Stress. It’s been my middle name of late.
A heavy work season. Not enough sleep. Car making suspicious sounds.
And now a trip with back-to-back events. First, to Indiana to see family, friends and participate in my friend Lynn’s women’s retreat. Then on to Washington DC for the annual American Translators Association conference. Somewhere in there, a large project has to be completed.
So when my alarm went off early Friday morning, my frazzled brain begged me to throw in the towel and stay under the covers for a week. Instead I dragged my body out of bed after only two hours of sleep, put my luggage in the trunk of the car, and took off for the airport.
There was a wreck on the freeway. Three out of four lanes were closed. I made it to the airport 7 minutes after my flight left.
At the airline desk, a sleepy clerk put me on standby for the next flight, nearly 5 hours later.
Realizing I’d forgotten something important, I decided to count the delay as a blessing and dash home. When I got to my car, I found that a large van had squeezed into the spot beside me, leaving about 7 inches of space between us. I am not 7 inches in diameter.
With a prayer that no one with a cell phone would notice me, I crawled through the passenger side, scooted the driver’s seat back, launched myself over the middle console, wrestled my uncooperative knee over the gear stick and settled into place.
At home, I took a nap and repacked, Tetris-style. My son had delivered his daughter to daycare and said he would drive me to DFW airport instead.
He dropped me off at the entrance near Gate C37. It was the closest security checkpoint to my departure gate.
A sign at security advised that the TSA Precheck line was at Gate C20.
I decided that walking to C20 just for Precheck convenience was not worth it; I was leaving from C39.
It took several minutes of standing in the slow-moving lane for me to realize that only one of the security lanes was operational. There were at least 15 people before me in line.
I finally reached the conveyor belt, walked through the scanner -- and my carry-on bag promptly got pulled for inspection. The only inspector was busy with someone else.
When he got to my bag, he dug almost everything out until he found the object of suspicion: wooden candlesticks, handmade by one of my brothers.
After making sure they were only candlesticks, the inspector meticulously examined everything else in my bag. Some mental math was required to convert grams into ounces, after which he decided that the little container of mora jam I was taking to my other brother was more than 3 ounces and qualified as a liquid or gel.
“What time does your flight leave?” he asked. I looked at the clock. “Three minutes.” We both looked at the contents of my suitcase, now spilling all over, and he said, “Then I guess maybe you should repack…”
A few minutes later, I was put on standby for the next flight to Indianapolis and sent to Gate C19.
A firm believer in accepting the ebb and flow of life, I still couldn’t help feeling a little beat up. The things I’d been stressing over – the job, the women’s retreat, the conference – were now things to fight for. Forget pulling the covers over my head. A sense of urgency started to build. Every flight to Indianapolis was fully booked. My chances of getting on a plane seemed to shrink as the day went by. And even if I did get a flight, I still had a two-hour drive to make after landing.
I sat down to text the people who would be waiting on me. First, my brother, who was duly sympathetic and said he’d have a bed ready for me when I made it. I didn’t tell him about the confiscated jam.
Then, Lynn, whose retreat I was supposed to be at. I poured out all my pent-up stress and frustration into my text.
Music over the airport sound system, and not just any music.
Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski and Julie Walters were belting out ABBA. “I was sick and tired of everything…”
My foot started tapping.
“All I do is eat and sleep and sing…”
The Mamma Mia! soundtrack continued, and all of a sudden I was a “Super Trouper shining in the sun”.
I realized that the only thing I could do was the only thing I had to do: keep showing up until something happened.
A few minutes later, my earworm (“smiling, having fun…”) and I made our way to A17 in order to not get on that flight. From there, we were sent to not get on the plane at D42. Somewhere along the line I picked up a little lost lady from Cameroon who was trying to get to Indianapolis to see her daughter.
Finally, thirteen hours after my originally-scheduled flight, my Cameroonian friend, the seven other people also on perpetual standby, and I found ourselves once again at C19, where we boarded the very last flight to Indianapolis.
I don't know about them, but for me all it took was little Mamma Mia! - a whole lot of showing up.