Grace Under Pressure, Reflections, Travel

Going Home: Unexpected Adventures in Travel

My bag packed, the bed sheets stripped and washed, about to make eat some breakfast before I left for the airport, I got this text: 

Not delayed or rescheduled. Just canceled. Mechanical difficulties. 

Getting to our place in Southwest Colorado takes effort. Generally, I fly a big airline into Denver then take an 8-seater flight on the adorable little airline that flies into Cortez, CO. This takes some finagling. Choosing flights that coordinate in time is tricky, and not being able to check a bag through adds complications, but it works out. Usually.

Yesterday, when that message came through, I momentarily panicked. It was 11:00am. My non-refundable flight out of Denver was at 5:30pm; driving there takes 7 hours, so even if that were an option, I wouldn’t make it in time. 

Figuring it out took some fast phone calls, reassurance from the little airline that they would reimburse me my original ticket plus give me $150 toward new travel arrangements, and the luck of 2 open seats being available on the 1:30pm flight out of the other small airport, just an hour away. I booked a ticket, checked in, downloaded my boarding pass—phew. Five minutes later, I got a notification from the United Airlines app: Your flight has been delayed. By an hour. Mechanical difficulties. 

I started to wonder. Am I not meant to fly today? I reflected on it being the 18thanniversary of 9/11. Wondered if this was going to turn out to be like that old joke where God sends a car, a boat and helicopter and the person refuses them all. I’d gotten a canceled flight and a delayed one…was I just supposed to go home another day? 

But by now, I’d clicked the purchase button for the $304 flight, I’d remade the bed with clean sheets, and said my goodbyes. I took my chances and landed, uneventfully, in Denver.

The adrenaline of it all left me exhausted. By this point, my backpack and suitcase felt like they contained lead instead of clothes, computer and a book. I ate at a place close to my gate. I noted the small crowd under the Minneapolis sign and had that hopeful thought: maybe I’ll have an empty seat next to me. 

Not only did I have an empty seat, I ended up having a whole row. Before I left, my mother gave me a novel I’ve been wanting to read for at least 6 months (Where the Crawdads Sing, by the stellar Delia Owens). I luxuriated in stretching my legs out across all three seats and diving into the story. Not too long before we landed, I looked out the window to see the sun setting and the almost-full moon rising above it.

Why do I tell you this story, reader? It isn’t particularly thrilling, or necessarily important except for this: a really crappy start can turn out so unexpectedly pleasant. 

If I’d stayed mad about the whole thing, grumpy at all the hoop-jumping, anxiety-inducing steps it took to actually get home, I would never have been able to fully appreciate my seating luck, the opulence of a great book, and this view out my window:

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