Looking for part 1 of the story? Click here. Then read on for more stories about my recent travels.
I was not near the front of the plane, and I was in a window seat. But my seatmates, the cruise couple, graciously let me out with my carry-on bag, and the flight attendants asked nicely that anyone who didn’t have a connecting flight stay seated and let others off the plane who needed to make a connection. I held my phone and checked the clock numerous times. Theoretically, I should make it.
The aisle cleared and I thanked the crew, who had professionally and graciously handled a plane full of grumblers, and I quickly scanned the terminal for directions to my gate. A friend who travels frequently told me the Charlotte airport is bigger than it needs to be, and his assessment was not wrong.
I did not run or sprint because I also hadn’t eaten anything more than my pastry from the early morning and a nutty Larabar (huge shoutout to Larabar! They sustained my hunger needs!) and I didn’t think passing out in the airport would aid my travel situation.
I weaved my way through travelers moving in all directions. I fast-walked on the moving sidewalk things to make my way to the farthest reaches of the farthest terminal. (Really?) I kept checking my clock and kept casting a quick glance at the posted schedules, worried that because the flight was already late that it might take off earlier than I was anticipating.
Sweating through my clothes, my calves screaming, (because it was also in the teens in Philadelphia and I was wearing layers and it was not that cold in Charlotte; also boots), I pulled up to the agent at the gate.
Breathless, I told him, “I just got an e-mail that told me I was on this flight.”
He took my name and looked it up.
“I’ve been waiting for you to check in.”
“I literally just got off the plane.”
“Oh, where’d you fly from?”
I couldn’t even answer his question.
“Philly?” he suggested.
“Yes,” I said.
And then I had a boarding ticket in hand for a flight that was just about to board. I could hardly contain my joy. I was hungry and tired but I would get to Memphis before dark, like I’d planned. Because I still had 2 1/2 hours of driving when I landed in Memphis and I wasn’t excited about driving through Arkansas and rural Missouri in the dark.
The flight to Memphis was uneventful, save for my seat mate who fell asleep and almost landed in my lap as her head drooped lower and lower. I had to tap her on the shoulder for our final descent so she could put her laptop away.
Once I’d left the plane in Memphis, it was another long walk to the rental car area. And part of that walk was outside, which probably isn’t a problem most of the time in Memphis, but it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 degrees. I had frozen fingers by the time I got into the rental.
With the keyless key to a Nissan Sentra in hand, I pulled out of the Memphis airport and cruised toward Missouri via Arkansas. I thought about stopping for a bite to eat, but I had the Larabars and a little bit of water and I wanted to get there. To see my family and just stop moving for a few minutes.
It was a long, straight drive through a state I can only assume is beautiful in another season. Brown stretches of land surrounded me, though its state motto boasted “the natural state.” My radio choices for much of the trip were “country” and “more country.” But I made do.
I pulled into the motel where my parents were staying at a little after 5:30 p.m. central time, a long day not over yet but the traveling part was done. I ate my fill of grief food at my grandma’s house and headed to bed earlier than usual. I had made it, and I’d had little to do with the timing.
Two days later when the time came to travel back, the weather threatened to disrupt my plans again. And not long after I woke up, my husband texted me asking what he needed to do to call our daughter off of school because she’d woke up puking. Talk about being not in control. I was hundreds of miles away and I couldn’t get home any faster to help out. Or so I thought. But we’ll get there.
I left my family at 7:30 a.m., giving myself plenty of time to get back to Memphis, to stop to fill the rental car with gas, to get through security and print my boarding pass, and maybe get a bite to eat before my 12:50 p.m. flight back to Charlotte.
The drive was not any more interesting the second time, though I did have to make two stops this time, which broke up the monotony some. And then there was the added weekday traffic.
I sighed with relief when I pulled the rental car into its spot. There’s something about completing the first leg of a journey that makes the rest of the journey seem possible.
Then it was back to the long walk to the terminal and a visit to the kiosk, which told me that I could not print my boarding pass because my flight had a delay. I hadn’t even had time to check because I was so early. I’d hoped to make it through security and grab some lunch. (Are you sensing a theme here?) The US Airways agent waved me over and asked for my name and flight. Then she said some magic words.
“I can get you on a direct flight to Philly, landing at 2:55, getcha home about 3 hours early.”
I paused before saying “yes” because in the original plan, my husband wouldn’t be able to leave to get me until after school, so I was calculating the number of hours I would have to sit in the Philly airport.
“You’ll be waiting for a ride?” she said. I nodded. “Well, at least you’ll be there.”
“Let’s do it,” I said.
Then she printed me a pass, and I looked at the time, and once again, I had about 30 minutes until boarding time and still needed to go through security. (An aside: going through security is not really as grueling a process as I imagine it is. It takes time, but it’s not awful.) I did, then I found my gate and maybe even pinched myself to make sure this was real. I was on a completely different flight leaving and arriving earlier than I’d thought. I texted my husband and my mom and then thought I better call my husband before I got on the plane because I wouldn’t be available for a couple of hours.
He was wrangling children at the grocery store buying supplies for a stomach bug: crackers and ginger ale and the like. He promised to get there as soon as they could.
I settled in for the flight. I had no seat mate but my Kindle, and I finished the book I’d started a few days before on the trip. It was a smooth and relaxing flight.
Until we landed.
Then we sat at the gate for 20 minutes waiting for I don’t know what. Something to do with the ground crew. Then we waited in the jetway for our larger carry-on bags (this was a small plane, only 13 rows of seats) for another 20 minutes because of a short-staffed airport crew or something. My plan to get something to eat while waiting for my family to arrive was again thwarted as they made it to the cell phone lot before I could leave with my bag.
So, hungry, tired and grateful to be home, I made my way through the terminals to the pick-up point and eased into the passenger seat of our van. I was home before I was supposed to leave Charlotte. It was daylight, and though my husband and I both showed signs of exhaustion, we were together and could help each other through till bedtime.
Before this trip, it had been a long time since I’d done something like this on my own. Probably 10 years or more ago. I think I found a part of myself again, and maybe those are thoughts for another post on another day.
I think I lost a little bit of myself, too. That part that says if I don’t plan everything out to the last detail, then it will all go wrong. That I don’t have to be in control of all the details. I learned, or re-learned, I can trust other people. I can trust God. (I’m not saying God showed me any more favor than any other traveler. I don’t think I’m that special. But I do know I can trust Him to work things out, even without my help.)
I found out that when I’m not in control, it’s not the end of the world.
It might even be a beginning.