve coached tell me they’ve never even considered negotiating their salary for a new job."

 [^ via salary negotiators  (I didn't actually read their stuff tho)]

To gear up, I asked myself the old standby, What's the worst that can happen?

In this case, nothing much. No bamboo shoots under fingernails, no being stripped in public: they can just say no.
And if they say no, I can still decide whether or not to accept their offer––I won't have burned any bridges. If HR won't budge, I could view the job as a kind of paid internship in working specifically with people with Alzheimer's; I could do it for a year and then apply to better-paying jobs.
So, borrowing an approach from sample letters online, I e-mailed saying I wanted to accept the job but also wanted a wage more in line with my life experience. 

The director wrote back and said she really hoped we could work together; the HR department set the wages based on work experience. What more, she asked, could she tell them to change their mind?

At this, I felt both a little annoyed and a little tenderly toward her. Have I mentioned that this director is very young? She's only a couple years out of her MA studies in music therapy, and I get the definite feeling that what she doesn't know about hiring is a lot.

I remember a resumé coach warning me about this. 
"If you choose a career working with seniors," he said, "you're going to find yourself working with a lot of younger supervisors who don't know as much as you do, because a lot of good people get burnt out in such a hard, underpaid work.

Godknows, I wouldn't want to be dependent on my younger self to interview and hire me.  I cringe to remember the one time I had to  interview job candidates. I was twenty-six, pre–e-mail era, and I didn't even call people back after I interviewed them for a job cooking at a vegetarian deli.
[I'm so sorry, very nice guy who only knew how to cook steaks.]

Anyway, I wrote back to the director clearly outlining my experience. I used bullet points. 
And she wrote back this afternoon saying she'd composed an e-mail to HR and hoped it would help.

I feel like I should give her a gold star.

Honestly, I think I would like working with this personable young woman––she can play all the old classic songs on the piano without sheet music. But if I work with her, I won't expect her to know how to negotiate bureaucracy. Not that I do, but I guess I'm old enough to try anyway. 

I feel like such an old broad tonight. And that's not so bad. Me and Shirely Schmidt.
* Shirely Schmidt, senior partner of Boston Legal, played by Candice Bergen. OMG, she's even better than Capt. Kirk. (Maybe. Almost.)

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Union Preserved

I. Risk Is Our Business... Should We Choose to Accept It

I was––childishly, romantically––disappointed that Scots voted against independence last week. 
It made me mad that the ads against it played up the thing people fear most: fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD)

[Though here are "Five Reasons to Be Cheerful––Even if You Voted Yes".]

Maybe the "no" campaign was right, it wasn't "worth the risk," but now we won't know...
At any rate, it's certainly not worth risking unless most people are willing to take it on and do the work to give it a good chance, and they weren't.

Given that I never usually think much about Scotland, however, my disappointment makes me wonder, what risks am I not taking that I wish I were? 
How is my FUD holding me back?

II. Job Satisfaction

Last week, on the other hand, I was happy to reunify the head and body of the Star Trek rhino that Marz gave me for Christmas.

Its maker, Rocket World, named it
Commander Affonso, but it prefers Audrey, the name of a South African woman I met on Camino. 

Hm, maybe that's why its head popped off right away---it had identity dysphoria.

Once again, Thrift Store to the rescue! 
I was sorting a huge bin of craft supplies––untangling pin cushions and googley doll eyes from a web of hairy "eyelash" yarn, that sort of thing––and there was a stash of crochet hooks. I brought my rhino in the next day and asked one of the staff if we had a tool to cut the metal needle down to fit.

I love this staff guy––he knows how to do all the physical things.
He took my toy (with some eyebrow raising), cut the needle to fit, and then wrapped a rubber band around it to stabilize it in the rhino's neck opening:
the union preserved! 

Cost: fifty cents.

III. Job Offer, . . . Maybe

I came home Friday evening to a phone message from the activities director who'd interviewed me a couple weeks ago. She said the job offer they'd extended to someone else had fallen through, and could she go ahead and check out my references.

Yes! I wrote back. 

This morning she e-mailed me that she will call my references and then she can officially offer me the job in a couple days.

Now,  I am not taking that as a firm offer. She shouldn't even have worded it that way. I like this young woman very much, but she has been a bit [unwittingly] unprofessional about this whole hiring process. Not surprisingly---she's not an H.R. wonk, she's a music therapist (a far, far better thing, generally, but not if you're filing your paperwork).
But I am cautiously optimistic.

Friday, September 19, 2014

I Live with a Yang

I don't think I ever posted this photo, did I? It's Marz at Trek Fest 2012 wearing her first-prize–winning costume as a Yang--one of the Star Trek aliens (from the episode "The Omega Glory"--one of the worst).

I nabbed the photo from her blog post 
"5 Years of Trek: The Transformed Fan".

Thursday, September 18, 2014

My Brownie Camera

My sister e-mailed me another photo of our parents. 
[This was the other.]

They're on our front porch here with their third and last child, my brother, born in 1970.

My sister sent it to me because we were reminiscing about our mother's clothes, and I mentioned this dress with a Marimekko-like pattern she wore a lot.  (She's wearing a fisherman's short-sleeved cotton sweater here too.)

Sister asked me if I knew who took the photo, and I do: 
little me, with my Brownie box camera. I remember it was a happy afternoon. Four years later, my parents divorced.

The camera was outdated even in 1970––I'd bought it cheap at the local St. Vincent de Paul thrift store (I have a history with thrift stores). 
I loved how you look down into the viewfinder, and I remember threading the fresh film into the take-up spool and the peculiar chemically smell of the film packet. 

A few years ago someone set a box of old cameras out with the trash, and I rescued a Brownie 
< Hawkeye, just because it's beautiful.

Today I looked it over. It's a pretty basic machine and it  seems to be in working order. 

I called a local camera store and they carry 120 film for it, and I found instructions on loading it here, so I'm going to give it a try.

I was reminded of what a great deal digital photography is, though:
the film is about $5 for a roll, and then you have to pay for development too. Of course you don't need an expensive machine to look at the pictures.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Drunk cowboys tip more than sober travel agents.

This ^ has been my experience anyway, working the coat & luggage check at the convention center. The guys who sell horse tack and livestock feed attended a free concert, with a cash bar, at the end of their sales event. As city employees, we can't accept tips for hauling bags around (and some of them were heavy!), and it was a little hard to turn down the five-, ten-, and even twenty-dollar bills these guys proffered at the end of the night.

The travel agents were mostly women, and I bet they don't make the big bucks, mostly, and they didn't offer them either. But they were generous in other ways: they offered to share the free stuff they got at alcohol-free sales events, such as chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, coupon books, and tote bags. As long as the items were worth less than five dollars, we could accept them.

Both groups of people were really nice and almost always said please and thank you

In fact, working at the convention center is a reminder that, all things being equal, about 98% of people are nice. 
It's also a reminder that we're not all that bright... 

Working with the general public, I'd say bumbling ineptitude (say, trying to claim an overstuffed monster suitcase as carry-on baggage) is a bigger problem for us humans than intentional evil deeds.