I spent seven hours at Seattle’s International Airport on Wednesday, January 18th, 2012. My flight from Portland landed in Seattle around 1:00 PM; unfortunately, the ice covered runways kept some planes grounded including my canceled flight which forced me out of the terminal and into Seattle’s ice storm after 8:00 PM. The weather report said that the mix of snow and freezing rain would continue through about midnight with temperatures hovering in the mid-upper 20’s. The worst storm to hit Seattle in 30 years. It was a joy waiting curbside for the DoubleTree hotel shuttle as my dark blue blazer tried desperately to keep me warm.
Backing up the story just a bit . . . I had raced out of my Portland hotel Wednesday morning to catch my flight to Reno. In typical fashion, I left myself no time for breakfast as the many work distractions first fed my checklist. I hopped in the rental, filled it up with gas and drove through the Portland slush to PDX. I arrived a few minutes before my flight so I grabbed a dark roast at Starbucks in the terminal. Then Horizon Air flew me into Seattle for a quick layover before flying on to Reno.
And so my journey begins . . . It didn’t take long to find out that Seattle was having flight challenges. My flight to Reno was delayed an hour so I thought I’d grab a bite to eat. A bread bowl of hot minestrone soup was just what I needed. SeaTac has a beautiful dinning area with lots of restaurants and an area that overlooks the runway.
I had finished my soup, responded to work emails and made some phone calls when I saw an older man looking around for a place to sit. I called him over to my table and asked if he wanted to share it with me. We had a wonderful conversation as I shared the lunch table with my new friend. We talked for a couple of hours about his Phoenix rental home, refurbished antique cars and even a bit about his ex-wife. I gave him my business card because he wanted to send me a DVD he made showcasing photos of his cars and others from The Goodguys. I look forward to hearing from him.
In the meantime, my Alaska Air phone ap continued notifying me of flight delays. I decided to walk over to the gate since the wooden chairs in the dining area were becoming less comfortable as each hour passed. All the seats were occupied though when I got to my gate . . . so I stood . . . and stood . . . and then finally sat on the cold marble floor. I talked with more people and listed as many vocalized their frustration with the delays. And then the time came – my flight to Reno was canceled.
I quickly grabbed my phone, that had barely any charge remaining, and booked a flight back to Orange County for the next morning. I couldn’t get an early enough flight to Reno to visit my clients. Little did I know that this flight, in addition to two other flight bookings I’d make, would also end up canceled.
I made it to the hotel, dropped my stuff in the room, then headed down to eat something more then soup. While at the restaurant, I spoke with another gentleman. He shared how he’d been traveling for work and pleasure over the past 20 years and, after 9-11, he felt travel had lost that zest, excitement and appealing flavor. He shared that traveling today is like getting on an old bus, you’re simply herded in and out with no care, and people have no regard for each other. I disagreed. I travel a lot too, but I still find moments in-between the madness. And I believe other people do too. There is negative all around you but the opposite is also true.
For instance, the TSA agent who took a moment with me to share about his ill daughter and left me with hope. The Starbucks’ barista who, with a line behind me longer than airport security, still smiled and asked how I was and also responded when I returned the question. Or how about the employees at the DoubleTree Southcenter in Seattle? Many of them shared a hotel room because they could not get home to their families due to the poor weather. Yet, each time I interacted with them they smiled, real smiles, and continued doing their jobs very well. People define themselves.
How do you choose to define yourself?
Thursday was going to be my last night in Seattle. I had a confirmed 7:10 AM flight to LAX where I would hop in a rental and drive to John Wayne airport where I originally departed and parked my car. I woke up at 4:00 AM Friday morning to catch the 5:00 AM hotel shuttle to Seatac. It was dark and cold but it wasn’t snowing. I helped the driver load the passenger’s suitcases; the driver was a petite young lady who stood about five feet tall, maybe! She’s also one who’s been stuck here a few days. I was the last person to get on the van . . . but the 15 seats were filled! The one person at the edge seat next to the door said, with a big “5 AM” smile, “You can sit next to me!” It was the smallest seat on the van but we squeezed together just fine.
I do have faith in humanity.
I finally got to board my Virgin America flight; I was so excited to get back home to sunny SoCal! But then the pilot announced some bad news . . . The plane still needed to be de-iced before taking off and we were third in line. Another two hours of waiting. The good news was that Virgin America planes are fricken Voodoo! I have never flown Virgin before. This plane had purple neon lights glowing down the overhead compartments (purple is my favorite color 😉 ). And each roomy and comfortable seat has its own T.V.
I was so happy to be sitting next to two, very humorous teenage girls. Since Virgin has WiFi, like many planes these days, they let me join in on their Skype call – it was a blast! Apparently, their parents own a second home in LA where they go to escape the Pacific Northwest during the winter. We had some laughs as I was designated the food and phone carrier. Since I had the aisle seat, they would hand me stuff to pass back and forth to their family members across the isle.
I made it back safely, returned some work emails and phone calls, had lunch with my wife then drove home and crashed on my couch. My body and brain were done! I was able to rest up enough to catch my son’s school dance performance that night – he was brilliant as always and even debuted an original choreography.
Ohh – What about Reno? Did you hear what happened? ABC News reported, “The fire, of unknown origin, broke out shortly after noon in a valley along U.S. Highway 395. Soon, more than 10,000 people were told to flee their homes. The blaze quickly grew to nearly 6 square miles and was eerily similar to another unusual winter fire that destroyed 30 homes in southwest Reno two months ago.” You can read the full story here. Guess I missed my flight for a reason or two.
Enjoy life’s moments ~ There’s lots of em all around you!
P.S. These were only some of the stories during this week’s travels. I need to start working on recording my EP or I’d share more with you. Are you following my recording journey? You can check it out here.
Here are a few more pictures I took with my Droid Bionic . . .
The young boy here who’s being sheltered from the cold by his father greeted me with a huge smile and a big “Hi!”. You cannot tell from this picture that he has major health problems. Another amazing story of endurance and hope.