As I begin to write my new blog I seem to have hit the jackpot. I mean, reading about travel is only interesting if there are unexpected surprises involved, right?
It’s Monday afternoon and I have begun my multi-hour voyage to the west coast from South Carolina and all is going well until the gate announcement. It’s a flight delay. A “mechanical.” I’ve heard this term so many times while flying I know not to get excited, nervous, mad or anxious. Honestly I’ve gotten to the point where it’s like someone telling me they have the hiccups, a paper cut, or some other non-emergency.
So I really only began to pay attention to this news when the guy who was sitting next to me came back to his seat in the gate area and is complaining about the change of plans to another traveler, who just happens to be a family with small children.
I know, children are wildcards and you just never know how travel, let alone flight delays, will affect their mood or patience. Luckily, these little girls were two of the best little travelers I’ve encountered. BIG kudos to their parents! They have obviously already mastered Rule #1 - Stay Flexible even before they finished grade school.
Anyway, I heard that guy next to me talking in continuous run-on sentences. “I’m on my way to San Diego now I’m going to miss my connection I have a tight connection now I’m going to get in late and this is crazy and now….” And that was where I both tuned out and tuned in. I heard enough of his complaining that I began to actually listen to what he is saying. I looked up from my computer and payed attention to what was going on with others around me, and not just that guy.
I learned there was a delay with my flight, and just like my loud and grammatically-challenged neighbor I was going to San Diego too. The difference was that I’m not upset. I mean, I’ve not fallen in the airport bathroom and broken an arm, or left my computer at TSA (not that I haven’t before), or had some other catastrophic event which could truly derail my plans today.
This is exactly what Rule #1 one is all about, staying Flexible!
I have many memories of crying in airports, running in airports, losing my mind and other less important belongings in airports, but I firmly believe that my age and experience has taught me this doesn’t help…in most cases anyway.
Given all delays, changes, and displaced luggage I’ve experienced firsthand while flying, I’ve had people tell me that I have “bad luck” flying, or that I “always have something happen when traveling,” but I must disagree.
The fact is that I’ve traveled so much that I’ve experience so many of these “adventures” that it just seems that I’m a magnet for these unexpected twists and turns. The fact is, everyone who travels has these same things happen, only they happen to travel once, maybe twice a year, so the amount of events they encounter are just far fewer than mine.
I digress…back to my recent adventure. After the poor gate agent made several more announcements and everyone waited in line to hear for themselves just what the situation was, another update was made telling us we were about to board the plane, the plane they just said was broken. Well, here was the caveat. Instead of going to Dallas (which was just the first leg of my trip), we would now go to Memphis to refuel, then to Dallas, creating an even longer delay.
So, what did I learn between the time I arrived at the airport to the time I boarded our plane (which was exactly one hour and 53 minutes late)? I learned that our plane had a fuel tank issue and we could now only fly with the wings full of gas and the other tanks would need to remain empty.
Where were these other fuel tanks? In the tail? In the belly? In blue barrels next to the baggage?
I had never considered where a plane stores its jet fuel, but I learned that planes carry gas in their wings, and apparently in an S80 (which is what my safety card said), it’s enough gas to fly from Greenville, SC to Memphis, TN, and after refueling it’s also enough to travel from Memphis to Dallas.
Sidenote: If you are like me and curious about the S80, click here. For those of you who just want a snippet, apparently they are known as the Douglas DC9 Super 80, and later were produced as the McDonnell-Douglas MD-80. They are old and mostly retired airplanes that lived out much of their glory during their early production years in the 1980’s.
Ok, so back to my adventure…by the time I boarded my plane in Greenville, which was Dallas bound, by way of a quick Memphis interlude, I conceded to the fact that I was going to miss my flight to San Diego.
Although stopping in Memphis for a quick refuel wasn’t the worst thing could have happened, it meant that I would now land in San Diego at nearly midnight, which was almost 3:00am my time, not to mention what time I’ll would arrive at the hotel after retrieving my checked bag, getting my rental car, driving….you get the picture. And what time is my meeting in the morning again?
So, I did exactly that. I arrived at my hotel about 1:00am CA time, and made it bright and early to my 8:00 meetings and survived just fine. Tired, but fine, and still Flexible.
Despite all of the fun I had that night during my 12 hours of adventure, I still firmly maintain that air travel is the safest and best way to travel, period. No matter what the regular hiccups and unexpected detours might bring, I still know that traveling by air is the best way to go, and following Rule #1-Stay Flexible helps you enjoy the ride.
Besides…where else can you watch a sunrise and sunset from the perspective of the Gods? Exactly.
I enjoy the exploration and life education that only travel can offer. I truly hope that everyone gets to experience cultures different than our own. I have shared these experiences with friends and family, and now my own son has grown up seeing that our American "normal" is not necessarily how everyone sees and experiences the world. Helping others achieve the same enlightened experiences through travel only sweetens my appreciation for these journeys and truly makes my heart sing!