Charles Dickens’ opening line from his novel, A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times; It was the worst of times,” entered my mind. I was a passenger, crammed in the middle seat on a packed plane heading to Chicago from the Philadephia airport. We had just been informed by the pilot that we were on a hold. We would not be taking off until we got the go-ahead from the control tower at O’Hare. Apparently, a dense fog had settled over the airport in Chicago, making it difficult for planes to land, so we would continue to sit in the plane on the tarmac in Philadelphia until the hold was lifted.
While I know Dickens’ was reflecting on a time of opposites taking place across the English Channel with a much deeper meaning than I was experiencing at the moment, the words still resonated with me. The phrase seemed to sum up exactly how I was feeling as I sat in my middle seat, trying to get to a writing conference and the contradiction made me chuckle. I was in an airplane meant to help passengers go all over the world, and yet, we weren’t going anywhere, at least not for a while. I was quietly suffering on one hand because I knew I was going to miss my connection, and I was experiencing joy on the other, because I was going to a city I had never been to before, to speak to fellow writers. I love writing and I love exploring.
I stared out of the window on that beautiful sunny day in Philly and wondered what I would experience in Chicago once I finally landed. Unfortunately, my morning went from bad to worse. We were delayed for about 30 minutes and after we took off, the pilot told us we could make up time in the air. After being hopeful that I would get to my connection, my afternoon deteriorated into an entire day spent waiting for my next plane which (after being delayed three times) finally got cancelled by 10:00 pm that evening. Once I was able to re-book a new flight for the next morning, I had a tough time getting a hotel room on such short notice especially with hundreds of other people scrambling to get one too. It was a rough night for a whole bunch of travellers.
I fly a lot and I am used to delays. Sadly, delays are a part of the process when traveling, and yet, I still continue to make airline reservations. I always have that excitement about an upcoming trip where I will have a chance to immerse myself in another place and see things I haven’t seen before. I guess you could compare it to having a baby? There is a common notion that even though childbirth is difficult and painful, once the baby arrives you love it so much that you forget the pain. I wouldn’t know, I had a C-Section and after having twins, decided our family was complete. But, keeping that analogy in mind, the intrepid travelers I know don’t seem to let it stop them. We will meet over coffee and share our travel nightmare stories, and once the stories conclude, we eagerly discuss our next destinations. I guess the pain of traveling goes away because of the love of exploration. At least I find comfort in knowing that I am not the only one who suffers in order to experience the joys of getting there. I am in good company.