Ever since my job change, I suddenly changed from sitting in an office all day to a frequent flyer. As I frequented airports more often, not only my mileage accumulated, my travel stories also accumulated. And here is a story from my first ever missed flight.
This is a trip to Barcelona for Global Mobile Conference 2018 from San Jose, California. My flight back home is comprised of two legs, with a 4-hour layover in London. This is definitely a long layover. But considering I booked my flight only 15 days before travelling to a big conference in Barcelona, this is probably not unusual. So, only until it is about 2 days before my flight back in Barcelona, I started to think about how to spend these 4 hours in London. The first thought coming to my mind is to ask if my aunt in London have time to come to the airport for a coffee meet.
I received her phone call immediately, ‘Do you know you are arriving at Gatwick airport? And do you know you are leaving to San Jose from Heathrow? Do you know these two airports in London are 50 minutes apart?’ Oh my god. Only until then, I understood why I’m having a 4-hour layover… Oh well, it is what it is. I just have to rush. No problem. As a regular gym goer, running is not my limit, right? I can handle it. Deep breath. Lesson 1. Look at your layover carefully. Pay more attention to the unusually long layover time when booking. Make sure they are the same airport.
So, on the day of travel, here I am at the airport, boarding on time for a 7:30am flight in Barcelona. From my past days experience in Barcelona, I learned people in Spain are NOT early risers. When I went out running, streets remained quiet till well after 8am. So, when I saw the plane is only half full, I was not surprised. I am still in Spain after all. But I did not realize the late risers include flight crews as well… At least that’s what we were told after waiting for an hour strapped up in the airplane. ‘Because we are short of flight crews, the flight is delayed. The passengers have to leave the plane and wait for further notice.’ Therefore, we unbuckled, left the plane, got stuffed in a shuttle bus, and even went through security again to return to terminal, only to find out we will board again at the same gate. Lesson 2. Avoid early flight in Spain because crew members may not wake up yet.
While waiting on the plane not knowing how long the delay will be, or if I can still catch the next flight, was I stressed? Of course. I checked time constantly. And every time I checked, I cannot help calculating how much time is left for me in London for airport transfer. My mind was running non-stop. My anxiety was high. Then I realized, it is not helping the situation and only adding more frustration. I started to remember the principle of meditation, and tried not to think about the flight delay that I had no control over. Instead, I took a deep breath and focused on what I can do. By the time we were asked to leave the plane, I’m pretty sure I could not catch my flight. So I called to re-book the flights. Am I angry by the unfair treatment? Yes and no. Yes because I’m a normal human being. No because I know being angry won’t solve my problem. Shouting or complaining to crew members won’t solve my problem. Thinking about the bright side, I can spend one night in London, adding one more stop to my travel, and spend more time with my aunt.
This experience reminded me of the old Chinese story of ‘塞翁失马焉知非福 Misfortune might be a blessing in disguise ‘. This is a story with many unexpected turns. When the old man first lost his horse, how could he know his horse would lead back a herd of horses? And how could he predict his son would break his legs riding on the returned horse? And how could he find out his son could avoid being enlisted to the war that lost so many lives? The end is not the end. We could not know what will happen in the future. But we do have control of our efforts at present, and how we choose to feel. For example, when we are stuck in traffic, we can choose to be angry, blame the transportation bureau and bad luck. Or, we can choose to do something meaningful, like listening to an audio book, or a podcast, or let our mind racing for ideas. To me, life is too short to blame others. I chose to make the best out of whatever I was given. Or, at least, I will try.
So, after I landed in London, I spent a memorable half day wandering downtown, seeing Big Ben, waling by Thanes River, and visiting King Cross Station Platform 9-3/4. I even bumped into street artists performing some of my favorites songs, including ‘Let her go’ and ‘Try to Remember’. I am so grateful. And not to mention that I had a great re-union with my aunt in London, and my other aunt who happened to visit from China. Both I have not met in years. Just like the old story says, misfortune might be a blessing in disguise.