I really couldn't be mad at anyone but myself. I mean, who in the world leaves only one and a half hours between their house and a flight out of Atlanta, Georgia? Ummm, yeah. That would be me.
The flight was at 1:50. I left my house around 12:15PM with some asinine idea that somehow Interstate 85 would miraculously not have any traffic. Equally crazy was me convincing myself that there would also be no one in the security checkpoint and that my gate would be the first stop off of the train.
Well. Technically, I didn't have a bag to check. I mean, it was the middle of the day and not even a holiday or anything. Certainly I've done the crazy O.J. Simpson airport sprint before and made it nearly every time. But that wasn't in Atlanta. Atlanta is a different beast altogether.
This dog don't hunt in Atlanta. No, it does not.
And so. As The BHE would say I tripped. Tripped when I thought that leaving at 12:15 would be a workable and feasible idea. And I quickly came to know just how much I'd tripped when I saw the flashing lights ahead of me on I-85.
That's what I said out loud to myself (another saying in our household for those unpredictably predictable snafus) the minute saw the traffic slowing down. This could take forever. And by forever I meant long enough to make me miss my flight. That is, the one that I was already destined to miss due to my ridiculously delusional gameplan.
Somehow I managed to eke on through the traffic without breaking my wrist on the steering wheel from slamming my hands on it and screaming, "OH COME ONNNNN!" It definitely hurt my ETA but for whatever reason, I was unusually calm.
That placid attitude would come in handy when I reached the Hartsfield-Jackson airport where there was ALL KINDS of construction going on. Detours all over the place. Three lane areas down to one lane. And everybody and their mama confused enough about it all that an already slow process would be even slower.
At this point, I was on the tippy-tip edge of still having the chance to make it. With some major Flo-Jo action, the fact that I wasn't checking a bag, and the very tiny chance that nobody would (hardly) be in the security check point, yes, I could still make it. Especially if I hurled my bag over my head and let it land on the floor in front of the gate entrance once I got within 100 feet. I mean, it was possible.
And so. I snagged a park in the Park'n'Ride--oh, did I mention that I had to do that, too?--and leaped out of my car to flag down one of those bus thingies. One pulls up quickly and I scurry on like greased lightening. My positive attitude was paying off. Things were looking good in the 'hood.
I shot my linesister, Glencia, a quick text message:
"I'm running a little late to the airport and got behind some delays. Keep your fingers crossed for me, it's looking like I might pull it off."
I hit send and settled my back into the seat. But. The doggone bus just sat there. I cleared my throat to see if the driver lady would look at me and see the urgency in my eyeballs. She did glance my way and then went right back to SITTING IN ONE PLACE. A few seconds later, she popped open the automatic door and stepped down to help a family of five get on the bus.
I felt my waters beginning to trouble. I cleared my throat a few more huffy little times. That's when bus-lady announced, "Just waiting on these last three people I see walking up to join us. I try not to move with only one or two on board. It'll only be a moment."
The well-planned family of five nodded and smiled. And me? All I could say in my head was this:
"GOTS to be more careful!"
I let out a big sigh and accepted the reality before me. It was now official. I had missed my flight.
This was the weekend that I was going to Chicago to run the Rock'n'Roll Half Marathon with Glencia. This thing had been planned for at least six months and we'd both been training. Our little "Map My Run" apps had been synced up and we'd nudge each other to run either faster or further. Her in Chicago and me in Atlanta. This was the big weekend and both of us were over the moon with excitement about it.
This race date was born out of another failed one. Last year, I tried to sign up for this race called the SeaWheeze Half Marathon and it closed before I could. The race, put on my Lululemon, appeared to be this spectacular waterfront run in Vancouver, British Columbia--a place I'd never been. The race in 2013 had fallen on Deanna's birthday. I was super determined to get in for 2014. Glencia enthusiastically agreed to join me.
We watched and watched on line to see when registration would open for the SeaWheeze 2014. When it opened, the site crashed from people trying to sign up. A few weeks later, the registration opened up again promptly at 1PM EST on a Monday. I was in clinic that day and walked into a patient's room at about 12:48 PM just to say hello behind one of the senior residents. Simple enough, right? Well. The patient had some stuff on her mind. She was sad and I asked one question which became full on tears. Of course, I couldn't rush her. And I didn't rush her.
When I finally left the room, it was 1:12 PM. I ran to the nearest computer and feverishly logged on to the registration for the SeaWheeze with one hand while texting Glencia to peep her status, too. I didn't reach Glencia immediately, but after about six minutes of sitting in front of a perpetual hourglass, two things happened at the same time:
1. Glencia texting me with all sorts of happy emoticons that she was IN and that it was about to be ON in British Columbia! Woooo hooooooooo!
2. Me sadly sending her back this:
I won't bother to share the expletives that accompanied this screenshot.
Yes. The race that I hyped everyone up for? Especially my dear, dear linesister? Um, yeah. I managed to get locked out of it. Which meant she was officially signed up for a 13.1 mile run in Canada by herself.
Fortunately, there's no better person that could have happened to than Glen. She took it in stride and a few weeks later, suggested we sign up for the Chicago Rock and Roll Half instead. Which was essentially my longwinded point in telling you all of that.
Alright. . .so where was I? Oh. Yeah. My flight. I missed it, y'all. After all that, I was raggedy and missed my flight. Sigh. I took a deep breath and decided to just treat it as a lesson. A lesson that just might piss off my friend, but a lesson no less.
I slid into the long, long line at the Airlines-of-my-choice and hoped somehow the heavens might open up and allow me another chance to get to Chi-town. While in the long, long line, I got this bright idea to ring up the Airlines-of-my-choice to discuss my situation over the phone in case that would be quicker than the agent.
After a rather long hold, I finally got through. I explained that I missed my flight because I got behind an accident. I didn't act huffy or entitled. I knew that this was my fault so I just hoped for the best. Well. Regrettably, the agent gave me the bad news: Getting on the next flight would require me to pay the "change fee." Guess how much? A cool $629.
Which, to me, was code for, "Okay, so you aren't going to Chicago and Glencia is going to hate you forever for having her run not ONE but TWO half marathons on her own due to your raggedocious-ness."
I hung my head and prepared to duck under the black-elastic-tapey-rope-thingy to head home. Just as I did, a uniformed agent strolls over and speaks to me. "Where you going after waiting that long?" He was friendly. Not fresh, just friendly. And so, I chuckled and told him about how raggedy I am for letting my buddy down two for two times on these races. I also told him that the Airline-of-my-choice wanted me to pull out two molars and give them one ovary in exchange for the next flight. I added that the lady on the phone told me that there was no point in staying in the line.
He raised his eyebrows. "Really?" he said, "You know? I think that some things just come down to somebody being willing to look out for you, you know? I mean, I can't say what will happen but what you got to lose? I mean, really, you might as well stay and line and give the dice a roll." He smiled at me warmly and gestured back to the line.
"You know what? You are so right. The worst that could happen is that I'll stay in Atlanta with the people I love the most instead of going out of town to run. It's a first world issue, right?"
And so. Since you all know that I ended up making it to Chicago and you know that there was no way in THE HELL that I was giving somebody $629, you know that guy was right. Somebody looked out. The other agent at the counter, actually. Even though he looked very mean and like he wasn't going for any drama, he must have felt sorry for me.
"Have a good race, Ms. Manning," the Look Out Agent said. "You're on the next flight."
"Shut up!" The Look Out Agent raised his eyebrows. "I mean. . .thank you SO MUCH!" I started to jump over the counter and kiss him really, really hard on the cheek, but I decided against it. Instead I just did the happy church dance. The agent let the very corners of his mouth turn up, which still adhered to his stoic persona. His eyes were twinkling, though--I caught that part.
I mean, who doesn't feel good at the sight of the happy church dance?
Exactly like this--except more chill.
Ha. Which reminds me--remember when Zachary showed the "happy dance" to his class for show and tell? Ha.
Wait. Where was I. Oh. Yes, I made the next flight.
And so. On I go to the security checkpoint. This was also mayhem and very, very crowded. But by this point I was chillin' like a villain and zen like one of Ms. Moon's hens. The slowpokes didn't bother me in the least. Nor did the lady with the big booming voice that kept hollering OVER and OVER again to everyone to PLEASE REMOVE EVERYTHING FROM YOUR POCKETS.
I bobbed my head to my mental iPod while smiling to myself. I reflected on this idea of how folks can sometimes just "look out for you" and how that really is a free will thing. Stuck that on a post it note in my head for later.
About twenty minutes later, I made it through the checkpoint and down toward the trains to the gates. Of course, I was on the EXACT opposite side of the airport which meant I would need to ride down for like 5 alphabet letter gates to get to my destination. But no problem from my perspective. I was on the next flight and it didn't cost me a high end car note payment. Nobody could rain on my parade.
The trains were MAD crowded. Still in my happy place, I grab a hold of the pole in front of me to avoid faceplanting on the B gate stop. Fifty trillion people piled all around me and I just gripped that pole and thought happy thoughts.
A few seconds later, I hear this voice speaking and it sounds really familiar. I look to my left and right beside me is this olive complexioned gentleman with a pleasant expression, talking to what seemed to be his wife. I squinted one eye and tried to place him. Once he spoke a few more words, I figured it out.
"Uhhh. . .excuse me," I blurted right out to him. He and his wife glanced at me and smiled as if they weren't the least bit bothered by my interruption. "Ummm. . . are you. . .like. . .is your name Andy?"
He nodded while reaching out for my hand. "Yes," he said.
"Wow, really? This is so crazy, man." Yes. That's what I said to him.
"This is my wife--"
"Sandra," I said. "I know Sandra."
"Do you attend one of our churches?" Sandra asked.
"Well, actually--no. That's what's crazy. I have LITERALLY listened to the PODCAST of your church for nearly 5 years. Maybe even more. I was turning the channels not long ago and finally actually saw what you looked like, which is wild since I had only heard your voice. But the crazy part is that after all that time, just last Sunday I decided to break down and visit one of your churches."
"Yes. And even crazier than THAT is the fact that now I'm standing here talking to you after missing my original flight. This is crazy."
He just smiled in return. "How was your experience visiting?"
"Well, honestly? When y'all first started with the music, I heard those electric guitars and was like, 'Rut roh.'" Andy and Sandra laughed. They both knew that I was referring to the differences between Christian Inspirational music and traditional Gospel music. I shook my head and let out a playful shudder. "But, actually, it was cool. Then they talked about the outreach programs which really is no different than my current church."
"That's good," he said.
I was really pretty amazed at a couple of things. One, that this pastor of this consortium of large churches with a total of easily over 20,000 members was rolling along on the regular old train preparing to catch a commercial flight--not a private jet. And two, that he didn't seem even remotely annoyed or rushed by my conversation with him. He was totally accessible, which was really cool.
"So THEN," I went on, "I start rubbing my hands together preparing for you to come on out so I could finally see in person what I'd been hearing on my iPod all this time."
"Wait--was that last weekend?" Sandra asked. She then put her hands to her cheeks and laughed. "Oh goodness."
"Yeah, girlfriend. 'Oh goodness' is right!" (Yes, I said "girlfriend.") "Another dude comes strolling out that wasn't EVEN you talking about, 'We're starting a new series today!' I was like, 'Oh, no YOU ARE NOT!'"
We all just laughed and laughed.
And so. I go on to tell them that I had a wonderful experience and that the gent who preached in his place did a great job. He even preached directly from my favorite scripture of all time--which sort of felt like it was appointed in some way. For me to go that day. For me to be there telling the two of them about it. All of it.
Let me just say I had a lovely conversation with Andy and Sandra on the train that day. I loved how they'd just made up their minds to be pleasant and approachable. I loved also that after listening to and learning from his voice for so long, that I'd get that very serendipitous opportunity. My guess is that the majority of their church members won't ever get such a chance.
Maybe. Maybe not. I don't know.
Anyways. I stepped off of that train and let that all marinate. And the more I did, the more divine it all felt.
Of course, I know that some folks don't really buy into all of that. But since I do, this was a real pivotal day for me. It was. If I hadn't missed that flight, I would never have met them. Or the gentleman who shared that good word with me before coaxing me back into the line.
Man. I was HELD UP. Delayed to get something even greater that I couldn't have received without that delay. How awesome is that?
That got me to thinking about all of the "not right now" things that happen in my life. On the escalator ride up, my mind wandered into all of the doors that seemingly closed on me at different points in my life and even those that seem to shut before me now. I imagined the great things awaiting me, the important and life altering meetings behind those sliding doors. I stuffed all of it into another corner of my brain and posted up on a post it note in my head:
"Even when you're held up, you're still held up."
"You might be delayed for something better."
Man. I was so glad I missed that flight. Glad that it all worked out exactly like it did.
For those who are confused over my enthusiasm about meeting Andy Stanley--let me just say this: Imagine meeting someone who you've listened to and learned from for more than five years. A person you really have grown to respect. In a way, you feel like buds since you run on your long runs to the sermon series and do quick elliptical workouts to the half hours podcasts. You feel like you know his entire family and you've listened long enough to feel like this guy and his wife are the type of folks you could be friends with. Well. That's how I've felt when listening to his podcasts. And honestly, I never in a trillion years thought I'd even visit one of his churches let alone meet him and his wife on a train in Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.
But I did. Which, to me, was very, very cool.
Sooooo. . . yeah. There wasn't really any point in me telling you all of that. I guess you're just my friends and I sort of wanted to tell you about this experience. Thanks for reading all of that.
And if you are still looking for more ways to waste time, go to this throwback post from the time I was in LAX and the lady WENT OFF in the line. Ha ha ha. I went back to read it since this airport story reminded me of it. Hadn't read that one in a while!
Happy Monday-almost-Tuesday. And shout out to Glencia on her upcoming race in freakin' Vancouver, BC this weekend that, yes, I am hating on at this very moment. *pout*
This. . .the super rad video from the SeaWheeze that made me obsessed with this race. SO bummed I won't be with you, Glencia. (Also Dominique C., my fellow Grady doctor!) Sort of want to cry after rewatching that. Le sigh. Next year, man.
And this. . .now playing on my mental iPod. . . . an oldie-but-goodie gospel favorite of mine. . . . "He's Preparing Me." Which may explain a lot of life's hold ups.
And last, a link to a series Andy preached that I've listened to several times on long runs via podcast. It's called "Starting Over." Very, very good stuff.