I flew home to Michigan recently, amid family crises and snowstorms. Plans were scuttled by weather, by injury, by illness; and I’ve never had so many flight cancellations by an airline on a single trip in my life.
The first leg of the flight home landed in dense fog, with rain on the ground and temperatures around 35 degrees. As we reached the destination and I left the plane to meet my last connecting flight, several passengers sighed and said they were so glad to finally be home. It was a light-hearted group, so I chimed in with an exaggerated whine, “I still have to get to Michigan!!“
The woman ahead of me in the exit row turned and we began one of those “Really? Me, too. Where are you going?” exchanges, and we found we were on our next flight together.
While I was headed to my home, she lives out west in the city I’d just left. We knew many places in common, and just started talking. We settled in to share the long layover time together, and after a time she got up and said she was going to check the flight board, just to be sure our flight was still a “go.”
Neither of us had received the text alerts we signed up for, but our flight was cancelled. She had a presentation to give in the morning, and I was simply travel weary, needing to get home. I mentioned another airport nearby where flights would likely still be operating. We went to the airline counter and were able to re-book our tickets to that destination instead. They even sat us together, although we didn’t ask.
The change added two hours to our wait time, and we had a mad scramble to reschedule things on the Michigan side. I only had to call my husband – my ride home – and alert him that there was a change in plans. My new friend had to find a rental car, and after that success, she had to change reservations at two hotels, cancel a series of scheduled taxis, and advise other members of her presentation team of all the changes. We celebrated our newly plotted series of steps with a pizza.
She was grateful to have a “local” around to help with things like estimated drive times and information about the small city where she would be doing her presentation. I was headed in the same direction as she, so she was also glad for company on the road at such a late hour and some guidance and reassurance along the route. Of course, I was so happy to have a ride from the airport about ninety minutes in the direction of home, and my husband was grateful that his round trip turned into an hour instead of four in the wet fog.
She got checked in to her hotel about 1:30 a.m. (after we woke the attendant). We exchanged contact information and made plans to get together next time I’m in her town. A well-earned hug topped off our shared ordeal, and we said good bye.
Someday the airline will find the bag that didn’t come home with me. Sooner or later, my new friend will catch up on her sleep. A few days from now, I’ll be back on track as well and able to walk without feeling stiff from travel.
In the meanwhile, I remain in awe of the ripple effect from my playful, whining comment. It resulted in welcome companionship in times of travel distress and a new long-term friendship. Truly providential workings in a complex world.
(c) 2020, J. Cools