''You'll never make it. The tunnels to the airport are already clogged. Even if you could get there, the field would be socked in,'' Tony Kamaron warned. We were standing in the big view window of Tony's office on High Street in Boston, watching the worsening winter storm as it swept down upon the city at dusk. I had just remarked that I had a six o'clock flight out of Logan Airport, since I had appointments in New York the next morning.
''Well, I've got to try. I can't miss that first meeting in the morning.'' I started for the door with the heavy traveling bag and an overloaded attache case.
''Your only chance . . .'' Tony counseled, and quickly he told me how to use the subways to get close to the airport, and then to take the commuter bus to the terminal.
I trudged through the mounting snow, across the street to the station, unsure of the quickly given instructions, fearful about the increasing fury of the storm, and apprehensive about missing the New York appointments. The travel bag was inordinately heavy and as I dragged it through the slush to the steps leading to the subway station the possibility of getting to New York that night seemed hopeless.
At the door leading into the station a big black man in his gray and black US postman uniform leaned against the building to shelter himself from the driving wind and snow. Could he help? I needed help. I had to take a chance.
''Sir,'' I asked, ''are you off duty? I've got to get to the airport and I don't know all the subway connections. I'll make it worth your effort if you can help me.''
He looked down at me. He was wrapped in the solid contentment of his job; he had his own problem of getting home in the storm. His eyes told me he had no wish to disrupt the end of his day with some foolish Good Samaritan venture. It was a long look, and I despaired.
Then his solemn face lighted, and a big friendly grin emerged around the even , white teeth.
''Follow me, boy,'' he said quietly, grabbing the big bag.
It was a big assignment for a sixty-eight-year-old ''boy.''
Through the day-end mass of humanity he plowed at a fast trot, banging through turnstiles, taking the dangerous, wet steps, running along the tracks and up a flight of steps, turning constantly to be sure that I hadn't got shuffled aside by the hustling ''beat-the-storm'' home-going crowd. We pulled up at an Orange Line gate and I puffed ''What's your name?'' as the car doors swung open.
''No, He bert!''
He wedged us in as the train lurched into motion.
We swayed to a stop at the State Street station and Hebert was out of the door and hollering at me, ''You comin', boy?''
Then down steps, slippery and cold, running along tracks, up more steps, along a railed overpass, down the steps, the big traveling bag banging against his knees as he moved swiftly and surely. We hustled up to another gate.
''How you doin'?'' Hebert asked me as he led the charge into a Blue Line car, brashly brushing aside people near the sliding doors. Cold, wet, sullen commuters glared as the train's gathering speed rammed the heavy bags into laps and against knees. We were under the Inner Harbor and the roar bouncing back from the walls of the tunnel was deafening. I thought of the raging storm over us and was comforted. Hebert's hand was on my shoulder and I was comforted.
''You'll be gettin' off soon,'' Hebert yelled above the din. In spite of the press of the crowd, I had managed to get a $20 bill out of my pocket.
The train defied the normal laws of momentum and ground to a jerky halt. Hebert pushed me toward the door and as it pried open, shoved me out and dropped the big traveling bag at my feet. I tried to press the money into his huge hand. He looked down, shook his head, and, cupping his hands around his mouth, yelled above the bedlam, ''You'all come back and see us when the weather ain't so bad. Just go right up the steps. The airport bus is across the street.''
The doors slammed shut and he was gone.
As we lifted from the runway, now lightly covered with a white mantle, the captain's voice was saying, ''Ladies and gentlemen, you will be happy to know you are aboard the last flight out of Logan today. Boston is shut down.''
Stress still possessed me, but, corny as it sounded, I murmured my thanks - mostly to myself - as I settled against the dry, snug seat cushions, ''Hebert delivered the male.''
My seat companion looked at me with obvious misgivings.