January 2013

When your trip goes awry – Part 5

by Steve Brock on January 31, 2013

The combined episodes of having one flight cancelled, being denied a second, making a third and finally arriving at my destination don’t tell the full story.

Here’s the background: If you’d been flying a ton for most of December and you were in, say the Midwest until Thursday and had other meetings in say, Orlando, Florida the following Monday, what would you do? Spend all day Thursday flying home to Seattle then all day Sunday flying to Florida? Or might you think, “I’ll fly directly to Florida, save a day in the air, get some work done in the hotel and be fresh as a daisy for Monday’s meetings?”

Yeah. Me too.

Except that Thursday ran me ragged due to having a cold and the stress of flight delays. And then along comes Friday.

My hotel (a Hyatt no less, located inside the Orlando airport) lacks wifi. I spend the whole day on my cell phone or trying to find the elusive hot spot at the airport just to get some emails out. Overall, the day is frustrating and I wonder more than once if I should have just flown home Thursday. I could have avoided the last two days that have been as much fun as an extended stay at the Laundromat.

But I would also have missed what happened Friday night.

————-

My client (who has become a great friend) has invited me to Andrew Peterson’s “Behold the Lamb of God” concert this Friday evening here in Orlando. I love Andrew Peterson’s music and his books for young adults. But I’ve never seen him perform live.

The concert is wonderful. It starts with the various muscians on this tour performing their own works. It then moves to a musical account of, as they put it, “The true tall tale of the Christ child.” I am enchanted and moved and, for the first time this season, begin to feel as if Christmas is indeed coming.

Then, amidst all this expectation of Christmas arrives something unexpected.

To explain one of his songs, Andrew tells of reluctantly reading his son’s favorite book, The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Favorite? I saw the movie a few years back, the old one with Gregory Peck. I could relate to Andrew’s hesitancy to read the book. You won’t find it in the dictionary under “happy endings.” It’s like Old Yeller: “boy meets pet, boy falls in love with pet, boy has adventures with pet, crisis occurs, pet dies.” Not exactly uplifting.

Deer

Yet there’s more to it than a sad end to the family pet deer. What I had missed was what Andrew saw in the book: The “yearling” is not the pet fawn so much as the boy, young Jody Baxter. And what dies in the book is not just a deer, but the innocence of youth.

I cannot tell you why his explanation of the book and the corresponding song struck me as they did. But as he described his own mourning for the passing of childhood and the hard realities of adulthood, I understood. I understood immediately what he meant and what he felt. I even knew, in that moment, why it was so hard for me to get here, why I responded almost as a child would to the minor inconvenience of delayed flights and why these words and this song matter to me.

We all have missing pieces within us. Unfinished business. Places within we know to be ours even though we’ve forgotten or misplaced them as we grow into adulthood and beyond. And in rare moments, they open to us and we make sense of them even if we can’t explain them. So it was for me.

Hard travel pummels us. It also tenderizes us and makes us available to what God would reveal and would give us. I received a gift that night that I cannot explain to anyone fully. I only know that I was supposed to be there, to hear a strange tale and beautiful music. And to realize that what it took to arrive here only made the receiving better.

And so I use this trip as a marker. An asterisk to set at the end of any future grumbling sentences I might utter during another hard trip. A reminder that I cannot judge any journey until I reach the end. For the journey I think I’m taking is rarely the one I’m actually on. The story is not always what I think it’s about. And the destination can be someplace far different than where I thought I was heading.

 

If you want to know how I got to this point and you haven’t read them yet, check out Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4

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When your trip goes awry – Part 4

by Steve Brock on January 25, 2013

Two planes have been denied me so far this day. Third time, hopefully, is indeed the charm.

This plane is one of those smaller ones I tend to collectively classify as a “puddle jumper.” The destination is Houston, a bit larger than your average “puddle.”

It seems as if we’re about to depart but then the flight attendant informs us of an issue.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” I think, not one more delay or cancelled flight today.

It turns out the issue is simply the redistribution of weight in the aircraft. After a reluctant passenger moves from row two to row 12 or so, we’re good to go. We take off.

After an uneventful hour and fifteen minute flight, I’m in Houston, the first leg of my journey to Orlando.

I’ve never been here before. This place is huge.

I head toward the departure gate and along the way, I stop at a restaurant and order a BBQ sandwich. This is Texas after all and when in Rome…

BBQ Sandwich

It’s quite tasty (better than it looks in the photo) and in a small acknowledgement to silver linings, I realize I would have missed this meat-lover’s feast had I caught my original flight…or my second one.

On the way here I got to thinking about why missing my flight was so stressful. Now that I’m back in transit, it seems like such a minor issue. Yet at the time, getting on a plane became an all-consuming priority.

Why?

My theory: I, as most of us do, fear the unknown. Waiting four hours for a delayed flight is tedium. Waiting, but not knowing when or if you’ll make it on a flight, is panicky. We like to know where we’re going in life, especially in the near term.

