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Touched by a Travel Angel

Travel is full of mishaps, from freak storms and flight delays to getting lost and getting sick. But I know this much for sure: As long as there are travel angels out there, we’ll survive.

Oh, you know what a travel angel is — it’s that person who sweeps out of nowhere to help you when you’re on the road. It’s the old lady who helps keep your restless child occupied on a crowded plane, the shopkeeper who gives you directions to the cathedral when you’re looking particularly lost, the cab driver who cuts you a break when you’ve discovered you don’t have enough local currency to pay the fare.

I had my own experience with a travel angel a few days ago when my wife and I drove through the Great Halloween Nor’easter en route to a wedding in Northwest New Jersey. We left just as the storm intensified and, quite frankly, it caught us off guard. We’d anticipated wet roads and a minimum of inconvenience, but before long we were dodging falling branches and sliding cars. (I know what you’re thinking: We should have turned back. But our desire to get to the black-tie wedding got the better of us, so we continued on.)

Hours passed as the expected 90-minute drive became a six-hour odyssey. Finally, as we neared the ski resort where the wedding was taking place, the snow began falling even harder and the skies grew darker. That’s when we came to a dead halt on the hill leading to the main entrance, stuck behind four other cars mired in the snow and ice.

After 45 minutes of sliding around, we were about to ditch the car and walk the final half mile to the resort, even though we weren’t quite sure where it was. That’s when … he appeared.

A man dressed in a bright orange shirt banged on my window and pointed down the road at a barely visible snow plow — he was the driver and wanted to help get everyone on their way. He asked if I had a snow shovel on me (why, yes I did!), then spent the next half hour shoveling under everyone’s wheels and pushing them off the road to make way for his plow. When he cleared the hill, he returned and made sure we could get onto the freshly plowed asphalt.

We called him the Great Pumpkin (hey, he was wearing an orange shirt!), but he was really a travel angel — and the very best kind at that. He came out of nowhere, vanished as quickly as he appeared (we didn’t even have time to tip him), and turned what could have been a disaster of a trip into something special. We will never forget him.

Have you encountered a travel angel?

— written by John Deiner

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