31 Oct 2010

Be Who You Must, That’s a Part of the Plan

Religious 2 Comments

(That’s a reference to a Dan Fogelberg song.)

Well I’ve had an interesting day. It ties in with last week’s post, where I acknowledged that you really have no control over your life. All you can do is respond to events in the character of the person you want to be.

My brother (who lives 30 miles outside Boston) was driving me to the airport after the Murphy-Wenzel extravaganza. About 15 miles away, his temperature gauge went way up and the light came on. So I blasted the heat, and that fixed the problem. I told him it was probably just a screwed up reading.

Well scratch that theory. About a minute later the gauge went back up to H, and then cold air started coming out of the vents. The engine started making a bad clicking noise, and he could feel the acceleration dying. So we pulled off to the side of the interstate and turned off the truck. It didn’t start ever again.

So that was obviously a kick in the pants for both of us. My brother had recently moved out there for a job, and the people he knew best happened to be out of town. My flight was supposed to start boarding in about an hour, and we were on the side of the interstate still about 15 miles from the airport. Oh yeah, it was a Sunday morning.

My brother called AAA while I called the airline. The woman at AAA told him they couldn’t find his name in their system. My brother said that maybe it was because his membership expired, but she said no, they still should show him in their system as expired. But, she went on, they’d been having a glitch lately where they couldn’t look people up. (You’d think AAA might try to address that problem, as that seems to me–an outsider, I grant you–a major part of their business model, to be able to tell who has signed up for them, when people break down and call from the side of the highway.) My brother had a good line. Apparently she said, “Is there anything else I can assist you with?” and he said, “Well you didn’t assist me with the first thing.” He called Geico and they ended up telling him how to get a tow truck.

I am truly not making a xenophobic statement here, but it was frustrating on my end to deal with a non-native speaker. It was very difficult for me to convey my situation, and to understand what my alternatives were. But it appeared that the only thing I could do over the phone was to book a flight leaving at 10pm that night (instead of my original 11:09am flight) and paying an extra $900. So I declined.

About a half hour after we broke down the tow truck came. The guy took us to a Ford dealership at a town in the direction of the airport. (Of course no one was there, as it was a Sunday.) So now our new plan was to get me to the airport, so that I could try flying standby on the two remaining flights out of Boston that would ultimately get me to Nashville. My brother, for his part, was trying to figure out if he should just plan on missing most of his work day on Monday (waiting for his truck to get fixed) or if he should take a train back to his town, bum a ride from somebody to work, and then take the train back in to pick up his truck after-hours on Monday.

We had to kill about an hour while we waited for my brother’s friend (whom he remembered after we got to the town on the outskirts of Boston) to come get us. The friend would take me to the airport, and then either let my brother crash at his place or take him to the train station.

So we went to eat lunch at a deli. My brother made small talk with the owner and explained our odd situation. A few minutes later, while we were eating the sandwiches at the deli’s table, another customer sits down and stares at us. To condense some of the story, it somehow transpired that this guy owned a rival auto shop across the street from the Ford dealership, and my brother ended up giving the guy the key to his truck. The guy said he would tow the truck that afternoon to his shop, and have his guys look at it first thing in the morning.

As we were walking away from the deli, we were joking that if the guy stole his truck, nobody would have any sympathy for my brother. But I reassured him that it was a crazy situation and it actually made perfect sense that my brother had given his key to a guy he had met 10 minutes earlier in a deli.

So we still had a half hour to kill. I was paranoid about leaving my computer in his truck, since the guy had the key and for all we knew, the guy was going to go get hammered at a bar watching football. So I wanted to make sure that my brother’s key fob still worked, and that I would be able to get my luggage out of the truck when my brother’s friend showed up in about 30 minutes. (In other words, if the key fob didn’t work for some reason, I was going to sprint back to the deli and catch the guy before he finished his own sandwich, to get the actual key back to unlock the truck.)

OK so the key fob worked, and I felt comfortable strolling around the town while we killed the remaining half hour. After we walked about 10 minutes away, I was hit with a moment of panic. I exclaimed, “Whoa, he could be towing the truck right now! I have to get my stuff outta there!” (In retrospect that seems obvious, but it didn’t occur to us at the time because the guy had originally said he would tow it Monday morning. So when he later said he’d get it Sunday, we pictured it being later in the day.)

We jogged back to the Ford dealership, and saw the guy’s tow truck driving (empty) past us. I said, “Yep, he already towed it.” But fortunately we found it in an outside lot. So we were doubly relieved: (A) I could still get at my stuff and (B) the guy was really connected with a rival auto shop.

My brother’s friend showed up soon afterward. Since my brother’s cell phone was about to die, our story must leave him at this point (since I don’t know what he ended up doing) and follow our protagonist.

I got to the airport and had to pay $150 in order to switch my reservation (from the flight I had missed to a new one), but thankfully the lady at the counter didn’t make me pay the fare difference. (Why this wasn’t an option when I called two hours earlier, I do not know.)

I flew from Boston to DC with little fanfare. Then I went to check on the gate for my connecting flight to Nashville. It said the flight had been canceled due to plane servicing. Suh-weet.

I jumped in the customer service line for United, and was about 5th in line. I think the guy at the front was trying to go to Mars via Yemen, because he was taking forever. I foolishly tried to call their 800 number again, thinking I could beat the rush.

The only options the person gave me were to pay the $900 to fly out that night, or to take a flight in a few hours that would put me in Alabama, 102 miles from Nashville. I declined.

Anyway I am now blogging from a hotel room in DC. United at least paid for it and gave me $15 off dinner. I have a guaranteed ticket on a flight that puts me back into Nashville about 36 hours after I first left for the airport. All in all, not a bad resolution. I can objectively say I was less stressed about everything than most of the other people in the customer service line, but then again my job is flexible. And as I always remind myself when I’m feeling pitiful: I imagine there are people in Afghanistan who can come up with worse sob stories.

Since it’s Sunday I should try to relate this to the Bible. How about this from Jesus? (Luke 12:22-26)

22Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[a]? 26Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

When I was younger and used to freak out about stuff more than I do now, I would be in awe of old-timers who weren’t easily flustered. But of course what happens is that old-timers have gone through a lifetime of stressful events that turned out, in retrospect, to not be nearly as awful as they initially seemed.

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