Saturday, September 8, 2012

Is anyone dead? Is anyone missing a limb?

My daughter is stretched out on the bed beside me reading Ramona Quimby Age 8, a classic for the ages.  The lamps are glowing.  I hear my husband and other daughter pottering downstairs and Bill Clinton's speech from the Democratic National Convention being replayed on Youtube.

I feel hopeful tonight.  I feel hopeful that people are decent.  I feel hopeful that we can take care of others and ourselves through kindness, willingness to compromise, through being present with people and really learning to listen to each other.  To our children.  To our colleagues.  To our so-called enemies.

Expending energy on "what if's" and "why don't they justs" is so not worth it.  Everything is what it is.  We are where we are.  Of course, that's easy for me to say today.  I ate fresh bread for supper, I am cozily curled up on my new Ikea chair with a daughter who loves reading by my side, my back is pain-free and my pants are actually a bit loose.  What's more, I am conscious of my breaths, I am relaxed, I am at peace.

My life is a frenzy.  I could go twenty-four hours, and I could certainly think of plenty of problems that I have, but why?  Why focus on that?

I'll never forget the day we missed our flight from Hawaii back to the US for our summer break.  We were living in China, had just completed the adoption of our second daughter, and we had to (what a travail!) spend several days in Hawaii on the way back to the States in order to apply for their American citizenship.  In between all the paper work, we somehow managed to have a fun-filled time on that island where the sky was blue, the ocean was warm and everywhere we went, people smiled at our lovely, new family that we were (and are) so mightily proud of.

Perhaps in all the euphoria or cacophony of being a new parent, I somehow mis-shelved in that usually-tightly organized mind of mine, the time in which we were meant to depart for Seattle.  My memory was we left at two o'clock in the afternoon so at nine that morning, after a leisurely breakfast, I went to double check our flight and see that it was on time.  My reaction was unmitigated panic upon seeing our scheduled flight was boarding the very time I was checking the internet!

I went into overdrive and started pulling out all the stops to see what could be done.  Nothing.  No help.  Nada.  The next available flight was next week.  We would have to pay full price for new tickets and the summer season was in high swing.  There would be a penalty for not arriving at the flight.  Our check out time was in two hours and there was no room left in Hawaii for under 300 dollars a night that we could find.

After the overdrive, came the tears, and then came the resignation.  I took full responsibility for the mistake and with quiet certitude I told Don to pack the bags and be ready to go at a moment's notice.  I took a taxi to the airport and allowed the wiser side of me to talk the hysterical side of me down.  By the time I entered the airport I was breathing easier, though unhappy with the certitude that we would be spending our year's savings on another week in Hawaii and another set of four tickets.  (Oh, the other news was that we would NOT be able to use our return ticket back to China since we hadn't appeared for the first of the two flights.  Ouch.)

I lined up in the "people with problems" aisle, which was surprisingly short given the state of airline travel these days, and listened to people yell and threaten and harass the man behind the counter.  I was impressed that he took everything in stride, dealt with everyone efficiently and kindly, and people left, one by one, as if hypnotized into a state of calm servitude.

When my time came, I stepped up to the counter, took a deep breath, and broke into a flood of Niagra-like tears that I had no idea were coming.  When I came up for air, the gentlemen stepped in:

"May I ask you two questions, ma'am?"

I nodded in between my heaving sobs and kerfuffling.

"Is anyone dead?"

I took a massive blow into an-already used up tissue and resorted to the sleeve of my shirt for my undignified response.

"No," I heaved.

"Good, then.  Question two: has anyone lost a limb?"

I let out a small guffaw.  "No, sir."

"There you go, then. Let's start from there, shall we?"

I managed to pull myself together and recount my story.  He listened intently, taking notes and "uh-huhing" at all the right places.

"I have a third question."


"Are you packed?"

"Pretty close."

"Fourth question: can your husband and two daughters get themselves here within the next hour and a half."

"I think so," I snuffled.

"Last question."


"Are you prepared to stop on three Hawaiian Islands before landing in Seattle?"

"Yes, I think so."

"Let's plug this in, then."

He tapped into his computer furiously for a few minutes and announced, "You'll arrive in Seattle at two pm tomorrow.  I'm afraid it's going to cost you three hundred extra dollars, though.  I wish I could do better for you.  Is that acceptable?"

Acceptable?  We were landing three hours earlier than the flight we were actually scheduled to be since it had a five hour stopover, and he had just saved us our retirement savings.

"Yes, it's acceptable, very acceptable," I answered thankfully.

End of story, pretty much.  We got home.  We had a wonderful summer.  Our Chinese daughters became American citizens.  We went back home to China and carried on with our happy little lives.

Lesson learned?   Unless someone is dead or missing a limb, it's not worth getting your knickers in a knot over.  Things work themselves out.

Thank you, behind-the-counter Delta man.  You taught me a valuable lesson that day that I've never forgotten.  Aloha style.

Our flight to the US this summer, which we did make!

My new start every day all day is to remind myself that it's all small potatoes.  If nobody's dead and nobody's missing a body part, I'm going to chill out and try to enjoy the ride!

Frequent fliers, even on their own steam!

PS: Since the "Hawaii Incident," I have caused our family to miss three more international flights!  I have each time heeded the advice of the angel-disguised-as-a-Delta-customer-service-rep and managed to get us on the next flight out without any extra expenditure.  Clearly, however, I require a personal assistant!

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