Stranded At The Airport For Christmas
Happy Holidays to you all.
This is a short account of my return home through a storm.
I sit at the departure gate in Phoenix airport, Arizona, waiting for my connecting flight to Los Angeles, California, thankful that this flight is delayed because it meant I was able to get here on time from my first late arrival from El Paso, Texas.
There’s a bomb cyclone rampaging through the midwest and its effects are devastating outwards, causing chaos to the thousands, perhaps millions of people trying to get somewhere for the holidays.
I was quite happy waiting at the departure gate.
As far as I was concerned, I had my Christmas early.
Spent a couple of glorious days with a friend of mine, Lauren, who I’ve known since University, and we’ve been each other’s occasional source of comfort and dose of BFF energy across multiple territories.
She recently pooped out a newborn and it only seemed right as honorary uncle to meet the little guy. I had many one-way conversations with him about the universe and the birth of consciousness, but he wasn’t having any of it. Just smiling, without a care in the World, completely ignoring my line of questioning.
You’re lucky you don’t know any words.
It’s a nice feeling having a friend you can do nothing with. We both had ideas of how we’d spend the two days together, but a mix of her lack of sleep, my recent introduction to full time work and perhaps older energy changed our plans. We did nothing out of the ordinary and I was plenty happy with that.
She made dinner and the bastard got me an excellent and unexpected gift.
While recovered from amnesia, reality had such a dreamlike quality to it that it was difficult to trust anything was real, and the many possibilities about where I actually was had to be explored.
During peak psychosis, where it seems anything was possible, I took my prized watch off my wrist and smashed it with a hammer because perhaps its destruction would reveal something about the essence of time which could benefit me on this journey through the supernatural.
You can imagine I quickly felt foolish, but perhaps I was too preoccupied to allow myself to care too much about objects, and as far as I was concerned at that moment, my actions made sense.
Breaking this beautiful watch had to be done.
And since then, I’ve not had the expendable income to treat myself to luxury, and it was clear I couldn’t be trusted with it.
So you can imagine my surprise when she gifts me with a timepiece akin to the one I used in ritual sacrifice.
I cried. It wasn’t just because it was a lovely gift, but for all the things attached to it; to have a friend by your side carry no judgement from the days you were experiencing your dark night of the soul, and this gesture a sort of symbol of the subsequent healing.
As the tears streamed down my face, she cheered, happy to have made a great gift choice, smug that she knew me so well.
What a bitch.
I adore her.
I had a lovely time, but had to return to Los Angeles for work. I’ve recently started graveyard shifts at a treatment center for teenagers at high-risk of suicide, hashtag comedy, and the demons that tempt and torment us to self-murder don’t take breaks during the holiday season, quite the contrary, so my Noël was to be night watchmen and assist these little ones through their metaphorical deaths.
Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas.
Sat at the gate, the flight already an hour late, with occasional people standing in line now dropping down and taking a seat on the floor, as the tannoy alerts us of surrounding flight status. San Antonio. Canceled. Reno, Salt Lake City, Kansas City, canceled. All around us, the gates were dropping like flies as frustrated passengers stampede to the customer care booth of the airline to rebook another departure time. Denver, canceled. Oakland. Canceled. Los Angeles…. Delayed.
I preemptively alert my employers of the possible need for replacement.
I remain calm and observe the chaos. There’s something beautiful about witnessing the sudden change flood through people. A morbid curiosity maybe. But I couldn’t help but see the vacuums they will create by not being where they’re meant to be. The many ways that will be felt by themselves and their loved ones on the other side of the flight, and the ramifications that might have down the line.
A sudden change in the course of future history because of some unapologetic bombogenesis.
I can’t control the weather, the airline is at the mercy of this cyclone, so there’s very little any of us can do, but remain calm and calculate.
I have the alcoholic anonymous mantra in mind. Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Not having a pilot because of the major disruptions across the country is not something I am capable of changing, but Lauren & I just watched the movie Elf and apparently the best way to raise Christmas spirit is by singing…
“…the courage to change the things I can…”
I delicately start humming Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You, in the hopes someone would hear me and feel inspired to sing, elevating everyone into a boisterous chorus and possible musical number. All of us suddenly dancing in unison, completely choreographed as if we spent weeks training for this.
That didn’t happen.
One big dude did sway back and forth to my humming and we caught each other’s eyes for a brief moment.
I nodded back.
That will do.
Around me, a renaissance painting of different expressions and frustrations, tutting, crying, and anxiety shakes, amidst brief connections made between strangers relying on one another to vent about the disruption to their travel.
“I’m meant to be there…”
“I’m supposed to join people then…”
Anguished by the possibility of missing what might be a much needed day of rest and relaxation with their loved ones, and me, observing like some chaos pervert, fascinated by the fluidity of the moving parts.
“Flight to Los Angeles has been canceled. Please blah blah blah to the etcetera.”
We all got up and haphazardly made our way to the customer care desk, which was already serving the many cancelled flights. Hundreds of people, maybe over a thousand, snaking their way to the counters of only a handful of airline employees.
