A missed flight doesn’t have to be a missed opportunity.
I feel thankful that this year I have been deconstructing my attitudes and ideas and carefully replacing them with attitudes and ideas that I agree with spiritually and mentally. It’s funny how we allow life to program us into thinking, reacting or behaving a certain way and then we just run on auto-pilot without bothering to consult our actual selves about whether the course we are on is positive for us or a complete disaster. I’ve been on an auto-piot disaster course for so long that sometimes it feels completely natural and yet, when I take the time to actually be conscious about my reactions, decisions, and actions – my ‘natural’ reactions are anything but natural – instead they are programmed into me over 40 years of watching, listening and learning and sometimes I’ve taken the complete wrong headed notion of something and made it my truth.
Here’s what got me to thinking of all of this. Last week, I wrote about our forthcoming trip to Turkey and the struggles I had with my wife to get ourselves and our house ready for us to go. Well, some part of her apparently was pretty dead set on revenging against me and the morning we left, she dragged her feet, took a long shower, took her time putting on her makeup, needed to say her prayers and all of that led to us missing he train I’d intended us to catch from Fez to Casablanca by ten minutes. We had to wait an hour at the station for the next one. Last year, I might have fumed and blustered – I was a bit miffed to be sure, but instead of yelling or being a jerk – I bought her ice cream.
Because we missed that train, we also missed the train from Casablanca to the Airport which meant waiting another hour for the train to the airport. I felt myself tensing up and beginning to freak out since our tickets were non-refundable and non-changable and I had work waiting for me in Turkey – not to mention an apartment, a car and driver etc etc. But, rather than freaking out (which I would have done a year ago for certain), I ate a handful of nuts to balance my blood sugar and sat calmly looking at our daughter and reassuring my wife that things were fine as she looked at me like I was insane since she knew my usual reaction would be to become incredibly stressed out in a situation like this and was waiting for the explosion.
On the train, I found her unusually compliant to my instructions that when the train arrived she take the baby and the baby bag and go directly up the stairs and wait for me near the check in counter – usually she argues and demands to know why I want her to do anything until I have to shout to get her to do things – but I think my calm actually unhinged her. She did as I said and we got to the check in counter in record time and found that we had missed the check-in by 20 minutes. Too late.
I put the bags next to her and sprinted to the airline ticket office where I did my best to explain in a melange of Arabic, French and English that we had come a long way, we got delayed, my wife and baby were waiting upstairs with the bags and could they please just let us board (since the flight was still 40 minutes from takeoff) – the man at the counter was hardfaced. My ‘normal’ reaction would have been (much to my shame) to begin throwing f bombs, cussing, blustering and in some cases to have caused so much of an incident that security would have to be called if I didn’t get what I wanted(yes, it’s happened.). Instead, when he told me with his set features – “It is impossible, Monsieur.” I calmly replied (to even my surprise) “Impossible is a dream” which I didn’t quite understand or know where it had come from but which miraculously melted his features. He picked up the phone and made the call to the gate – and was told that it was too late.
So, we missed our flight – but much to my surprise, at this point he offered to change our flights to the next week for no charge which I accepted with thanks.
Back up to the counter where my family was waiting and I could see that my wife was waiting for ‘the incident’ or ‘the explosion’ – I felt the urge but resisted it since it wouldn’t accomplish a thing. “We missed it” I told her. “Come on.” I didn’t know where we were going but I needed to sit and think. We were packed, our house was ready, we’d said our goodbyes and we had four days until our flight and a days journey between the airport and home.
I called my friends in Istanbul and told them what happened so they could cancel the car etc etc and they assured me it was no problem. I thought of going home and realized it was a mistake (and keep in mind if I had exploded we probably would have gone home because she would be crying and I wouldn’t be thinking).
So, what did we do? Well – the perfect opportunity for a nice Moroccan holiday lay before us and so we grabbed it. I bought us first class train tickets to Marrakech. On the train we made friends with some very nice people. In Marrakech, we checked into the Ibis Hotel (which are always conveniently located next to the stations). It was late. My wife settled into the room with the baby while I went to the bar and drank a very much deserved glass of whiskey.
I’d always wanted to see Essouaria on the Atlantic Coast, so in the morning we ate the very nice breakfast at the Ibis, bought bus tickets to Essouaria and then spent the next couple of days enjoying one of the most enjoyable towns in Morocco. Our baby got to play in the sand and see the ocean for the first time, the weather was balmy and perfect, and my wife even confessed (this almost never happens) that she had prayed for us to miss our flight because she wasn’t ready to go yet. To be honest, this would have made me angry except for the fact that I had an admission of my own to make – I was glad we missed it!
It was the first time I’d ever missed a flight and it led to writing this as I sit on a rooftop watching the waves roll into the shore but that’s not the most important reason I was glad. Mostly, I was glad to be confirmed that my changes in attitude are leading us in a positive direction and to be reminded that the best part of travel is often the result of things that at first seem to be terrible.
I’ve always liked the phrase “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade” and I have to tell you, from where I’m sitting, the lemonade is incredibly sweet and delicous.