What we’re really talking about when we talk about missed plane connections

MissedConnection

This post is part of a weekly series about designing your life.

When we talk about
missed plane connections,
we’re not talking about planes.

The details of that particular voyage
are of no consequence
even though we’re convinced
that’s the story we’re telling.

We’re compelled to share
the number of minutes spent on the tarmac
and how close we came to missing the flight
because they provide a shape,
a socially presentable container,
for all our messy emotions.

Anxiety. Panic. Frustration.

We’re annoyed
when we feel
our time has
been wasted.

And we’re scared
of being stranded,
of the unknown,
of things beyond our control.

We don’t like to admit this.

On Saturday morning
the line up for my flight
from Malaga to Paris
was epic.
The computer system
was down (Who knew this
could happen in an airport)
and each passenger
was checked in
by a staff member
on the phone
with an employee
in another city.
So let’s say
things

proceeded

slowly.

There was no way
our 6:50 am flight
would leave on time
and that looked bad for
my connection in Paris.

At a little cafe
near the gate
I ate a bocadillo with
Iberico ham
and a cafe latte
and tried to create
a new story
for this journey.

Needed: a new paradigm.

I asked myself
“What would Damien do?”

He would survey the situation.

What’s real here?
I’m safe.
I’m having a lovely meal.
The plane is at the gate
so this flight will
eventually depart.
If I miss my flight to Tokyo
I’ll spend the day in Paris.

Even before the plane
took off
I was asleep.

When I awoke
people were moving
to the front of the plane
with their knapsacks and luggage.
Those with tight connections.
I would have 40 minutes
to get a boarding pass,
clear passport control
and catch a bus
to the M gates.

Not probable
but possible.

Relax. You’re okay.

When I scanned my passport
at a machine, a message said:
“You do not have enough time to board.”

I asked for help.

An Air France employee
whom I stopped in the hall
directed me to a desk
that would issue my boarding pass.
A Canadian woman living in Spain
asked if I’d like to go ahead of her.
She had plenty of time
she said.
I cried at her kindness
but just a little.

Ran through the airport
forsaking a day in Paris.

Home.
Si es possible.
If it is possible.
If the universe desires.

I boarded Air France 272
during the final boarding call
red-faced from running.

The rest unfolded
as it always does.
12 hours in the sky:
Movies, brie cheese, sleep.

My bag arrived a day later,
delivered to my door.

None of this was the end of the world.

The feeling
I chose to have
on my journey
was not one of
fear
or anxiety
even though
I’m especially gifted
at both.

I chose adventure.
{Let’s see what happens. Run!}

I chose creativity
and wrote four poems.

I chose gratitude
for finding
a balance
between
letting go
and
helping myself
and to the women and men
of Air France who got me
and my luggage
home.

I changed my story.

An inconvenience
is not
a catastrophe
unless we think it is.

The self who missed
the flight
is sitting on a green metal chair
in the Tuileries Garden
on a sunny day in late May
deciding where to eat
roast chicken for dinner.

3 comments

  1. So true! Because of a railway strike, I recently had to spend the morning at the airport in Hamburg instead of going to visit the town (which I’d been so looking forward to). But you know what? Instead of fuming, I discovered a new-to-me author in the bookshop and bought a magazine (I haven’t read one in years) and had time to read both over a lovely cup of coffee.

  2. Once a really long plane delay (due to a strike) got me an unexpected day in Rome on my way back home to Beirut. It was the best thing that could have happened!

  3. Isn’t it wonderful when we realize that we can change our perspective and that changes our experience.

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