Monday, January 6, 2014

Wearing a Smile During Times of Frustration

Yesterday, I flew out of Bismarck, ND with plans to fly to Des Moines, IA then a driver take me to Fairfield. My first flight was scheduled to leave at 11:05.... and I'd be happily holed up in a hotel room around 5pm.


Anyone who lives in the northern/widwest states (or, probably, almost any state in the US) knows that yesterday wasn't exactly lovely weather. And, as anyone who's had the pleasure of traveling during not exactly lovely weather probably knows, plans didn't quite go as planned.

I left my house at 8am to insure I got to the airport (75 miles away) on time. The drive wasn't too bad - just really cold temps and our car didn't want to properly defrost the windows; the first half of the drive was icey; the second half incorporated blowing snow and limited visibility. Nothing too major. Halfway there, I get an email that my flight is delayed. Ok, I can handle. Except that it would interfere with my connecting flight in Minneapolis. So, not being a in a rush because of the extra 1.5 hours until flight time, I don't get to the airport until 10:30... only to find out they booked me on a different 11am flight because mine wasn't just delayed - it was cancelled. Ok... rush through security... get to gate... no crew. 12pm, they cancel that flight as well and send us all back to ticketing for alternative flight arrangements.

After an hour in line, I get a flight lined up... but had to fly into Cedar Rapids instead of Des Moines if there was to be any chance of me getting to where I needed to be. But, my first flight wasn't to leave until 5 and my husband had already trekked the 75 miles back home... so I was stuck at the Bismarck airport. It's a nice airport... when you're only there for a couple hours. So, I'm at the gate, watching the departure time slowly get moved... 5:30... 5:45... 6:00... Finally, we get out around 6:15 or so. The original plane coming from MSP had broken down at the gate, so they had to commandeer a different one.... a bigger one though, so at least we were comfortable for the hour flight.

We land at MSP.... but our gate is occupied by another delayed plane. So, we sit in what the pilot termed the "penalty zone" for about 20 minutes or so until we can pull up to the gate. Finally we get off the plane. Luckily, I had a couple hours before my connecting flight, but most passengers either missed theirs, or had 20 minutes or less to get across the large airport to their next gate. Sitting at my next gate, with a scheduled departure time of 9:50, again I watch the departure time change. It kept getting announced that the plane was undergoing maintenance, and we'd be boarding in 10 to 15 minutes. Ten minutes later... another announcement... plane is undergoing maintenance, we'll be boarding in 10 to 15 minutes. This went on for quite some time. Finally, around 10:40, we boarded! And sat on the plane for a good 20 minutes because the cabin door hinge had frozen and wouldn't shut properly.

I finally made it to Cedar Rapids just after midnight. Managed to call and get a room for the night at a nearby hotel, and got lucky enough to find a cab driver looking to scam $10 off me for a 3 block drive in -50 F wind chills (he was a nice enough guy... just wasn't too happy that the only person he could find needing a ride wasn't a longer/spendier fare.

Ok, so, what is the point of this rather lengthy post?

This was, to say the least, the most frustrating trip I have had to date. All my trips before went without an issues. No delays. No cancellations. But, I learned something about myself... and people in general. There are two kinds of people - those who can still keep their smile (for the most part) and be understanding, forgiving and kind (or at least fake it), and those who can't.

Sitting in the BIS airport, one lady I'd been visiting with during our long wait for a flight that ended up cancelled, watched my bags for me in the ticket line so I could run to baggage and grab my other bag without losing my spot. And I watched a ton of bags for one poor woman who had 3 little girls in tow so she could get a shuttle to take her to a hotel (she wasn't going to get to fly out until today). And I saw a few others doing this - some people who'd been stuck there since 5am. Some who'd undergone more delays and cancellations than I had. And getting off that first flight - I, and a couple others, waited until the end before we departed the plane. There were those more in need of getting to their next flight... why rush past and hold someone else up?

And, I saw many who were yelling and complaining to the ticket agents and anyone else who'd listen. They were grumbling and angry. One ticket agent seemed to get the most of these people and he was getting pretty snippy to the passengers, including to me. I think I shocked him when I simply smiled and thanked him for his help, and wished him a good day. He seemed to not know how to respond to that.

By the time the 3rd of 4th "the plane is undergoing maintenance" speech, my own nerves were frazzled beyond belief, but I kept a smile and joked with other passengers. Others were doing the same. Soon, almost everyone on that last flight - even while on the plane waiting for the cabin door to thaw so we could close the door and leave - were smiling despite the frustration.

We cannot control what God sends our way. We cannot control the weather. We cannot control airplanes breaking down or flight crews not able to make it to the airport. But we can control our own actions. We can show kindness to those who are having a rough time. We can help out the mother trying to control a handful of kids and luggage. We can try to brighten the day of equally frustrated employees - who are also not in control of everything happening.

Despite our own growing frustration and anger, we can choose to be Christ-like in our dealings with people. So paste on a smile. It'll even help your own frustration level when you let yourself find some fun and/or good during those times when plans just don't go as planned.

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