Testing my beliefs on the long winding travel road this past week
Sometimes. Wait, oftentimes while on business trips, “stuff” happens. Without fail, I have never been on a business trip where everything went right. I firmly believe the thing to do is to try to minimize the bad stuff that may occur. Sometimes, even that is not fully possible. Notably, it is a falsehood to state that sometimes you cannot do anything because things such as tornados while on a trip, are outside one’s control. Yes, unlike my deeply-seated wish, I cannot control the weather. Nor can I control the airlines’ reactions to said weather events. What is possible, I believe, is to control how you react when stuff happens. Let me explain.
This past week was emotionally, mentally and physically tiring. Fulfilling, I must say, but tiring nonetheless. We had experienced a rather information and experiential event-filled week in Alabama. We landed in Atlanta, Georgia and we hit the road immediately in the nicely air-conditioned rental car. Onto Birmingham we went, passing the town of Talladega where apparently there is a major raceway. We tried to venture off to the raceway, but we missed the turnoff. No sweat. We kept on trucking. As we passed through the forests of Talladega (both a forest and a raceway-must be a kicking town) cell phone coverage became spotty at best and of course at that same moment there was an office emergency where staff were trying to reach me. Must be the karmic law of the universe. Eventually things got sorted out through a collaborative can-do spirit. Even when you find yourself in forest, things do not magically sort themselves out. Having ready access to a smartphone and trying by all means necessary -I had thought of smoke signals but the smoky the bear image is too engrained in me- helped solve the first of many small problems to come.
Later that same first evening, I tried once again to order a mojito (which was on the menu) to only be told again (third week in a row) there was no mint. What is a mojito girl like me to do? I went with the bartender’s concoction. I had two directives: rum and sweet. For the third week in a row, I got an interesting new cocktail to try. It’s good to believe in the power of the bartenders’ imagination. These days, with mixology television shows taking off in the airwaves, the heat is on for those mixing it up in the cocktail craft. We eventually made our way to Montgomery later that night. The next three days followed somewhat according to script. I wasn’t always made aware of what the script was but when you firmly believe in yourself you can make the business trip presentations and activities work in your favor. That is the art of business storytelling: you bring it and make it happen. I firmly believe in the piece of advice Former Secretary of Education Margaret Spelling told incoming Whitehouse Press Secretary Dana Perino “time to put on your big-girl panties.” Note that phrase is not to be confused with “time to put on your big panties”. I think that may mean something entirely different.
We started off in Birmingham and ended the week in Montgomery. We drove, we marched and we engaged in storytelling. The theme of the week was finding and raising our voices. I believe in raising one’s voice on behalf of the voiceless. If you are an activist never get too comfortable in serving as a voice for others. The goal should eventually be to help the voiceless get their own voice.
As the week and activities ended, we said our goodbyes, packed the car, and hit the road back to Atlanta. We were making good time, despite the looming time change from central to eastern standard time zone. Then we hit the Atlanta highway and there was glitter on the highway. Unfortunately for us, the glitter was from a massive traffic accident. Sadly, these are all too common on the Atlanta highway. We sat and sat and stewed. I looked across at other cars. Right next to us was a car filled with Puerto Ricans. How did I know? Well, the flag handing from the dashboard. We are a good and proud people. Cars starting driving onto the hills to try to get ahead to only get stuck mid-way.
Time clicked and clicked away. We were going to miss our flights. We had moved less than a mile in over 85 minutes. Things were not looking good. We could have had a meltdown. However, we remained calm. What good would a meltdown do at that point in time? We, along with a hundred nearby people, tried calling our airline to make a flight change. Busy signals galore were to be had. I tried using my phone application to the airline for assistance and tweet away I did. At the end of the day, the guy behind the twitter stream made my flight change for the next morning. I had no idea social media could actually be useful in such an instance. Next up we called the Marriot hotel line and got two rooms. While things were somewhat down, things were also looking up. We squared away the car rental issue, the hotel rooms were booked and flights were re-scheduled. All was accomplished by staying calm and creative. Phone didn’t work? Well, then a new technology showed us the way.
After about two hours, we started to move in the car. We then passed the accident. It looked horrific. Everything was incinerated to ashes. I paused to reflect that we were lucky to be alive and safe. You can’t get stuck in the psychological moment of missing a flight or being stuck in the car for two hours. I hoped that whoever had suffered through what was presumably a life-changing accident was ok.
Once we arrived at the hotel everyone was a bit too cheery for me. Normally I would ascribe that to a false marketing ploy. However, the cheeriness was better than the possible grumpiness we could have faced in a long line had we tried to go to the airport. That night at the hotel, I finally got a good mojito. The next morning, we got randomly selected to go to a pre-screening line (as a taste so that we enroll in the program) in which we did not have to take off our jackets and shoes. Nor did we have to take out electronic equipment. I have not passed through an airport security line so quickly in over ten years. Then at the gate, I got upgraded to first class and boarded immediately. The bad moments from the day before were quickly erased by the good moments of that morning. I believe things have to even out eventually.
You can’t control for Atlanta traffic. It is always bad. What is possible is to control how you react when stuff happens.
Inspired in part by the daily prompt of I believe and by my wacky life on the road (the psychologist mimi way of being).