Allow laughter to lead the way . . .
I can’t believe I’m saying it, but I was having a blast. It started out with stories about awesome vacation destinations. Marcello, who grew up in Bolivia and travels the world as part of his job, was full of ideas. He loved Cuba – the people, the culture, the color. He said it was magical, like stepping back in time fifty years. And Peru! “You must go to Lake Titicaca and take the boat to the floating islands.” I was right there with him. I could taste the Cuban food and see those floating islands. And others chimed in. The man with the French accent said that Quebec City was the Paris of North America and San Francisco was a city of treasures. Meanwhile, Cheryl, my neighbor in Ishpeming, who was sitting next to me, joined the party. She scrolled and typed and explored on her i-pad, “Sequoia National Park” and “Redwoods” and “San Luis Obispo”. So many places to visit in California! And it was London for the woman with the British accent who has lived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for forty-five years. “London’s for me and I need my fix every once in a while. I went back this summer and it was wonderful”
And that’s when the party revved itself into high gear. We started reflecting back to trips we’d already taken. And it wasn’t the awesome that rang our chimes; it was the awful. There’s nothing like traveling-nightmare-stories to lift a traveling group’s spirits. The woman who was flying to Missouri for her aunt’s funeral said that, some years back, she was given the opportunity to be part of a delegation to the Holy Land when she was four months pregnant, to all the sacred sites, places deemed unsafe today. And, to her horror, the morning sickness that had subsided after Month Number Three lifted its ugly head, and she, in Month Number Four, lowered hers, in every sacred site along the Holy Land Trail. “I threw up in Bethlehem, in Nazareth, and all over the city of Jerusalem.” “Ohhhh . . .”, we, who were standing and sitting around her, commiserated. “Ohhhh . . .”, we, who were standing and sitting around her, laughed. And that brought on a string of Jet Lag Tales and the pitch grew even more fevered. I shared how, on my first trip to Europe, before I knew the power of jet lag, I fell asleep sitting up on the open top floor of one of those wonderful double-decker buses in London, while my future-daughter-in-law whose jet lag hadn’t hit her yet, gleefully snapped shots of me, mouth open, drool dripping down my chin, Old Ben, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace whizzing by.
It was then, in the jazzed-up midst of our Jet-lag stories, that someone noticed that one of our party members was standing there with the fly on her corduroy pants gaping wide open. By now, our bond was strong and our laughter even stronger. As the woman zipped up her fly, one man, in a business suit offered his two cents. “Please, ladies, tell me if my fly is unzipped. Even if you feel uncomfortable, even if it is a stranger . . . a man wants to know.” I took his advice to heart. I took it all to heart.
How could this be so fun?!? How could this be so funny?!?
Many of us had weathered the cancellations that yesterday’s blizzard had brought on, and, most of us, had managed, with a measure of grace during the first mechanical problem this evening that had forced us into a flurry of re-booking on later flights. But this, this was too much. We finally had been ushered out onto the plane. We had buckled ourselves in, turned our cell-phones off, set our noses in the direction of our destinations. So what was the hold-up this time?!? Why were we being herded back down the jet-bridge into the crowded holding tank?!? It couldn’t be! It was just too absurd! But it was true. Someone had sat on the exit row arm- rest, and had broken it – snapped it right off!
So here we were, world travelers, traveling the world with our laughter and stories and we hadn’t even left the ground. Here I was, laughing right along with the crowd, an instigator even, prodding the stories on, the ones that left our metaphoric flies unzipped. Here I was, still in my home-port, with a growing hunch that this wasn’t going to be the weekend that I made it to that destination I’d been dreaming of for the past two months. Here I was, travel plans thwarted because of a broken arm-rest, shifting gears, knowing that I was in the midst of a good story, one with twists and turns and new dreams brewing, one where I didn’t know the ending or even the middle yet, one that sure was going to be fun to share.