Talking about your travel debacles is about as appealing as talking about your dreams. So I'll be brief. I missed my flight the night before last, a late-night flight from Salt Lake City, after two prior flights, en route to Montana where I live. They shut the door in my face. There was crying and swearing involved. One of the lovely things about living in a town with a small airport: they hold the last plane of the evening. They know their passengers have paid their dues in high prices and multiple flights to get to that last leg over the Rockies, which will certainly go bumptey bump in the night. And they're decent human beings about it. Usually.
This was the day before the busiest travel day in the United States. This was after a week of being gone from my family on a business trip in Miami, which is a great place for a business trip, so I'm not complaining. Put it this way: I'm just glad that the biggest Book Fair in the country isn't in Fargo. But if it had been, I likely wouldn't have been wearing sandals to lunch earlier that day, and I wouldn't have forgotten to change into shoes, which I wouldn't have packed in my roller bag and checked.
I wouldn't have been getting into a cab in a balmy 10 degrees with my homemade pedicure showing, heading to a Comfort Inn. I would have been wearing winter boots. Which would have been a good thing, since the Storm of the Century was inching its way into Utah, according to the Haitian cab driver, who seemed to be less worried about being cold and understandably more worried about things like cholera. I asked him if he had family back in Haiti.
"Yes," he said. I asked him how he dealt with it.
"Day by day," he said.
I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself. I had a voucher and a room waiting for me and the hope of a metal flying machine taking me home tomorrow.
"What time is your flight?" he asked.
"Two thirty," I said. I saw his head shake.
"Is there a problem?" I said, afraid.
"The storm is coming in right around then. You might be spending Thanksgiving in Salt Lake City."
I started feeling sorry for myself again. Who was going to make the organic bird with the organic cranberry relish and the gravy that wins my children's hearts every year even though they're in their disgruntled teen and pre-teen years? Who was going to turn on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and put the cloves in the oranges and set it in a huge pot of apple cider? Who was going to make sure that classical music resounded through the house while the turkey cooked? Who was going to polish my grandmother's silver and make sure the good linens found their way to the table for their first of three annual appearances? Would they eat at the kitchen table? Would there be television involved? Would they forget to read Truman Capote's "Christmas Memory" at the table? Would they say grace?
I was not going to spend Thanksgiving in a Comfort Inn in a blizzard in Salt Lake City in my frigging sandals.
But then I remembered -- cholera. Homelessness. Haiti. My little family would be just fine without me, truth be told. And if that happened, I would have the opportunity to practice thanks, not for shining silver and a legacy in linens, but things like warmth and safety.
The next morning I turned on the Weather Channel. I have an obsession with this station, and I promise myself that I will not watch it prior to airplane travel, as all it does is get me worried. Who am I to know what airplanes can handle in the way of wind sheer and gusts and blizzard conditions and winter storm warnings? But I did it anyway. I watched the damn Weather Chanel for a solid four hours, fretting and updating my Facebook Page, wanting somebody to cyberly hold my hand. Should I stay or should I go?
The storm was supposed to hit exactly as I was to leave. The plane would be small. The turbulence would be fierce. Two things I loathe -- small planes and turbulence. I would have the chance to practice all that I've learned in the way of fear-busting and inner calm. I'd use that I'm-a soldier-being-rescued-from-the-jungle-fronts-by-helicopter frame of mind I'd procured in hours of therapy. I would breathe, and I would practice being in the moment in gratitude.
But damn. "If there's one place you don't want to be in the country today, folks, it's Salt Lake City." The anchor man was, in fact, standing at the airport holding onto a pole of some sort, grounding himself from the wind.
I went into warrior mode. "I have a date with a bird," I said out loud. And I got in a cab, the power lines and Christmas decorations blowing above the streets of Salt Lake. This time the driver was from Sudan, Africa. His country divided in war. Half his family back home.
"How do you handle it?" I said. "One day at a time," he said.
I'm not kidding. Both cab drivers.
So when I got to the airport and raised my hands over my head at security in the pose that the media have been ranting and raving about for weeks, I said, "Thank you." I smiled at the security guy. "That wasn't so bad," I said. "It's a privilege to fly, after all."
"We haven't had one complaint," he said. "People want to be safe."
It's true. People want to be safe. And when we took off into the wind, bumptey bump over the Rockies, I gave my true thanks. I didn't need a bird on the table to deliver it.