Location: Charleston, South Carolina
Travel, even under the best of circumstances, can be trying. My day would have been a long one even if everything had gone smoothly. And it did not go smoothly. I left my hotel in Salt Lake City about 7:30 am and had a connecting flight in Dallas, slated to arrive in Charlotte at 7:25 pm. David was planning to pick me up at the airport and we would grab some dinner on the way home (we have several go-to airport run restaurants that make arriving around dinner time a win-win). David knew something was up when the backup to the airport started much earlier than usual… and the fact that he had to put Darcy’s thunder shirt on before heading out was a good indication that the weather was not cooperating. Let’s just say David ended up eating dinner alone (and then heading back home) and I didn’t get dinner at all. I finally walked in the door at 12:15 am. Mother Nature did a number on a bunch of East Coast flights and airports, and I know I am far from alone in my travel day from hell.
When we were due to land in Charlotte, they put a hold on incoming flights because of heavy storms. We circled the airport for about 40 minutes until the pilot announced that we would be rerouted to Charleston, South Carolina. We waited there for several hours while the plane was refueled, without being able to disembark because we couldn’t even get to a gate. We were also cooling our heels waiting for word that the Charlotte Airport had reopened. Some passengers wanted to make Charleston their final stop, and were all set to do so but the pilot came back on to tell them that the Charleston airport was completely overwhelmed with other airplanes that had been diverted there and they could not get the passengers from our holding spot on some tarmac far from the terminal to a gate. Plenty of passengers missed their connections while we waited in Charleston, and resigned themselves to spending the night in the Charlotte airport once they realized that all of the passengers who were already stranded in Charlotte had beat them to the hotel rooms.
But here’s the thing. No one was grumpy. The plane was full of grownups who understood that these things happen and that, in the scope of life’s tragedies, a weather delay beats the hell out of a weather fatality. My seatmate and I were lamenting the fact that we did not have any snacks with us and the guy sitting behind us offered us his bag of peanuts. He had clearly brought them on board for his snack, but he didn’t hesitate in offering them to us and insisted that we take them. It was a simple gesture, and admittedly a small one, but it touched me because it epitomized how decent everyone was on this flight. The flight attendants never got edgy or frustrated (when they had to repeatedly tell people to clear the aisles), people were swapping stories (and snacks!) and accepting their missed flights and changed plans with equanimity.
Even on a bad travel day, I remind myself that I am so much more fortunate than many people. Delays are not real struggles, they are just inconveniences. And when the delays let you see that there are plenty of good, kind people in this world, they are rendered much more palatable. So thank you kind sir behind me who so generously shared the peanuts that constituted my dinner. I promise to pay it forward. And I promise to always keep in mind that a day that ends with me back in my own bed, even if it is much later than I anticipated, is still a good one.