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!”


“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.


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 on January 10, 2013

Departing Flight

You never want to see your departing flight from outside the aircraft...

Here I am, waiting for my new flight after my original flight to Orlando via Atlanta was cancelled.

So what’s going through my mind as I wait for a second time?

  • An irrational need to try and find an outlet and make sure my laptop, phone and tablet are all charged. This day has offered up too many surprises already. I need to be prepared for anything, or so I think.
  • A hyper-focus on how I’m feeling. Sure, I’ve felt better and not being able to talk isn’t fun, but why do I keep thinking I’m going to feel worse than I do because of a longer trip?
  • A question: Why did the Southwest Airlines plane I see out the window just do a loopty loop on the tarmac? It made a full 360 degree turn and now it is stopped 150 yards from the terminal, waiting much more patiently than I am.
  • Stress about what seats I’ll have on these new flights.
  • Control. Why such an obsession with control?

The latter two points cause me to head to the gate for my new flight and hang around for the non-existent representative so I can nail down my seat and get my boarding pass. After 15 minutes here pondering the above thoughts with no gate agent in sight, I get an email from my travel person.

She’s booked me the exit row and I’m all set to go. Yay! Since I still have an hour until departure, I decide to hunt down an electrical outlet (see the first point above). I finally find one several gates down from mine where I am now typing all this.

I look at my watch. Time to head to the gate for boarding. I get to the gate and wait and wait in front of the desk in a line that has formed in the few minutes I’ve been away. I finally talk to the representative, but by now the plane is halfway boarded. I tell her I need my boarding pass because I was rebooked on this flight.

She looks on the computer then tells me I’m not on this flight.

She says has no confirmation and informs me the flight is full. “All fifty seats are taken,” she adds for emphasis as if “full” wasn’t clear enough.

I’m stunned but explain the first flight’s cancellation and how they rebooked me just an hour ago. She finds the reservation but repeats more firmly this time that it wasn’t confirmed (her emphasis) and there are no seats available on the flight. She’s not only dismissive, she’s borderline rude. She informs me it is all Delta’s fault and I need to go back to Delta.

I mumble a less-than-genuine “thank you” as I walk away, a bit incensed. I call my travel person who reminds me that she has emailed me the confirmation and even reserved the seats so how could I not be confirmed in the system? She’s no happier with American at this point than I am.

I go back to the counter and show the rep my email confirmation, all to no avail. She tells me again that Delta should have called her at the desk earlier to confirm. I refrain from noting that no one was at the desk earlier nor do I point out that airlines use these things called computers for a reason.

Instead, I just look at her like a lost puppy, both of us knowing there’s nothing she can do at this point as another American employee closes the boarding door behind her.

She lets slip a perfunctory “I’m sorry.” Maybe she means it, but I’ve already moved away from the counter, thanking her but not sure what for.

I want to cry.

I know that sounds pathetic, but with this cold and being tired from a long week so far of travel and meetings, that’s how I feel. I call my travel person who is graciousness personified. Again, I’m back to waiting for someone else to solve my problems, all eventualities out of my control.

I will soon discover just how out of control they are.

To be continued…

If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out Part 1

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When your trip goes awry – Part 1

by Steve Brock on January 4, 2013

Odd, don’t you think, that we are incapable of remembering what we once felt?

We can recall that we felt a certain way and can even describe what we thought we were feeling at the time. But we can’t recreate the exact same emotions. After the child is born, the mother cannot re-feel the pain (a good thing) but neither can she return emotionally to that initial joy of holding her child in her arms for the very first time.

This phenomenon makes all reporting about our emotions on a trip a bit suspect. Our memory in general is notorious for leaving out details that did occur and filling in ones that didn’t. But when it comes to our emotional memory, it gets even worse.

Knowing this, I decided to capture in as close to real time as I could what I was thinking and feeling on a recent trip when the situation started to unravel. I’ll share with you here and in the next few entries what happened. You’ll see that even as the events unfolded, I was unable to understand 15 minutes after the fact why I had felt the way I did just moments earlier.

I’ll then share what I think this all meant since, as you’ll see (and as you probably already know from your own experience), meaning doesn’t always come at the time of experience. It often takes reflection and time to make sense of it all.

So here goes, a play-by-play account of a trip that did not go as planned.

Correction: Did not go as I planned…


Flight CancelledIt’s currently Thursday morning and I’m in an airport in the southern part of the Midwest. I have been fighting a cold for the past six days. The cold’s been winning. Like bankruptcy and certain relationships, it got slowly better before getting suddenly worse.

Besides just feeling lousy, the primary victim of this cold has been my voice. I spent 14 hours yesterday in all-day client meetings hardly able to speak. By the end of the evening, I literally could not say a word except by whispering.

In a different situation, this laryngitis-like malady could serve a talker like me well as a lesson in listening better. But the timing, as well as my ability to speak even this morning, could both use some dramatic improvement.

Today I was to fly from here to Florida for more meetings. The good news is that this is a travel day with no appointments. The bad news is that this has become more of a travel day than I expected.

Delta just informed all the passengers that our flight to Atlanta (en route to Orlando) has been cancelled due to mechanical problems.

Ever been on a cancelled flight, particularly with business travelers? There’s a huge rush to the desk to rebook and every cell phone within 200 feet is now pressed to people’s faces as we all frantically try to get on the few alternative flights out of this medium-sized airport.

I try to get online to hunt for Delta’s reservation number. But remember, I still can’t talk except in sporadic words. Listening to me is like having a conversation with bad cell reception: only one in every three words comes out discernable. So rather than call the airline, I call the wonderful person who books my travel on these business trips.

She’s there, deciphers my croaks and squeaks and tells me she’ll call Delta immediately. I hang up, thankful for her assistance.

Now what would you do at this point? Sit back and wait patiently for her to call back? Rationally, I know that’s my best plan. But that’s not how I react. Instead, I pursue a variety of fruitless actions just so I can feel like I’m doing something:

  • I look up the airline reservation number,
  • I then decide instead to tweet them,
  • I can’t find a way to send a direct message to Delta on Twitter, so,
  • I start to call the airline, until I realize that calling now might mess up what my travel person is doing so,
  • I hang up and wonder, not for the last time today, why I seem unable to trust God and others to work things out for me.

The phone rings. My travel person has got me a flight on American that gets me into Orlando four hours later than originally planned. Not optimal, but in these situations, few things are. And compared to the only other option she could find that arrives after midnight, I’m grateful. I profusely thank her and now await that flight.

It will be a much longer wait than I ever imagined.

To be continued…

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Planning and Control

by Steve Brock February 4, 2011

You’ll have a much better trip when you concentrate primarily on those things you can control and trust God with the rest. This is true not only during the trip itself but also during the planning stage of your trip, often for some surprising reasons…

Read the full article →

MT (Meaningful Traveler): Phone home

by Steve Brock August 30, 2010

A helpful article on the options for calling home overseas sparks a reflection on the value of disconnecting from work while on vacation…and how hard that can be.

Read the full article →