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A one-day storm in New York adds excitement to our travel plans
(An opportunity for thought management)
Are you ready for a crisis? I am not. I do not like them and do not want to face them. However, crises do happen in our lives whether we like it or not. I see it as an opportunity rather than “why this happened to me.”
Many societies have created customs whereby a mini-crisis is created so that you and I could experience what it is like to be in a crisis. Fasting for one day or 40 days is one such event. This is common in many societies and cultures. Long arduous journeys to pilgrimages have been another set of practices. Even now there are people who will stand up, then lie down (prostrate) and progress slowly like that until they reach their destinations.
I am not sure they realize the purpose behind the whole mini-crisis creation. They may just be doing it as a ritual. The idea is to bring awareness to you. A crisis enhances the focus of your attention and it is better to practice in a controlled situation rather than in an unexpected event.
I am coming to the point. I am going to describe a real event that happened to me. I will first describe the event as it took place and then go on to explain what was going on inside my mind as the whole event was taking shape. You all may have similar or worse travel stories and must have handled it in your own way.
We had a trip planned to go to Costa Rica. The flight was from Portland, Maine (PWM) to Newark, NJ and then to San Hose in Costa Rica. The departure time was 12:43 pm from PWM. We packed the day before and planned to get early to Portland to meet a friend of ours who will then drop us at the airport. The tour company advised us to take a copy of the passports that we did by scanning.
We spent some time with our friends in Portland who then dropped us at the airport (around 11 a.m). I started looking for passports to complete our check in. The continental agent offered to put us on an earlier flight, which had been delayed because of mechanical reasons. We were so happy. But, soon I realized that there were no passports with me. I remembered that I placed the two passports on the scanner to scan for our records and did not collect them before leaving home. We live 80 miles away from the airport and that is usually an hour and half each way.
The only chance we had to get to San Hose was if our original flight got delayed further. What do we do? My wife, Lekha, came up with a bright idea. We first called our friend Kanti in Portland to bring our car back and then called another friend Cheryl in our hometown. Cheryl has keys to our house and happened to be close by to our home. Kanti came to the airport quite quickly and we headed back to our home. As we were driving back Cheryl went to our house, picked up our passports from the scanner and started driving to Portland. Of course she needed to fill her gas tank on the way. We were both driving at a speed ….and kept in touch with our cell phones. The timing of our meeting and place was determined as we came closer to each other. There was no room for any error. Finally we came to a place in Augusta, Maine, where we timed our arrival in a parking lot of super 8 motel with extreme accuracy. We picked our passports, thanked Cheryl, and headed back to the airport. We got to the airport at around 13:45 hoping against hope that the flight will still be there. Kanti had other things to do but stayed along. The continental agent was surprised to see us back and we were happy to learn that the flight was still in Portland. You can imagine how relieved we would have been to learn that even the first flight was still in the airport. We checked in for that flight and went through for the security check to get to the gate.
I needed my coffee and went to the Starbucks coffee shop at the airport while Lekha sat on a chair happy to see that we are still getting our flight to Cost Rica. My cell phone rang as I was in line at Starbucks. It was my wife calling from the gate. I wondered what was going on. She knew I just came for a coffee. “May be, the plane is boarding,” I thought. She said, “ All flights to New York are cancelled,” and asked me to come to the gate for making alternate arrangements.
We had another project now. Lekha was on phone with the tour company while I was in line to make alternate booking. There was no way to get to Newark to get our connection to San Hose. The flight next day was all overbooked. With help of my smart phone (iphone) and with great support from the continental gate agent, we finally came up with a plan. A US Air flight will take us to Philadelphia, we shall stay in Philli overnight and then take 5:45 am flight to San Hose (reach there about noontime). It was around 4pm by this time. We checked our luggage with US Air and went to their gate to wait for another 4 hours.
We sat on a bench besides the US air gate wondering how to pass the time. AUS air agent approached us and asked if we will like to go on an earlier flight. We of course did not know about any earlier flight and enquired about when the earlier flight was going. She said, “Now.” We jumped on the offer and before we knew it, we were in the plane ready to fly to Philadelphia, relieved about not having to wait for a long time before the next scheduled flight.
We reached Philadelphia in an hour and a half. Weather was miserable as expected. The flights in and out of New York had been cancelled because of this one-day storm that centered over New York. It was raining, was misty and was cold. We were given the impression by the Continental airline that we will be provided hotel for the night. All we had to do was find an agent and ask. We found one agent. There were 50+ stranded passengers around him and he obviously was overstretched and overwhelmed. He advised all of us to do what needed to be done and submit the bills to continental. But there were no guarantees and no assurances. In other words, we were on our own.
So we booked a close by Marriott courtyard that had airport pick up service. A hotel pick up bus showed up half hour later, but it was full. The driver said, “I will be back in 20 minutes or so.” We patiently waited another half hour. The bus did show up and it was full already. We found out next day that they had only one bus working that day. The other bus was in a shop.
Anyway, about 15 of us by this time waiting for the shuttle bus decided it was time for us to pick up a taxi. We lugged our luggage in the misty, rainy, wintry conditions to the taxi stand on the other side. The cab driver helped put luggage in the trunk and we told him to take us to the Marriott courtyard. We felt relieved again that at last we will be in the hotel soon. That soon was not supposed to be. We soon found ourselves on a highway going in a fast speed. We asked the driver where he was going. There was an argument and he gave us two choices putting the blame on us of course. The first choice was to pay him 50 dollars and he will take us to the airport Marriott courtyard. The second one was to go back to airport for a resolution. We were so tired by this time, both mentally and physically. We decided to go back to airport and he took us back there. The resolution was that the same taxi driver would take us to the hotel. He then for the first time put the meter down and took us to the hotel in approximately 5 minutes. We paid him and got into the hotel registration line, which was long as expected. Lekha got in the restaurant line while I got in the registration line.
Next day was another day. Our flights were on time and we joined our group in Costa Rica in the afternoon.
We were in constant touch with our tour company, Collette Vacations. They were very supportive, always knew our whereabouts and arranged our pickup from the San Hose airport in Costa Rica. They picked us up in private transport and drove us to our tour group. We had lunch there and were very happy to meet the group people although we did not know any of them from before. They all greeted us with cheers and wanted to know the details of what we went through. We had great time in Costa Rica although it did rain quite a bit. We saw Macao birds and a rare find brown howler monkeys (photos)
The one-day storm in New York posed travel challenges while we had a one-day storm of our own. Both the storms are over. It is easy to recount the story, but how did it affect our minds as were going through is another story.
A crisis presents problems but also presents opportunities.
- It is an opportunity to test our strengths and weaknesses.
- It is great opportunity for experiencing i.e. feelings, pains, pleasures, the butterflies and the mixed ones.
- Not only do we need to manage our own mind, we also have to manage people and situation around us.
We all need to have tools for managing our thoughts. I have described many of these tools in ‘thought management’ book. Everything was going smoothly until I noticed that the passports were missing. I felt bad. This is not good planning. What is happening to my memory? There would have been several possible approaches to this situation. This is how I approached:
I soon realized that I needed to drop or park all these thoughts and focus on what needs to be done. I dropped the thoughts that had no ends, thoughts that were there just to disturb. I parked the thoughts that had a time line i.e what will happen if I miss the flight. I focused on thoughts that needed immediate attention.
Finally, as we were walking along the Tamarinda beach in Costa Rica, we saw this person who created his own little challenge (photo below). He was walking on the beach (which has many fallen trees for hurdles) with a small ball on his head.