This summer, at least two major airlines – Southwest and Delta — experienced significant computer outages and lost their shit for more than a few days. As my luck would have it, I happened to be traveling for work during both airlines’ downfalls. The first time around I was deeply annoyed when I ended up trapped in Chicago for two days without luggage, a hotel voucher, nor anything more than a meager apology from a Southwest gate agent for the inconvenience. When Delta recently faced a similar challenge the day before I embarked on a week-long journey that relied on six of their flights, I had a better idea of what I could do on my end to lessen the fallout from the anticipated setbacks. Since both experiences afforded me a few hundred dollars in flight vouchers I decided to let go of my anger and embrace the lessons learned. Here are my major keys on managing the impact that the uncontrollable parts of our lives have on us:
Prepare for the Worst
I always travel with a back-up toiletry bag in case I’m ever stranded somewhere overnight while traveling. This pack proved to be handy during my Chicago fiasco, but it also left me wondering what else I should keep around as part of my worst-case scenario pack (i.e. a change of clothes would have been nice) and how does this apply to other areas of life. Things like an emergency cash fund, insurance, and back up copies of important documents come to mind when I think of helpful ways that everyone can be as prepared for almost anything. As a general rule, it is better to have something available and not use it than to be stranded a thousand miles away from home and need many things.
Have a Contingency Plan
We often plan for certain events with assuredness because the idea of said things not happening is simply unfathomable. We don’t develop a Plan B because we believe/hope that Plan A just has to work. Unfortunately, as we all know, the cards aren’t always dealt in our favor. During my first failed trip, I waited too late to form and execute a Plan B; however the second time around I sprang into action making alternative plans soon as I realized that there was a chance I could be delayed. While I hated that I had to miss an important client dinner, I felt way better knowing that I had a back up plan to rely on, and the whole ordeal was less stressful to process.
When at 10pm on a Thursday night I realized I’d be spending two more days in Chicago with little more than my computer bag and a toothbrush – plus I’d have to cover my own expenses – I was beyond pissed. I definitely got on my “woe is me” soapbox during the two hours I spent in line with fellow passengers who were more than happy to commiserate with me. Late though, during the Uber ride to my hotel, it hit me in a hard way that my situation was not a worst case anything in the grand scheme of anyone’s life, especially my own. My job covered a portion of my (ahem, Palmer House) hotel expense and fortunately the bill for feeding and dressing myself for a few days in Chicago wasn’t a significant financial setback. With that in mind, I had to admit that of all the bad things in the world that could have happened to me, this incident ranked pretty low on the list.
Acknowledge the Silver Lining
Even when bad things happen, I think it’s important to find the sliver of good that exists in any situation. In the case of my flight fiascos, the upside was that I got to catch up with a good friend from college, and I met some cool strangers in the airport. To segue a bit, I can think of other times when during an unexpected predicament, the silver lining has shown up in more impactful ways.
Earlier this year I received the news that my grandma had passed away while I heading to the airport to catch a flight to Panama to visit her. It was hard to find the good in that loss, but I think I got a glimpse of it after the funeral. Many members of my dad’s side of the family came together to reminisce and, for some, meet for the first time on account of my the sad news about my abuela. While I hate that it took a funeral to make that gathering happen, I can’t help but think that my grandma would be happy to know that somehow she found a way to bring us together. It was a bittersweet benefit, to say the least, but a faintly positive experience that emerged out of a terrible and uncontrollable event.
As someone who is convinced that there is meaning in everything, I find that constantly striving to acknowledge bright side in life’s experiences is necessary to maintain a positive outlook. Many things do suck, but if there is something to be learned from an experience then it is never a complete loss, even if momentarily it may feel otherwise.