While I waited in line to board my plane to get to my family reunion this
summer, a man standing next to me sighed in exasperation as he noticed the
attendant checking people through was a trainee. He told me how his flight
had been canceled without warning or notice, and when he had come to the
airport to change his flight, he had been sent to the wrong terminal and
had only happened by chance to notice that error in time.
After telling me all this and saying, "I will never fly this airline again", he asked me, "What next? How bad can it get?" I raised my eyebrows in surprise, and asked him if that is really the question he wants an answer to. I added that I usually ask, "How good can it get?" when things seem to be going wrong... because I often find unexpected delights and discover that what seemed to be all wrong turns out to be just right.
My own patience was tried on this very flight, because I had gone to the terminal ticket booth hoping to change my seat assignment to be closer to the front of the plane... but the very same trainee had handled my request, and the time between her telling me "There is a seat in row eleven" and actually typing a key sequence to reserve that seat was too long... someone else took that seat.
I ended up keeping my same seat assignment toward the back of the plane, and discovered that a very tired two-year-old child and her equally tired elderly caretaker were seated next to me. I handed the child some paper and a pen and for a while, she stopped fussing and enjoyed a few minutes of artistic creative bliss. This bliss literally only lasted a few minutes before she began crying again... when the food cart saved the day... for a few more minutes.
I knew that while I had no toys with me, I could still make a puppet out of the little barf bag in the seat pocket ahead of me, so I did. I drew the face of a dog on the puppet and barked as I made the puppet look like it was barking. Ashley was charmed, and so we played this game for some time. I folded her drawing paper into an Origami bowl, and made the letter W out of more little pieces of paper, folding them like chewing gum wrappers into a paper chain.
I began to realize that if I had not sat next to Ashley and her grandmother, this flight would have been a very different experience for all of us! By the end of this flight, Ashley was giggling hysterically at me as I jumped and pantomimed exaggerated reactions to her sudden noises and body movements.
It felt good to walk in both worlds... both the everyday world of daily concerns and the mystical world of one-ness. As Francis Thompson once wrote: