I’m not a good traveler. I get nervous. I worry about making flights, clearing security, and having enough leg room. I’ve never missed a flight, I’ve been patted down in security more times than I count, and there’s no such thing as enough leg room when you have to sit in the same seat for over eight hours. I’ve been trying to get better, to stress less, to not worry. Life is funny in the way it tests resolves.
It’s when I ask him to call the passenger terminal one more time, to make sure the times haven’t changed and there isn’t anything special to be done for checking in the dogs. The face I make, all scrunched up, when he suggests that we get to the passenger terminal only a half hour prior to the final check in time. Those soft wings of nerves, fluttering against my stomach, making me question if we have enough time.
It’s when my Dad texts us to let us know the airline wants to talk to us about our flight, something to do with the dogs. My heart rate elevates, my breath quickens, and when we have a hold time of over an hour, my frustration grows. Deep breaths, a new flight due to potential inclement weather that would preclude the dogs joining us.
It’s when we’re cuddled in bed and I tell him, “I’m nervous, what if we miss flights, what might go wrong. I hate flying.” And he laughs and tells me that there’s his nervous traveler that he’s been waiting on. I take a deep breath and retort that I’m not being that person this time. I actually sleep the night before a flight, which never happens.
It’s when we wake up the next morning to two emails from Delta, a tweet from my Dad, a facebook message from my Mom, and skype messages from both of them that our new flight was cancelled. On to skype we went to call Delta. Hold times of up to four hours. We only had ninety minutes before we had to leave for the passenger terminal. Every tick of the clock, every repeat of the hold music and I struggled for calm.
It’s when we get settled at the terminal, and my friend stops to see us bringing red velvet cookies with cream cheese icing. We reconnect to Skype. We get put back on hold. An hour passes, then two. Then, right when they tell us to process through the passport station, Delta picks up. A new flight. Relief. We are on our way.
At that point the flights aren’t the stressful part. They never are. I’m not stressed by flying, I’m stressed by getting to the airport on time. I’m stressed by things going wrong. Though I do get irritated when I’m given nonsensical instructions on layovers.
It’s when we land, collect the baggage, and head out through the doors to the applause of USO volunteers, thanking us and welcoming us home. The exhaustion slips away in the moment of being part of a homecoming.
It’s when we get back to the airport the next morning, when everything is cancelled, but our flight is not. Someone came to help us with the dogs and four huge bags. We got hecked in with no hitches. There was no one at security.
Journeys rarely go the way we think they will. I had resolved to calm, to not stress, and then life decided to throw a twist of eight to twelve inches of snow in Baltimore. A cancelled flight the morning our transcontinental journey began, did nothing to help my resolve. Yet, had they not cancelled us then, we wouldn’t have the flight we do now.
I don’t know how long I can keep my calm. I’m sure a future trip will reignite the anxieties. But, I hope I don’t forget this lesson. That the twists and turns can be beautiful. And that it will all work out.