In dealing with life’s ups and downs, it’s helpful to have perspective. My wife reminded of that last Sunday.
For Christmas, I had given her and our daughter five days in San Diego. I had chosen that southern California city because last year, after a Christmas trip to New York City, my wife and daughter complained only about the cold. In December, the average high in San Diego is 65 degrees; the average low, 48. That’s tolerable, especially compared to New York.
But the start to their California adventure was an unmitigated disaster. Susan and Kristin were supposed to fly from Raleigh-Durham to Dallas and then to San Diego. The wheels came off before they ever left the ground.
The night before their 5:50 a.m. departure, I had seen the weather in Texas – snow around El Paso in the west and violent storms around Dallas in the east. Part of me feared the worst, and sure enough, about 4 a.m. Sunday my daughter called from RDU to say American Airlines had canceled all flights into and out of Dallas.
Immediately, my mood soured, because even though I had no control over the weather, I had chosen the destination, the route and the departure time.
My mood only worsened when my daughter called a little later to update me: Instead of flying out Sunday morning, they would depart Raleigh-Durham at 3 p.m. – nine hours later than scheduled – and arrive in San Diego, via Miami, at 11 p.m. PST, about 12 hours later than planned.
For that 5:50 a.m. flight, my wife had gotten up at 2 a.m. to shower so she and Kristin could leave the house at 3. That would put them at RDU around 4, the recommended two hours before departure. I felt bad about booking such an early flight, but it was the most affordable, and an early flight gave them the most time in San Diego.
Instead, they would lose one whole day of their vacation, most of it spent sitting in an airport with little to do but read and people watch. They saw no need to come home and then return to the airport. Besides, they had no way of knowing if their flight plans would change yet again.
Their plight left me in a funk. When all was said and done, my wife and daughter got to their hotel about 4 a.m. EST Monday; they had been up for more than 24 hours, sleeping a little on the flight from Miami to San Diego.
I told my wife and daughter how sorry I was that their Christmas present had gotten off to such a sorry start, and then my wife put their misadventure into prospective. The worst thing that happened to them, she said, was that their flight got canceled. That was nothing compared to the loss of life and property in Texas after the tornadoes there, she said,
I had not given the people of Texas any thought; I was too busy feeling sorry for myself because decisions I had made had, unintentionally, left my wife and daughter stranded in an airport.
Those Texas storms killed 11 people and caused property damage that officials are still tallying. After reading that, I was embarrassed by my own selfishness.
Again, perspective helps, and I thank my wife for giving me some on Sunday.
By the way, I would be remiss if I didn’t say something about American Airlines. After I realized that my wife and daughter would spend one day of their Christmas trip in an airport, I told my daughter to ask the airline about returning a day later than planned. American was happy to oblige and to do so at no cost. Now my wife and daughter can ring in the new year in San Diego without having to worry about boarding a plane just a few hours later.
I read too that American had donated $100,000 to the American Red Cross for tornado relief. That impressed me, because while dealing with the logistical nightmare that comes with canceling every flight into and out of a hub, the airline was also thinking of those devastated by the storms.
People tend to think of corporations as greedy and insensitive. Apparently, that’s not American Airlines.