A Humbling End to a Long Streak

Over the years, I’ve listened to friends and coworkers regale me with their terrible travel stories of lost luggage, missed flights, and other horrible travel experiences and while I’ve had a few hiccups, I’ve been blessed (knocking on wood as I write) with a largely painless travel history. In fact, I’ve always taken some small measure of pride in the fact that I’ve never missed a flight. But, as they say, all good things must come to an end.

It’s always been our practice as a family to take at least one vacation every year together and we usually don’t plan any specific activity, just that we’ll spend time together. Since I didn’t know if I’d be able to make this trip, I just told everyone else to go ahead and plan without me and if I was able to join, I’d make my arrangements later. Oddly enough a few weeks later, after leaving my job, my schedule opened up and I booked my flight to Maryland. I was lucky enough to get on the same outbound flight as my parents, but decided to stay an extra day so I could spend some time with a friend in Washington before leaving in November.

Since we’d be leaving pretty early in the morning, my mother called to coordinate transportation to the airport. My folks live about 10 minutes from the airport, so meeting at their house at 6am is the standard plan. During the call, my mother asked me if I wanted her to call me in the morning to make sure I was awake and on time. I guffawed and said “Mom, I’m 36 and have spent more time traveling over the past 5 years than everyone else in the family combined. I’ll be fine.” She asked again “How will I know that you’re on your way?” “Faith” was my snide reply. She acquiesced, but did ask that I text her in the morning that I was up and on my way. I agreed, but smarted internally since I’m notoriously punctual. 5 minutes early is on time!

When I awoke, it was pitch black out and it took me a minute to realize that I had no idea what time it was. Was it midnight or 6am? I reached over to my bedside table to grab my cell phone and noticed that it was dead. I scrambled out of bed to try and find out what time it was. Since I’ve packed up almost everything I own, finding a clock wasn’t easy, but I remembered the microwave and headed for the kitchen. It was 6:40am. I had overslept by more than 90 minutes and there was just under an hour to my flight. Arggh!

I tried powering up my cell phone, but it wouldn’t turn on. What’s happening? I looked over and noticed the plug wasn’t in the wall all the way. My phone, and the alarm with it, had died overnight. Remembering that my home phone wasn’t disconnected yet, I dug through my boxes to find the cordless phone and plug it into the wall. I dialed my mother and the moment it started ringing, I was awash in irony. Leave it to karma to even things out.

While I probably could have raced out the door, rushed to the airport, and made my flight it occurred to me that I didn’t have to. I thought about the drive time, parking charges, security lines, and how stressed I would be. Weighed against a three hour delay, it just didn’t seem worth the extra hassle, and anyways my family is rarely on time. A thought resonated in my head – This is my time now! Plus, hopping the next flight wouldn’t have any real impact. I called the airline, explained my predicament, and they put me on the next flight a few hours later and the icing on the cake was they didn’t even charge me for it.

After that, I just relaxed, got ready to leave and even stopped off for a cup of coffee and a bagel. It was actually quite refreshing to not hurry and to operate on my own schedule. I’m so used to being on business trips and always having somewhere to be at some time. Not anymore. Welcome to the new world!

Being humbled in a fantastically karmic way was a wonderful reminder; travel is supposed to be enjoyable and…Don’t talk back to your mother.