Canceled flight, faulty earphones, or a missed meal is a First World problem.

As our walking tour in Krems, Austria, begins, the guide’s voice is heard in the device hanging around our necks, its job to connect her words with our ears.  A nifty earpiece tucks around the left lobe and all is good, until it isn’t.

For whatever reason, my device stops picking up our guide’s comments and she has given out her extra set. A little unfair, I thought, the forgetful one rewarded with the replacement gizmo that should have been mine. Walking close like the teacher’s pet, still able to catch only some facts spewing from her mouth, as she guides us through old parts of the city. The realization sets in that this is the definition of a “First World problem.” I relax and take in the smells, sights and sounds of the city.

On a cruise, most needs are anticipated. Some passengers not able to roll with the punches — “I knew the waiter would forget my beer” ― seem shallow. As I walk down the hallway to our room, two cappuccinos and Danish in hand, the chambermaid sees me beginning to reach for my key and yells stop, sprinting to beat me to the door with her master key. She will be rewarded with a tip at cruise’s end, but I hope when she gets home to her family, someone will rush to make sure her comforts are met.

We live in a hierarchy, but our station in life is not what should measure us; it is the desire to serve that sets us apart. Her grace inspired me to remember that opening a door for someone is a powerful metaphor for life and how we must strive to treat each other with simple acts of kindness, just because.

Mr. Magoo moments:

“The mark of the educated man is not in his boast that he has built his mountain of facts and stood on top of it, but in his admission that there may be other peaks in the same range with men on the top of them, and that, though their views of the landscape may be different from his, they are nonetheless legitimate.” — E. J. Pratt, poet (1882-1964)

Each day, after a hearty buffet including eggs Benedict, omelets, a variety of meats, fresh fruit, fine coffee and pastries, you sign out of the ship for your morning excursion by swiping your room key under a laser beam device that lights up with “Have a nice day Reade Brower” and then “Welcome back to the ship Reade Brower” upon your return. A nifty way of keeping track of guests, knowing they are on board before leaving for the next port.

You would think after several days of successfully signing out, and then in, this guest would have it figured out. But morning time and a crowded foyer with buses waiting apparently threw me off. Seeing two devices, I decided to use the one without a line, placing my room key underneath.

This time there was no “Have a nice day” ― instead, sanitizer spit all over my room key. The crew was quick to cover, saying it happens all the time (of course, it doesn’t — nobody puts their room key under the hand sanitizer). The crew took no joy in my misfortune, reminding me we must pick up those who stumble, and that our light does not shine brighter when someone else’s dims.

The next day we are told to be back on the bus by 11:45 a.m. SHARP. As we walk the cobblestone path back from the cathedral, we decide to skip coffee and head for the buses below. We walk past a row of 20 or more buses to catch some rays. As we walk by, our bus driver recognizes us and summons us to get in. We don’t want to, there is nobody on the bus and we want to walk another 10 minutes and sun bask, but our driver, who speaks little English, insists. He shuts the door and turns the key. Our group of 32 is nowhere to be seen as he takes off.

I am relieved my jacket is on the seat; this must be the right bus, but where are our 30 “friends”? Is he taking us back early? Are we being kidnapped and soon to be held for ransom? He circles, goes through a tunnel as we sit, trusting Americans with no idea what is happening.

Our worries cease a few minutes later as we emerge from the tunnel to see him turning uphill to the place where he had left us earlier. Apparently, we had gone to the wrong spot, he was parked in the “holding tank” for all tour buses as they were not allowed in the regular parking area until 5 minutes prior to pick up. I realize we depend on the kindness of strangers to not leave us behind more often than we realize.

A final thought – Madeleine Albright “has to go”:

“When we are willing to stay even a moment with uncomfortable energy, we gradually learn not to fear it.” ― Pema Chodron, author

In the Budda district, a statue of a women who led Hungary, while bearing 16 children, reminds me of a speech given at a college graduation (her grandson was a graduating senior) by former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, who died recently. Albright told us that women could have it all, but sometimes just not at the same time. She spoke of her juggling between mothering and career, something most men don’t have to manage.

Reading a recent accounting of her life, writer Kara Swisher recalled being at a dinner with Albright and being in the restroom together when a drunken admirer kept saying “You go girl!” over and over in an annoying and obnoxious way. Albright answered, in true diplomatic style, without missing a beat, “Thank you, but I really do have to go,” proceeding to the stall to do her business.

Perhaps “when you have to go, you have to go” is the great equalizer. Mother nature spares nobody.

Reade Brower is the owner of these newspapers.