Once upon a time, Mr. and Mrs. were on their way to a much-anticipated vacation in sunny Arizona. Below-zero, Minne-snow-ta winter temps and overcast skies would be left far behind as they flew to Las Vegas, where Mr. and Mrs. would rent a car and drive to Lake Havasu City. Or so the plan, incorporating dreams of Arizona golf and hiking with friends, was designed to work out. Firm in their resolve to be airborne before the worst of the big blizzard, due to make it’s biggest impact on their hometown, the vacationing couple smugly boarded the bus at the long-term parking lot, arriving five hours early for their flight.
The only other couple on the bus casually mentioned that their afternoon flight had been cancelled. As the conversation ensued and the other couple’s airline, flight time, and destination sounded more and more familiar, Mr. and Mrs. exchanged concerned glances. Mr. phoned the “Spunk Airlines” and was reassured that his flight was still on time. The other couple then offered their flight details, which revealed the same flight. Their travel agent had emailed them of the flight’s cancellation, but Spunk Airlines themselves had given erroneous information to the by-now-frustrated Mr.
Once at the airport, Mr. and Mrs. queried the ticket agent on delays, cancellations, and resulting options. The neighboring ticket agent was communicating patiently with a frustrated Las Vegas passenger, whose fake tan and Las Vegas-lettered, tie-dyed sweatshirt dramatized her escalating threats. A complaint to the airline, a demand for the manager, and a few expletives spewed from the irate passenger. As Mr. and Mrs.’s ticket agent re-booked them on the next flight to Vegas, the irritated passenger next to them was accomplishing the same change. Leaning over in a whisper, Mrs. gave a sideways nod and pleaded with the ticket agent, “I hope you didn’t seat us next to Ms. Crabby Pants over there.” Assured that they hadn’t been seated next to the venom-spewing gambler, Mr. and Mrs. set off to sit out the ten hour wait until the next flight.
Avoiding the departing terminal of frustrated passengers, Mr. and Mrs. took their luggage (no check-in until four hours before the flight) to the baggage claim. Mr.’s large golf club bag stood sentry over the seats they chose to camp out in. Trying to placate the oh-so-frustrated Mr., Mrs. came up with some games to play. In her perennial, parenting mode of “let’s make the best of the situation and be flexible”, she suggested two games.
The “It Could Be So Much Worse” Poker game involved taking turns identifying people at the airport whose situation was much tougher than theirs. Mrs. presented the opening bid: the mom who hurried by with four children. The mother’s purposeful but hurried affect was evident as she pushed the stroller. Inside were two little ones, the infant in a seat with a full-length, plaster leg cast. Striding close to the stroller, their colorful backpacks bobbing, were the two older children. Several feet behind was a tired daddy, pushing a baggage cart heaped high with luggage.
Then Mr. played his hand for the poker game with his idea of what was worse: he himself was so bad off because he didn’t have a cup holder on his chair. Mr.’s “poor me” bid was not even close to the missus’ bid of a harried family!
After her crushing win of the poker hand, Mrs. continued with the next game: “Blessings in the Blizzard.” Despite the obvious fact that the blizzard was causing more problems than anything good, Mrs. continued in her “mom mode,” looking for God’s blessings in the midst of the usual life frustrations, as she had for so many years tried to teach her children. She pulled out a Starbucks gift card and sent Mr. off to the Starbucks, a short walk down the hall.
Savoring her coffee treat with Mr., she identified “Blizzard blessings.” Here they were, sitting in the quiet baggage claim area drinking delicious coffee, as stressed-out passengers upstairs dealt with ticketing and delayed departures. Mr. was still grousing as he went to throw out the empty cups in the green bin. After calling out that the cup and lid were not recyclable, Mrs. saw a grouchy Mr. reach into the recycling bin to correct his ecological error. To his surprise, he pulled out a folded newspaper section with two untouched crossword puzzles – another blessing in the blizzard, as Mrs. pointed out.
Yes, there was pleasant togetherness in time expenditure as Mr. and Mrs. shared their different perspectives to complete the crossword puzzles. But no, this story does not have a very happy ending. The day went on with waiting, delayed flights, more waiting, cancelled flights, more waiting, overbooked flights, and ultimately, a cancelled vacation.
But “It Could Be So Much Worse” Poker and “Blessings in the Blizzard” are two games worth playing again.
(Originally posted February 2016.)