Thursday, August 30, 2007

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Sometimes You Hit The Wall

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

For my daughter: Sometimes life overcooks your rice, nu, what can you do?

Sometimes you hit the wall, sometimes the wall hits you. Sometimes avoiding is not a choice, rather the only choice is how you deal with it...

Over at the Muqata, there's a nice article on a difficult airplane experience with a Xian monk. That story ended with the monk exploding (well, not physically as in suicide bomber) due to excess airline inconvenience. Here's my recent story...

I was returning from a business trip. It had been a tiring trip. I struggled a bit with local traffic in a city with which I was unfamiliar, getting turned around a few times (even with a cell phone based GPS service). I was getting progressively more worried about making my flight. Checked in a rental car, then waited on a shuttle bus for 20 minutes while worrying more and more about making it through security on time to make my flight.

Fortunately, security was quick, got on the plane with no trouble. Then, we waited. 45 minutes for some delay, finally in the air. It was not a short flight, crossing a major portion of the US. It was bumpy, mildly uncomfortable, and the plane was full. I was in a middle seat (that's all that was left), I hate that.

We arrived to bad weather, the landing was rough. And that's when the fun really began. Because of the weather, planes hadn't been leaving. So we taxied from the runway and...sat. No gates available. And sat. No one was leaving, and they weren't pushing back (or even loading their passengers). No gates, we sat. 1 hour. We're on the ground, the plane is full, it's literally getting stuffy. Everyone has their cell phones broken out, everyone is annoyed. It's loud and stuffy. Of course, we're not parked, so people can't get up to use the bathroom.

2 hours. No change, the captain has come on a few times to apologize, but there's nothing he can do. It's almost hard to breathe. Many people have connections to make, they're practically frantic. Everyone is sweating.

I'm really uncomfortable, tired, cranky, almost feel like I'm having trouble breathing (air quality is deteriorating), squeezed in on both sides. I'm a prisoner of the airline (along with 150 of my closest strangers that I've never met before). I'm taking deep breaths (for all that's worth), ha'kol b'day shamayim, being stuck here is for the best, and trying to resist jumping out of my seat, running and trying to throw open a door. I want to dial 911 on my cell phone and tell the police I've been kidnapped by an airline. I'm barely restraining myself, as I neither want to act that way as an orthodox Jew who clearly looks that way (and therefore represents at some level Torah), nor do I want to get off the plane into the hands of the Transportation Police as an airline threat.

FINALLY, we start to pull into a gate. We're in! Everyone jumps up to grab their stuff. And...the door doesn't open. They didn't line up the gate right. Now everyone is standing and crowding the aisle, I'm bent partially sideways. And people both in front and behind me are practically frantic, wondering if there is any chance to get their flights and make their way home the same day.

Another 10 minutes, the door finally opens. We're halfway back in the plane, it's full, it's emptying slowly. The people are frantic, gotta get off, gotta get off. I turned to those behind me, who were truly freaking out, and said calmly and slowly, "don't worry, if it took us this long to get in, it will be taking your connecting flight the same, there's hope that you'll be fine". With a calm voice and a thought of hope, they calmed down tremendously.

As we walked forward and as they were walking away, I heard those in front of me say, "that rabbi, he really calmed everyone down."

With one sentence I made a kiddush Hashem, and positively affected all those around me. Yet I was so close, so very very close, to doing the opposite, G-d forbid. And that, was why I was on that particular flight that particular day.

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