The Chicago anecdote is right out of my life though....March 2007 - 8 hours of delays at Chicago O'Hare, with 2 small kids, no cell phone, and running out of patience. But I did it.
You’ve probably had the kind of travel experience I did this past Friday. I was traveling from San Diego to Toronto, booking my tickets three months ago as I eagerly anticipated the eleven days spent with my youngest granddaughter, Flora. I’m now here in my favorite Canadian city, my long-awaited stay cut short by only six or seven hours, but in those long hours leading up to my arrival, those few hours seemed interminable.
My adventure began as soon as I arrived at the San Diego airport on Friday morning. I headed for the kiosk to finish the check-in process but was immediately stopped by an agent.
“Where are you headed?”
“Toronto,” I cheerily replied.
“You need to go over there,” she said, pointing to a long line of passengers waiting to have their check-in completed by the three agents on duty. “We have delays in Chicago.”
“Oh, Oh,” I thought. I had only 45 minutes in O’Hare to disembark and gallop to a different concourse to make my connecting flight to Toronto.
I dutifully took my place in line and did what I don’t do very well. I waited, inching my bags and myself forward as the minutes ticked slowly by.
What you do with time
is what a grandmother clock
does with it: strike twelve
and take its time doing it.
You’re the clock: time passes,
you remain. And wait.
(From: “Mother,” by Kurt Brown)
I was finally summoned to an agent’s desk. He reviewed my ticket and murmured, “Oh dear, a change in Chicago.” I didn’t like the sound of that. “Let me see if I can get you on a later flight to Toronto,” he said. “We aren’t sure when the flight to Chicago from San Diego is actually going to arrive.”
His hands flew over the keyboard as he looked at flight schedules and seat availability while I gripped the strap of my handbag, knuckles turning white, a sure sign of my rising anxiety. “All set,” he said, “I’ve got you re-ticketed. It’ll be a little longer day for you, but you and your luggage will get to Toronto together.”
Tickets in hand, I breathed relief and made my way to the gate. As my flight to O’Hare was delayed twice more, I checked my new tickets, grateful that the agent had re-ticketed me for a later flight. My gratitude didn’t last.
It is possible that things will not get better
than they are now, or have been known to be.
It is possible that we are past the middle now.
It is possible that we have crossed the great water
without knowing it, and stand now on the other side.
Yes: I think that we have crossed it. Now
we are being given tickets, and they are not
tickets to the show we had been thinking of…
(From Riveted, by Robyn Sarah)
Hours later, I sat in Chicago’s O’Hare, among the other weary and frustrated travelers who were waiting for the Toronto flight, having already endured one gate change and five different posted departure times, each becoming later and later. We finally departed near midnight and touched down in Toronto sometime after 2 a.m., only to have to stand in a long line of international travelers waiting, as we were, to go through Canadian customs. I still had to claim my luggage and find a taxi. I glanced at the clock in the customs hall. 3 a.m. I was frantic with fatigue, I began to feel as if I would never get to my daughter’s apartment. It was not definitely the trip I envisioned when I first booked my tickets months before.
Life is like that sometimes, isn’t it? We’re dealt a wild card, a blow, given news we didn’t expect and never asked for, and we look at the tickets in our hands and protest, “but this is not the life I wanted.” Those moments bring us to our knees. We’re forced to re-consider, re-evaluate, take the tickets we’ve been given and make the best of the journey we’re on.
I arrived at my daughter’s apartment at 3:45 a.m. and fell into bed. But just three later, I heard my granddaughter’s voice, and I couldn’t sleep another minute. I got out of bed and peeked around the corner of the kitchen door. “Good morning, Flora,” I said. Every tedious hour of waiting vanished in the moment she looked up and smiled at me.
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
(From “The Four Quartets,” by T.S. Eliot)
The faith and the love and the hope are … in the waiting. These words make me reconsider why life sometimes challenges us, throws us a curve we didn’t expect. I am still learning, even after all these years, to accept what I cannot control, to let things unfold as they will, even if it’s as simple as waiting, weary and irritable, for a delayed flight.
This week, write about a time you’ve been given tickets to a life you didn’t expect, didn’t wish for. What was the event? What helped you cope with your new set of circumstances? What did you discover along the way?