Last night my connecting flight from Heathrow to Johannesburg was delayed by 17 hours.
As the news hit the business class lounge about a dozen folks, myself included, leapt to their feet and descended upon the customer service counter which, as it turns out, was woefully under-staffed and apparently supported by a computer system powered by a steam engine. There were two agents working the desk and I was first in line.
40 minutes later I was still the first in line. When I was finally called up, for a good 45 minutes, the agent relentlessly pecked at his keyboard and made nearly a dozen calls trying to re-route me. Spoiler alert: it eventually worked.
As the time clicked by the customers behind me were, hmm, what’s the phrase I’m looking for? Ah, yes, “losing their sh*t.”
The entire time I waited I was treated to a chorus of deep sighs. Occasionally someone in the queue broke from their nearly contained agitation with an exasperated “this is unbelievable” or “you have to be kidding me” uttered to no one in particular. One (presumably normally charming) gentleman even passive aggressively exclaimed “this bloke has got to be the worst customer service agent on the planet!”
To be completely honest, I was hardly the perfect model of serenity. I was disappointed and frustrated. This WAS taking a ridiculous amount of time.
But a few things became clear. The delay was entirely out of my control. The British Airways system wasn’t going to miraculously improve just because I hoped it would. The agent was doing the best he could. I had done my part in stating my needs and wants calmly and respectfully.
Trying to control the uncontrollable only served a singular purpose: to make me crazy and unhappy.
Once I saw that it became easier to relax into the situation. To loosen my grip on the steering wheel. To have compassion for the folks behind me and their struggles with reality and ego (I had certainly been there before many, many times). To just breathe and let things unfold as they would–and know I was pretty likely to come out okay on the other side.
Sometimes we don’t get to our desired destination on the route we had planned, in the manner we had expected or on the timeline we want.
Sometimes we wake up to the fact that we were chasing the wrong destination all along.
Trust the process. Enjoy the journey. Smile at your fear.
And don’t underestimate the power of metaphor.