I made it back in one piece from my little family visit back east, though the return trip was something of a grueling experience, which I’m sure you’re most interested in hearing all about! The “friendly skies” of United turned out not to be as friendly as their ads would indicate.
I was supposed to depart from Syracuse, NY, at 12:14 PM and fly to Chicago, where I would connect with my next flight to San Francisco. My first clue that something was amiss was that my flight information did not appear anywhere on the monitors at the airport. Fearing a cancellation (though even these are usually posted) I went to ask a woman at the ticket counter what was up. She told me that the flight was delayed until 1:30. When I asked why it didn’t appear at all on the monitor, she said: “Oh, don’t pay attention to that; the information there is all wrong.” Thank you very much!
It looked like this delay might just make me miss my Chicago connection, so I was booked on the 4 PM flight instead of the 3 PM. OK, well, not much harm done. So far. Still seeing no updates on the monitor, I bid my parents farewell and proceeded through security, undressing and all that. I found it interesting that the enhanced security technology failed to discover the large (4 inches), heavy, stainless steel crucifix with relics in it, which I was wearing under my clothes. I guess the saints preserved me.
So I got to the gate, where the flight info still said departing at 12:14. Shortly I discovered it was delayed again, this time until 2:45. So now I would also miss the 4 PM connection in Chicago, so they booked me on the 5 PM (I was glad there were a lot of flights from Chicago to San Francisco!). As 2:45 approached, we got another announcement. Well, remember that plane you were going to take to Chicago? It’s not going to be arriving here after all! But not to worry; a plane is on its way from St Louis, and you’ll be able to leave soon.
The plane from St Louis actually did show up, but with some sort of malfunction in one of the wings, but we were assured that the repair job was proceeding with all haste and efficiency. Finally, we got the OK to board. As I handed my boarding pass to be scanned, the nasty little electronic reader rejected it with a loud noise. What! The ticket taker asked me to step aside while everyone else boarded. Yet I didn’t have much to worry about. After a few minutes, everyone who had boarded was sent off the plane and right back to the gate. The flight wasn’t going to go after all!
All that was the easy part. The next thing was that everyone on that flight had to re-book for another flight, so we were herded back downstairs to the ticket agents to start all over (which also meant that, once getting new tickets, we would have to go through security again to get to the gate; they didn’t notice my crucifix the second time, either). Fine. So now was the interminable wait in line, while the few agents still on duty took about 20 minutes each person to process the new bookings—which meant I was standing in line for a long, long time. The wait was somewhat relieved by the presence of a young Indian woman with whom I commiserated to pass the time. I kept running into her after that, at security, at a café, at the gate area, so I wondered if there may be a reason for this.
Anyway, by this time the 5 PM Chicago flight to SF was out of the question. I didn’t even get to book my flight until after 5:00. I heard the ticket agents booking people on flights the next day! I really didn’t want to do that, so I prayed that I’ll offer up all the inconveniences and delays if only God would get me on a flight tonight! As it turned out, there was one flight they could book me on without me having to get a hotel for the night (or some dark corner of the airport). It would arrive, not in Chicago, but in Washington, DC, and I could fly out of there at 10 PM and arrive in San Francisco at 1:00 AM (which would be 4:00 AM for my eastern-time body). Fine; there was nothing I could do about it, and I was glad to be able to get home.
So when I arrived in Washington around 8:40, I looked on the monitor to see that my new flight to SF was also delayed! (Was I on candid camera or something? This had to be a setup!) So it looked like I had a couple hours to kill. As I checked out the gate just to know where it was, I noticed on the monitor there that a flight was supposed to leave for San Francisco at 7 PM, but that one had been delayed over two hours. Finally, a delay worked in my favor. It was going to leave at 9:15! I ran up to the desk and asked if I could get on that flight. Hmm, I think it’s full, they said; we’ll put you on standby. Whatever.
Finally, they called my name and I actually boarded, took my place with the rest of the sardines in economy class and had a predictably uncomfortable flight for about 5 – 1/2 hours, but managed to arrive in SF a little after midnight. After a harrowing $25 cab ride home, I plopped in my bed, grateful.
So, what is the point of all this? My question exactly! Not really, though. I was actually well taken care of. I did get home the same day, I did get on an earlier flight than expected in DC, I did manage to eat (OK, a $9 tuna sandwich, but hey, I didn’t starve), and I survived the midnight cabby. But there’s more than that. In my conversation with the Indian woman, I discovered that she was not a believer, so I got her name and now she is on the mop-up list. What if all these delays and troubles were arranged precisely by the Lord so that I could pray for this woman and perhaps obtain sufficient grace for her salvation, should she persevere in unbelief until her death. The whole point of these prayers is to entreat the Lord to give such people one more chance to repent and believe before they leave this world. What if this is her only chance? Was it worth all the trouble to save a soul? You bet!
Also, I felt myself to be in a privileged position, because I know (unlike most others) that the patient endurance of such airport unpleasantries can be an made into an offering of prayer. Since I was trusting Our Lord and Our Lady to see me safely through, I (mostly) had peace about the whole thing (I did sort of draw the line at the next-day flight thing, but they understood). The other fretting, fuming people did not realize that they could have turned their frustrations to spiritual benefit. So on the whole—though I don’t think I want to travel again anytime soon—it was a worthwhile experience, and I felt I was in Good Hands, despite all the unexpected troubles.
The Lord wants us to be able to trust Him and to make the best of whatever situation into which He leads us, for what is most important to Him is the salvation of souls. Our own souls can grow and become stronger in the process as well. So it is a blessing (albeit somewhat hidden) for all concerned. Safely home, I continue to pray and to bless the planes that roar overhead, imploring God’s mercy that all on board may make it safely home to the Kingdom of Heaven.