The Magic of the Guy in Seat 9A

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Have you ever had a travel debacle, like an all out traveling clusterfiasco? Yeah, of course you have. And while it’s logical that your experience of debacles coincides with your frequency of travel, it also spikes in relation to the importance of getting to your destination. Of course, right?

So in typical Planes, Trains, and Automobiles fashion (if you haven’t ever seen the movie it’s still such a great one to watch–especially around Thanksgiving), my latest one involved more than my fair share of adventure.

But there’s kind of a twist at the end. 

On Thursday and even Friday morning of this past week I’d been receiving email confirmations for my Friday afternoon flight, which I thought departed at 3:30pm Friday from SFO. Thursday night was a long one for me (the whole week was long), and I didn’t get to bed until 4am Friday completing work stuff …I awoke at 7am Friday, cranking out more work knowing I had ample time to get packed. At 10am I got an emergency call from my business partner–who was on the same flight–and he realized that OUR flights weren’t at 3:30 but 12:30…and out of another airport. Much further away. Apparently, XYZ travel company was sending me the wrong confirmation emails intended for a 3rd guy in our group who was on a different flight. So in 30 minutes I packed for a ten day trip–including all my running gear for a Chicago event this coming Sunday–and grabbed a quick shower in between pouring down a few cups of coffee.

Then, EVERYTHING misfired. AND it clicked. Simultaneously. I can’t go into each detail, this blog post would be ten pages. But seemingly everything that could go wrong did, yet we also made–sometimes by seconds–each critical bus pickup, security checkpoint, and boarding needed to get to our final destination. Until Houston. For “complicated” reasons, we missed our connection and XYZ airlines said the next available Nashville flight would get us in by Saturday late afternoon. Which wouldn’t work. Would’ve been a disaster, as we had to be there for a meeting and set up for the launch of our new product by 9am.

“Get us within a six hour drive to Nashville and we’ll figure out the rest” I told the agent. Energetically. 🙂 I can’t remember all the times an all night drive from some mid-point along a final destination to get to a meeting or event on time–but it’s easily in the double digits.

We decided to reroute to Memphis, and the agent worked out a way to get us seats on a flight that arrived at 10:20pm Friday night. XYZ travel company showed on it’s website rental cars for one way that were <$400 for a trip to Nashville, but kept failing when I tried to confirm the order while in Houston. No biggie, I thought, I’m just going to figure it out when we land. But upon arrival I call the travel booking company and they can’t book the rental cars either–keeps failing at checkout.

Net net, they end up finding one they can book for >$800. USD–not pesos. No way am I paying $800 for a rental car–I’d end up hitchhiking before doing that. After some vigorous conversation, and hours of calling rental car companies and doing walk up price checks, I resigned myself that it was going to be impossible to get out of Memphis. By a rental car. But I knew we’d get there.

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Because…there’s always Greyhound. $25 per person one way (if you get the web fare). So we went to the bus station at 1am, with the plan to sleep there and jump a 5am bus and make it to our meeting in time by 9am. Somehow, though, upon arriving we snagged the last two seats on a 1:30am bus to Nashville despite not being able to actually buy tickets, and not the most friendly people helping us. IMG_0085

I am not sure if you have traveled by bus. But, let me just say, you have never REALLY traveled by bus until you’ve done the Memphis to Nashville 1:30am journey. 😉

We arrive Nashville around 5am, get to the hotel with enough time to sleep for 90-minutes, run back to the airport to pick up our luggage which finally arrived and made it to our 9am meeting and set up for our big product unveiling.

Seemingly fifty ridiculous things happened during this “adventure” and often I wonder why, and try to find meaning in it. Perhaps even if no meaning exists.

Sometimes…Oftentimes…Maybe usually…I think this stuff happens to test us:

How bad do we want it? And are we willing to just make stuff happen and figure it out? How creative will we get, and how hard will we push through to get from the 80% mark to 100% Or, do we resign ourselves…and just throw in the towel saying “well, we tried.”

To some, “we tried” would be resigned to taking the Saturday afternoon flight originally offered because “nothing” else worked.

To me, “we tried” is being ten miles outside of Nashville at 9am Saturday morning after hitchhiking all night and not quite making it whilst running in dress shoes and my suede messenger bag (okay, fine it’s a murse) in tow behind me still doing a last ditch effort to make it to our meeting by 9am.

Othertimes…Oftentimes…and maybe even usually…I think there’s another lesson:

And maybe this is me finding the meaning in it.

But one particularly interesting thing happened as a result of our traveling adventure. I met a guy on our flight to Memphis and we clicked. There’s something I love about meeting new people in new places, most of whom I’ll never see again.

The guy was about 15 years older than me, with two grown daughters that were less than two years apart. Just like Royce and Zoe.

So I asked him advice about raising two girls from the perspective of a dad.

“Just try to do two things as best you can” he said to me. “Alright”, I replied, “just tell me what they are.”

He replied, “First, go to every event you can. Every single one. Look, based on your job and travel I know you work a lot and you can’t make everything. But when you’re in town, you’ve just got to try to make it happen. You can’t do those again. Can’t get them back.”

Ugh. Okay, epic fail on numero uno. But, it was a good reminder. There are still many events left, and when I’m in town I try to do the best I can but…Anyways…

“Second” he continued “Is to tell them you love them. All the time. I told my kids every day, growing up all throughout the day, how much I loved them.” I immediately responded and said “Okay, great I’ve got that one covered.”

As he’s saying that, I’m thinking I really do have that one covered. I tell them that all the time. And, I even add my “I love you…NO MATTER WHAT” so they–hopefully–know that it’s totally unconditional.

But then he looked over at me and he said “No, hang on. I’m not sure you fully understand.”

So he gently grabbed my arm as he continued talking and proceeds to look directly into my eyes.

(side note: yeah, I get this might sound weird…but this is one dad talking to another dad about each others daughters and how precious they are).

“You look into their eyes…and you tell them as you’re looking into their soul how much you love them” he explained as he’s looking right into my eyes. “You look at them, and you don’t break eye contact. And you say, ‘Royce, Zoe, I love you so much–more than you know’ and you let it sit there. You do not break eye contact with them. You have to look deep into their eyes so they can feel it with their heart.”

And when he did that, when he was looking at me and telling me those words, it hit me hard. So hard. Like really hard.

Hard enough that I’m right now sitting at a car sitting outside of McDonalds in Nashville, totally sleep deprived in between a litany of emails and projects, jumping the free wifi to write about it.

Hard enough that I’ll never tell Royce or Zoe that I love them without looking them in the eyes directly, at least when I’m in person.

And hard enough that I actually think the reason for my travel debacle was to meet the guy in seat 9a.

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