But knowing what lies ahead of us is not reality. I realize how blessed I am most of the time to make my connections. Our world, however, isn’t fair: things don’t always go our way and we rarely know what will happen in the next hour, much less the next week, month or year. Today is a reminder of that reality and the larger one, that amidst all this uncertainty, we never travel alone.

I am saved from further ruminations by the announcement that my hopefully last episode of today’s journey is about to board. And so I go.

—————–

I have just arrived in Orlando and checked into my hotel room approximately 11 hours since I left the other hotel this morning. I am tired but mostly numb. I remind myself to be grateful that I’m here.

Such is the way of travel that it may take days or even months for me to understand what has happened this day and this trip. Perhaps it means nothing; a trifling inconvenience. No out-of-the-ordinary occurrences happened along the way (although that BBQ sandwich was pretty darned good). No great revelations other than the ad in the airport have hit me. But I suspect more remains to be seen from today than I now can perceive.

I have made it to my destination and for that I am thankful. Not as thankful now, however, as I was when I first heard I had a seat on an outbound plane. That’s sad but oh so typical. Get me out of the crisis and I’m back on autopilot. But if I’ve learned anything today it is this: Even now as I write this, I have another chance to be grateful. To pause and remember the worry and desperation even if I can’t feel them now in the same way I did then. To recall how I felt when I felt deeply. And to not take another breath without giving my Creator thanks for that breath and this whole day however it has gone.

Maybe I don’t need anything more meaningful than that.

To be continued…

If you haven’t yet, check out Part 1, Part 2 or Part 3 of this series.

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When your trip goes awry – Part 3

by Steve Brock on January 16, 2013

To recap part 1 and part 2, I’m at an airport in the Midwest.

My first flight on Delta out of here was cancelled due to mechanical issues. My so-called rebooked flight on American didn’t happen since they said the reservation wasn’t confirmed. I’m having uncomfortable flashes of the Tom Hanks movie, “The Terminal…”

Back to the real-time account:

I jot down some questions in my journal: What is God trying to teach me? Is this a lesson in surrender and trust? But even amidst the concerns, I sense that He goes with me, knows how I feel and most importantly cares about this whole fiasco. I’m not alone in this.

I decide to walk back to the Delta gate, another attempt to do something even if I’m not sure what I’ll say once I get there. I’m telling myself to be grateful even if that’s not how I’m feeling.

And then I look up and see this sign:

Airport Sign
I stop and take a photo (not a very good one due to the glare). I know it’s not an accident I’m seeing this. I smile about the old adage regarding the guy who complained he had no shoes until he met the man who had no feet. I’m whining about a cold and a few extra hours in an airport. And here’s a photo of a little boy who has lost his leg to cancer.

Just as the impact of that starts to hit me, the phone rings. My travel person has booked me on a United flight. United? That’s not part of Delta’s network. She doesn’t care. She will make it work with Delta. Despite her normally sweet disposition, you don’t mess with my travel person, especially when she feels an injustice has been done.

I can only tell her for the I-don’t-know-how-manyeth time today, “Thank you.”

I head to the United gate and camp out there. Eventually, two gate agents arrive carrying on an animated conversation. I rush over. One barely glances my way but I take that as a signal to launch into my tale of woe. Neither care nor really seem to be listening, although the closest one taps on the computer even as she continues her conversation.

Somewhere between:

“Well, I don’t think he should have been allowed to change shifts like that!”

and

“There’ve been issues with him before. I remember when…”

the tapper reaches down, without seeming to take her eyes off her colleague, grabs a boarding pass from the printer below the counter and hands it to me. She does this all without missing a beat in her conversation. I will never be genetically capable of multi-tasking like that.

My thank you goes unheeded but no worries: I have a boarding pass! My sudden endearment for this stiff piece of paper makes me understand why people kiss the tarmac when they land after a grueling escapade abroad.

As I wait for my third flight out of this airport today, I still feel a bit like crying. Not out of frustration or disappointment this time, however, but out of gratitude. But that emotion is fading quickly.

In an almost sinister way, I feel the hard traveler’s edge returning. I’m starting to move beyond crisis back into routine. Even now, less than an hour after first being told I wasn’t on the American flight, I’m wondering why I was so worked up about it.

I’m glad I’m calmer. But I’m not so sure this tendency to shut down and return to a business-like approach to travel is such a good thing. I don’t like feeling raw, but neither do I like not feeling anything.

I would ponder this day more but I’m neither capable of making sense of it yet nor do I have the time. For even as I consider running and grabbing some lunch, I look over and my two talkative gate agents are now in full on boarding mode.

I have rarely wanted to board a plane as much as I do this one.

And now I am.

Finally.

I find my seat and give thanks that this seems like I’m actually going to get out of here.

Or so I think.

To be continued…

If you haven’t yet done so, check out Part 1 and Part 2

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When your trip goes awry – Part 2

by Steve Brock January 10, 2013

What happens when a trip that started to go awry starts to go even further awry?

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When your trip goes awry – Part 1

by Steve Brock January 4, 2013

The first of a series on how we can’t recreate what we felt on a trip and what happens when everything seems to go wrong while traveling

Read the full article →