Last week I wrote to you about my getting-ready-to-be-a-farm-girl exploits.  Well, they never quite happened.

Here’s why.

Last Monday I took my typical early-morning flight from LAX to Denver.  I arrived at DIA at about 10:30 in the morning, in plenty of time for my 2 hour layover.  I went up to the Red Carpet Club (I’m not really that fancy, but I do spend a lot of time in the airport, so it’s a necessary “frill” – if you can call it that!) to hang out, check email and grab my requisite cheese and crackers for lunch.  I fooled around for a little bit and watched the news (nothing too exciting) and then I realized that my flight was delayed 3 hours.  Ugh.  I mean really really UGH!

So I settled into my spot and tried to get some work done and make use of an otherwise useless travel day.  I kept watching the board and my flight kept getting pushed back and back and back – it was 5:30 before I headed down to the crowded gate.  We were supposed to leave by 6:30 p.m. and I wanted to be close.

Note to anyone traveling: I called the fact that I thought the flight would be canceled really early that day because when they keep pushing the flight back again and again, that’s what’s going to happen – it nearly always does!  So, if this is the case, start stalking other gates where earlier flights to your destination are going out…trust me, it’s worth it.  This ends your public service announcement.  You’re welcome.  😉

So, I stood for a long while (the flight continued to get pushed) and then finally started looking around for a place to sit.  I ended up sitting across from a cute old man (who later I learned was 92 year old Roger) and a lady with a walker (who I later learned was 83 year old Joanne).

Now typically I have my headphones on and I don’t talk to anyone in the airport – it’s something I do as a coping mechanism with all of this travel!  But that night I didn’t read or listen to my headphones…I just kind of sat there.

Within a couple of minutes, the old guy across from me said, “Well, young lady, are you going to Sioux Falls?”  I said that I was and asked him the same.  He said he was – he was heading home after a visit to Phoenix for a meeting and a visit with his sister.  We continued to make small talk – he was interested in my job in helping schools and was really complimentary of the school system in Sioux Falls – he knows the Superintendent and said that they had worked really hard to get some good things up and running there.

To make a verrrrryyyyy long story short, our flight got canceled after 8 hours of waiting and we ended up becoming pals over the next 36 hours.  We took the shuttle to the airport (we had to spend the night unexpectedly), we had dinner together in the lobby, we met for breakfast in the morning, we rode the shuttle back to the airport, we went through the Inquisition (i.e. TSA)…and we ended up spending another 6 hours at the airport when our next-day scheduled flight was delayed again.  Oh, and did I mention that we survived a fire on the tarmac?  Well, we did.

My time with Roger was something that was supposed to happen.  Even amidst the drama of a 36 hour travel delay, it was meant to be.

Here’s what I learned:

  • Stay curious: Roger is a part of a book club and talked a lot about what he was reading – he was interested and interesting.
  • Stay engaged: He was really interested in what it takes to turn around struggling students and so he “took a class” and now meet weekly with Matthew to mentor him – he plays checkers, chess and Uno.  He was really frustrated that our travel delay meant that he couldn’t see Matthew that week.
  • Stay open:  Roger viewed everyone as a friend.  He isn’t a simple man at all, though.  He’s very sharp and totally full of knowledge.  But he looked at every new person as an opportunity to make a connection.  He ended a zillion different conversations that I witnessed with, “Thank you, friend!”
  • Stay thankful: Again and again, Roger would say to me and a few others that we got to know during our delays, “You know, I’ve just enjoyed this unexpected time together – what a gift this Holy Week!”  He was right.

When all was said and done, we were exhausted.  And thankful that we had met each other. 

And I learned that it’s not so bad to take off the headphones and talk to people in the airport.  After all, Roger changed me.