Celebrate The Small Victories

I recently flew from London to New Zealand.

To say it was a disaster is an understatement. Although to be fair, I did get home safely, on time and with all my bags.

I booked this particular flight a year ago. It comprised of two legs, from London to Sydney, then from Sydney to Wellington.

Less than 24 hours before I flew I discovered (completely by accident) that not one but both legs had been cancelled.

The Sydney->Wellington leg I’d been shovelled onto a later flight, which meant 11 hours sitting in Sydney airport (instead of an hour and a half).

The London->Sydney leg was even worse. That had been changed to London->Hong Kong, with no connection between Hong Kong and Sydney.

That’s right: if I hadn’t rung the airline, I would have been unceremoniously dumped in Hong Kong and left there. No, really.

Ok, so, I managed to get those two issues sorted. After I waited 45 minutes for the airline to answer the phone (my 5th airline related call in two days) – and a one hour twenty minute call in total.

When I got to the airport, I went to the wrong gate. There were two flights leaving for Hong Kong at the same time, from different ends of the airport.

So, I had to sprint to the correct gate as they were already boarding.

Finally, when I was on the plane the TV screen was broken (plus the one in the next empty seat), so I had 12 hours with only my thoughts for company (Argh! The Horror!). Ok ok, so I have a soft spot for watching movies on long haul flights. Oh, and I couldn’t easily move seats because I’d ordered a special meal.

The second leg (from Hong Kong->Sydney) the screen was working (yay!) but as a consolation prize the flight attendant tipped a cup of coffee into both sleeves of my shirt (yes, quite some achievement).

Oh, and of course there was a screaming kid most of the way too.

Then I had to get a boarding pass in Sydney, which involved asking for directions multiple times (“Just go down the escalator – you can’t miss it!”), and walking around the entire airport twice, only to discover that the night before the down escalator had been removed, and there were no signs. At all.

The flight to Wellington I sat next a large South African couple who alternated between complaining about everything (including things I would never have thought possible – the accent of the flight attendant?!?) and nudging me. Non stop. For two hours. I was utterly exhausted and had hoped to sleep.

When I finally arrived, my sister was coming to pick me up. She wasn’t answering her phone and was nowhere to be found.

To call the whole journey a cluster fuck wouldn’t be too far from the truth.

The interesting thing though? My reactions:

  • Hearing about the 11 hour layover: a bit gobsmacked, but no real emotion there
  • Waiting on hold for 45 minutes: relaxed and happy I’d decided to get this all sorted before I went to the airport
  • Sprinting for the gate: amused at myself, since I’d been so careful not to sweat before getting on a 30 (now 40) hour flight
  • The TV screen being broken? I took the time to sleep and meditate. Very productive
  • Having coffee dumped down both sleeves of my shirt? Hilarious actually. Apologised profusely, since the attendant felt so bad (for no reason – it was both of us, really, not paying sufficient attention. Just a silly accident)
  • The screaming kid: just sent them love and forgot about it (whereupon they immediately calmed)
  • Walking around the airport twice: a bit sweaty, confused, but otherwise amused
  • The actual layover: cool actually. I decided it would be great (somehow) and it was. Got chatting to a lovely US Marine about the research paper he was writing (discussing the effects of exponential technological advancement on historical warfare theory. Fascinating stuff). He later ended up inviting me out for cocktails
  • The couple keeping me awake was hard, I admit. I was exhausted and struggling to maintain my equanimity. Eventually I got on top of it though and let my aggravation go. I looked over and realised the guy wasn’t intentionally nudging me. He was just so fat he couldn’t help it (even with me scrunched up so far over I was almost falling in the aisle). Unsurprisingly, as soon as I let it go, they stopped complaining.
  • With my sister there was a little aggravation, but really very minor. Not to the point of swearing.

Now, I have no idea why all these things happened. To have this many things “go wrong” is very unusual for me. In fact, I can’t think of any other time in my life when anything even vaguely close to this has occurred. I do find it interesting that nothing serious happened (lost baggage, delayed connections, plane crash).

The super interesting thing is – none of them threw me, particularly.

Historically? This is very unusual. Typically, even a few of these things happening would have made me irritable, angry and generally aggressively petulant. Ask any of my ex-girlfriends from years back *blush*.

So, maybe the lesson is just this: To stop and enjoy progress that is being made. That even if some things in my life don’t appear to be shifting, in general things are improving. I need to celebrate the small victories. To appreciate the journey thus far, to stop every so often (as a friend once told me) and eat the flowers.