I was enjoying myself.
Watching the attempt at order within the chaos.
Look at all this lovely mathematics.
Every passenger turning to one another for answers as the airline fails to bring a bit of tender loving care to our situation.
I turn to the closest person next to me. Her name is Destiny.
This made me smile.
As Feigenbaum’s Constant reveals, there is timely order within chaos.
Stomachs are rumbling around me and all I had was a box of buttery shortbread, which I take out and share with the hungry comrades. None of the Americans around me knew what it was.
They try the traditional Scottish biscuit, and I tell them they may never have tasted it if our flights weren’t cancelled. Perhaps we were all meant to meet so you could try shortbread.
Who knows how a catalyst will manifest itself into the future?!
“You’re in a good mood,” one passenger points out.
“I like to imagine this cancelled flight will lead to something good.”
“Living your life like it’s a Hallmark movie?”
“It’s a lot nicer to think that way.”
I had a suspicion that I was simply deluding myself into thinking the above.
The truth is I was missing one night’s work, with another potential loss on the horizon. Tomorrow’s shift pays double, and seeing as I have just been accepted to study a Master of Arts in Psychology at a prestigious university in the United States of America, a part of me is a little dubious about how the Hell I am going to fund this degree, and need all the help I can get.
After two hours in line, and still over halfway to go, I knew there was little I could do. The airline only has so many flights scheduled, most already full, and any remaining seats will be allocated to a handful of the hundreds of people standing in front of me. There’s no way I’m getting home for Christmas.
And then, like some survival expert turning into opportunistic frequency, hunting for clues on how to get out of here, I hear a couple of gals on their way to Peru saying they rented a car to drive from Phoenix to Los Angeles in the morning.
I slide my way to them.
“Do you have any space in your car? I’ll chip in with rental cost and gas money?”
They nod and we exchange numbers. They leave the line to get some sleep at a nearby hotel, I swiftly follow suit leaving the people herded to inevitable disappointment, and find myself a corner to fall asleep.
I barely get any sleep, challenged by the hard faux marble floor, and interrupted by beeping of airport caddies and the mayor of Phoenix banging on about how brilliant her city is over the tannoy, I groggily decide to wake up and consider my options.
The carshare is over the horizon, but isn’t promised, these strangers may change their mind about having some stranger in their backseat for an eight hour ride through the desert. I texted them my full name so they could stalk my Instagram and get some sense of who I was, but I don’t know if that helps or hinders my situation.
So I focus on an alternative, messaging the airline on social media in the hopes they respond. There’s no way I’m entering the line to the customer care front desk again, which is still as long as when I left it.
What can I do?
I’m here and now.
What is the best use of my resources moving forward?
I instinctively play Enya’s Only Time, which is both enjoyed as a great piece of music, and a humorous soundtrack to my predicament.
I laugh, as if I hadn’t seen the decision coming.
I shove donuts in my face and walk around the airport’s attempt at an art gallery, which is appreciated.
This is now my universe. Between outside and over there, twixed departure gate and TSA.
The airline messages me on Twitter to confirm an earlier flight, at the end of the day, direct to Burbank, an airport slightly closer to where I live, which would give me enough time to wash and get to work.
Do I accept the flight or go on a road trip? A 1hr30 flight that leaves at 7:45pm or 6hr drive departing at around 1:00pm?
I check my magnificent watch; it is now 11:14am
As quick as I get a new flight, I receive an alert saying the flight will be delayed. Only by 15 minutes, but the signs aren’t good.
Will this flight get canceled also?
A text message now rings, it’s the Peruvian ladies letting me know where they are. Rescue.
We drive out of the storm’s bureaucratic devastation towards our destination, getting to know each other through various nightmarish “would you rather…?” scenarios. Turns out Maria and Katherine are weirdos also, and maybe it was I who should be worried about getting murdered and dumped in the desert.
Nobody was killed, unless you mean metaphorically through the weapons of mass laughter.
My fascination with the flow of parts during this disruption still had a hold on me as I appreciated where I was, merging my storyline with theirs. I happened to share some of my nonsense disguised as wisdom, which one the girls said inspired her. Maybe nothing will be generated from our encounter, but I enjoyed the idea that our converging suddenly created a new timeline for us, as we ventured into unexpected territory of possible new friendship.
They drop me off home, I shower, nap, and make my way to work, grateful to see the positive impact of applying the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Who I used to be would’ve gone with the flow regardless, perhaps arrived at the same endpoint in this chapter, but I definitely would’ve been more miserable in my approach, maybe angry, full of complaints and blame.
It could be said that chaos, a sudden infraction in our timeline, offers us an opportunity to not only swiftly centre ourselves and recalibrate our compass, but to force us on a path that might provide gifts we could not have received if we weren’t thrust in another direction.
I hope everyone got to their Christmas destination, and if not, is surprised by some unexpected adventure and made the most of it.
I wish you all a Feliz Navidad, especially to the two Peruvian ladies who at the time of writing this sentence will be in the air on their way to their loved ones.
Lots of love,