John Lennon gets credit for the title of this post. Perhaps you remember that things didn’t end so well for him. M Scott Peck begins the Road Less Travelled with the statement, “Life is difficult.” There is a difference between inconvenient and tragic. The earthquake in Nepal and our neighbor’s murder two weeks ago that left two little children without a mother are tragedies.
In contrast, our interrupted trip was inconvenient. We spent almost a year planning a vacation to Australia, allowing time to anticipate the planned experiences and visits with friends. Our plans were waylaid by airline issues. Two planes broke on day 1. First a toilet issue required a different plane and new gate. We boarded the second plane and settled in for the 14+ hour trip, only to hear after an hour that the flight was cancelled due to a mechanical issue. There was a mad scramble to collect belongings and rush the customer service desk.
Ultimately, we were booked on a different flight the next night from a different airport. We reached our hotel around 2:30 AM PST, which felt later since we were still operating on east coast time. After a short sleep, we headed to San Francisco Airport to fly to Los Angeles for our second attempt to get to Sydney. During the day, we joked about how the trip was not unlike flying Space-A–where the military allows servicemembers to travel on Air Force planes when there are available seats. A Space-A flight is inexpensive, but you have to be patient and flexible. A passenger can get bumped off a plane if a higher priority mission arises.
At LAX, we boarded our flight and settled in. After boarding concluded, a squad of airline employees with walkie-talkies continued parading to the flight deck with increasingly grim faces. The flight attendant mentioned there was an issue with weight and balances and also said that the pilots were getting close to timing out. There are rules about crew rest that must be adhered to or waived. And then, we were again collecting belongings and searching for customer service. We left the airport around 2AM with only one seat assigned for the next night’s flight. I had a boarding pass but no seat and plenty of uncertainty. Even the customer service representative at the airport on the phone to the airline customer service could not get my seat assigned.
We showed up at the airline check-in counter the next afternoon and the airline rep finally issued a seat assignment. As we waited to board the third night, I saw another passenger and inquired about his seat, wondering if I would be able to sit beside my husband. Andrew held up his boarding pass and I held up mine. We were assigned to the same seat! Back to customer service as I wondered how this double-booking was going to turn out. All’s well that ends well. I had a seat (not even in the middle) and the plane departed that night.
Our holiday travel has been inconvenient. We expect life to go as planned, but that”s not guaranteed. Life is difficult, as M Scott Peck said. This is a great truth and one that bears remembering.