I flew yesterday. September 11, 2016. 15 years later. When I first made my reservations I felt a little odd about it, but then I remembered fear doesn’t rule my life – or at least I don’t want it to. So, I went forward with my plans. Indianapolis to Dallas, all was well. Dallas to Albuquerque, so far so good. We landed, no problem. We pulled up to the gate and as usual everyone jumped up ready to depart the aircraft. But then we didn’t. 5, 10, 15 minutes go by. They ask us to sit back down because we aren’t allowed to get off the plane. The airport is closed due to “precautionary measures.” We have no idea what this means.
The two women sitting next to me begin speculating but it goes nowhere, so the younger of the two tries to sell a skin care product to the older woman. (Apparently there had been a conference in Dallas – I saw the sparkly logo t-shirts everywhere.) I did not engage in conversation with them – I rarely do. Airplanes are not a place that I want to talk. Sometimes I wish I were like the ones who start up conversations, make lots of connections and leave the plane saying, “goodbye, it was so great to meet you!” But, I am not one of those people. I digress.
After another 10 minutes or so they tell us we are allowed to leave the plane – however, we can’t leave the airport. The original plan: the plane lands at 2:10, I get my bag from baggage claim and get on the shuttle at 2:45, I arrive in Santa Fe at 3:45 to board another shuttle at 4:00 that takes me to my final destination. I slowly begin to realize this trip is not going to plan. I get it – life is full of interruptions. I don’t need any more life lessons – I learned, let’s move on to a new one! Sigh. I guess I have more to learn.
So all of us – airport employees, pilots, travelers – we all wait. We keep hearing the same announcement over the PA, but each time it’s a little different. I begin hearing the woman emphasize ‘patient’ a little more. Then she adds ‘courtesy’ to the list of characteristics she’d like us to have. I feel for them – travelers are not always the most patient or courteous people. Not only we were stuck in the concourse but all the incoming travelers were stuck in the ticketing area. People were stuck everywhere and there was nothing we could do. Lack of control does funny things to people – the saving grace was a football game playing in the bar! I haven’t heard the final story, but apparently there was a suspicious package somewhere on the airport grounds which led to them shutting down the airport for several hours.
2:45 came and went, which meant I was going to miss my second shuttle, so I reserved a car. I called my final destination to let them know I wouldn’t be at the 4:00 shuttle and found out the shuttle was actually at 2:00, not 4:00 (I went back to the website and it clearly says 4:00). I had missed the second shuttle before I landed, which means I would have been stuck at an Inn in Santa Fe without a way to my final destination. Interesting.
By 4:00 we were finally released – cheers, running (which was silly because the bags weren’t there yet – hurry, wait, hurry, wait). As we approached the escalators that take us down to baggage claim I was confused by what I was seeing. It looked really crowded below but my mind wasn’t registering it. I got on the escalator and realized what I was seeing – the whole downstairs area near ticketing was full, all people trying to get on the one up escalator. It was unreal. I was grateful that I was going down and not up. I can’t imagine how long that took.
I finally got my bag and headed to pick up my rental car. As soon as I was pulling out there was a torrential downpour. The windshield wipers couldn’t keep up. As I entered on to the interstate the rain kept coming, so hard that there were flash floods. At one point a car went by and splashed so much water onto my windshield that there was a second or two that I couldn’t see anything. Lord, have mercy. Seriously. I was about over it at that point, but then I had a thought: “I’m doing this. I just made it out of a potentially horrible event at the airport. I figured out how to get a car. I just drove through a ridiculous storm in a city that I’ve never been in and slowly I’m coming out the other side. I can do this. You’ve got this, Anne, just keep going.” So I did.
The longer I drove the more beautiful the landscape became. Red rocks. Rock formations erupting out of the hard earth. Tufts of bushes sprouting everywhere. I could see the rain coming down over the mountains in the distance. Clouds parted and the sun was revealed. Clouds closed up and more rain. Thank goodness for GPS – I found my way. I arrived. And I am thankful. Sometimes when I’m stressed and unsure, my body starts to heat up, I get sweaty. As I was driving I realized I was cold. I didn’t need the AC to cool me down because I never got hot. I was more confident than I realized, look what I had navigated – in the grand scheme of things, it really wasn’t that hard, but I still did it and I think it’s important to celebrate those little victories along the way.
Had my original plan worked out, I might still be in Santa Fe this morning. Instead I’m waking up in my own room for the week with gorgeous landscapes all around. This time I’m grateful for the interruptions. I realize that not all interruptions are good – some are heartbreaking and tragic. But, I can’t stop them – they just happen. How I move forward is the key – do I let that interruption dictate how I live my life, or do I learn from it, take what I need and leave the rest behind? Easier said than done, I know. Thankfully, we get plenty of opportunities to practice, as life is just one interruption after another.