“I need to tell you something,” whispered the check-in agent as she looked side to side and leaned forward. Confused (was this a set-up for a poorly timed joke?) I leaned forward as well, curious as to what she had to say. “Your flight…is indefinitely delayed”. Long pause, followed by “We’ve lost a crew member.” I stared back and swallowed before responding with a laugh, “I’m sorry, you’ve lost a crew member? Are they hiding somewhere?”
Obviously this was some kind of weird joke. People don’t generally just wander off from their jobs, right? But the expression of the agent confirmed that no, this was not a joke, and I now had no flight to get to the final destination of my journey, New York City. The place that I had been looking forward to for, well, a good decade. A little ball of fear mixed with anger started to mingle in the pit of my stomach.
I looked around at the crowds of exasperated people propped up by their luggage. The departures board above my head flashed with “delayed” and “cancelled” notices. I had been up at literally the crack of dawn to make the long trek to the Baltimore airport and was hungry and tired. At this stage, my gut reaction was to throw an old-school hissy fit and stomp my feet around. But I didn’t. I remained calm, collected, and casually replied with the only thing I could think of: “oh”.
In my head, I added another word after “oh”. It wasn’t “snap”. You can fill in the blanks.
The agent looked relieved that I didn’t bite her head off, and proceeded to ramble off my options, albeit rather quietly. So quiet that I was practically leaning over the counter to hear them. I calmly declined flights routed through Atlanta, Houston and Chicago and laughed at a flight with a long layover in Toronto (where I had come from in the first place). Eventually, I settled on a train.
Keeping calm was likely the only reason I even made it to NYC that day. As I watched others around me throw pretty good tantrums, it resulted in them being checked in for a flight that was never going to happen, and they proudly walked off to security and no doubt hours of waiting with nothing to look at (sidenote: the Baltimore airport isn’t the most exciting place in the world). Thanks to the kindness of my check-in agent and my not opening a can of whoop-ass on her, I was offered a train ticket that essentially visited every major city in the northeast corridor. I wasn’t previously aware that I had wanted to check out the train stations of every major city, but hey, travelling opens up opportunities that you weren’t expecting. As does keeping your cool.
Eventually I made it to NYC in one piece, albeit many hours later than I had anticipated. But the moral of the story – stay classy when travelling (and you know, in life too). People will appreciate it more.