My favorite flight delay (yes, I have one) was a delay in Chicago in October 2016. A massive fall thunderstorm swept through the Midwest, setting off a cascade of flight cancellations. By the time my connecting flight home was cancelled at 10:00 pm, it had been delayed six times. I’d hoped against hope while grabbing dinner in a packed bar with the entire airport watching the Cubs on their way to their first World Series since 1908. When the airline finally gave me my hotel voucher, I’d long ago said goodbye to my suitcase with my toiletries and jammies in Toronto, where I was forced to check my bag on an overfull flight.
Throngs of tired and cranky passengers waited for their vouchered shuttle in an icy October drizzle, the remnants of the storm that was the cause of all of our suffering. When we finally packed into ours after 40 minutes in the cold, there were apparently so many cancelled flights that it just kept driving. We finally arrived at a dingy Holiday Inn in some generic suburb of Chicago. I got my room key and complimentary toothbrush and wandered around trying to find my room. That was more difficult than it should have been given there were almost no lights on in the cavernous tropical pool area. I was struck at how perfectly the setting mirrored a B-grade horror show, complete with its hapless, lone female victim. I saw literally not a single other soul. I quickly deadbolted my room and prayed I’d make it through the night. Then the fun began.
As I internally debated the pros of sleeping in the same clothes I’d been wearing all day and would again much of tomorrow against the “relative” cleanliness of this fine establishment, I improvised a makeshift contact lens case out of the hotel glasses, the soap dish, and some coffee filters. As I labored, I began to realize how very cold it was in there. The heater didn’t work. I should have thrown a fit and made them switch my room (heaven knows it felt every other room in the place was unoccupied), but I’d retained my good mood so far, so instead I waited 20 minutes for a maintenance guy who seemed to know just what was wrong, like this had happened before. As I let a strange man into my room at midnight in a place I was sure no one could hear me scream, I held the room door open into the dark abyss…I knew it was a pointless gesture if my fate were already sealed, but it made me feel better. He had it fixed in a few minutes and told me to give it half an hour to get warm. He was right about that, too.
In the morning I showered, put my dirty clothes back on, and hopped the shuttle for the long drive back to the airport. I took one conference call in the shuttle and another at my gate to deal with an unfolding work crisis. I got home tired and feeling like the floor of a taxi cab (one of my favorite borrowed sayings), but still in good humor. I’m not sure why: there was a day when less than this chain of events would have left me angry and stressed. But a lot has happened these last five years, and I guess I’m more comfortable with not being in control. I’ve learned beyond any shadow of a doubt that any feeling of control I ever had was always an illusion that I fooled myself with to stay sane. Instead, I found humor in the cascading comedy of events. No permanent harm done. But it did leave me a permanent gift: this story.
“The only thing you sometimes have control over is perspective. You don’t have control over your situation. But you have a choice about how you view it.” –Chris Pine