Monday, February 25, 2013

Changing Luck?

I have written before about being a lucky person, in particular, about being a person whose flights are always on time. But on my trip to Oregon back in November, I had a seriously delayed flight (mechanical difficulties), which forced me to cancel a class and spend the night at an airplane hotel in Salt Lake City.  And on my trip to New Orleans this past weekend, I had serious delays in BOTH directions. Going, my original flight was canceled from an ice storm, and the rebooked flight was delayed for other weather-related reasons, so I got to New Orleans five hours later than initially planned.  Returning home, my flight to DC to connect to my flight to Indy was three hours late (also for weather-related reasons), so I missed my connection and had to spend the night at my own expense at an airport hotel by Dulles.

Is my luck changing?  Am I no longer the lucky lass I have boasted of being? 

Certainly not!  I admit that it is now no longer true that my flights are never delayed.  And upon further reflection, the on-timeness of my previous flights was probably not best explained by appeal to any particular fact about me.  After all, Epictetus points out that Zeus has not made us controller of the winds, but Aeolus.

So here is what remains true.  No matter how long the lines at security (and mine are luckily always short!), or how irritating the delays (such as spending TWENTY MINUTES on hold waiting to talk to a United Airlines representative to change my flight yesterday), air travel is still so much faster than anything that 99 percent of people throughout the history of the world could even imagine.  It is SOOO much faster than the covered wagon! 

And flight delays are indisputably a First World problem. One of my Facebook friends posted a link to this video where Third World people recite First World complaints taken from Twitter feeds. My favorite is "I hate it when I say no pickles and they give me pickles." As I was moaning about my long wait with United Airlines yesterday, it was hard not to imagine what that grievance would sound like repeated by someone in Haiti or the Sudan.

This morning at Dulles Airport, the man ahead of me in line at Dunkin' Donuts ordered three glazed donuts and a Diet Coke (yes!) and staggered back overcome with mingled misery and rage when he learned that Dunkin' Donuts did not happen to sell Diet Coke. "You're kidding!" he accused the guy at the register, who was then nice enough to suggest that Diet Coke could be purchased at the next stand, about eight feet away. "Well, I'll certainly have to get it somewhere else!" the irate customer snapped.

Yes, Mr. First World Man, it's irritating when you have to walk eight more feet and spend an extra thirty seconds to buy your Diet coke.  It's irritating when you say, "No pickles," and get pickles anyway. But a life with a few unwanted pickles  -  or flight delays - can still be an extraordinarily lucky one.

I'm lucky that I got to fly to New Orleans and spend a weekend wandering past the verandahs and shuttered windows of the French Quarter, catching up with old friends, and eating lots of bread pudding. And I'm lucky that I could take a few small adjustments to my plans in stride (helped by that timely reminder about First World versus Third World complaints, and by the tragicomic spectacle of the man ahead of me in line at Dunkin' Donuts). So am I still lucky?  You bet I am.

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