Into the void as my delayed flight bursts into the darkness.
Above the earth at frightening speeds, ascending into the clouds.
The pinprick of lights from small towns and metro areas.
The blinking white light on the wingtip advising observers of our presence.
We jostle during our decent, the ground approaches slowly.
A soft bump reminds us of our arrival.
I wrote most of this while on my various flights of this trip, so please excuse the perspective change. 🙂
As I sit here drinking my soda as if it were scotch, I reflect on the events of the day. My first scheduled ride with Uber worked marvelously. I have found that each driver for Uber/Lyft have their own stories and are happy to share them with you. My driver was an ex-Marine and he had some strong convictions about the current political Administration in this country. As a “middle-of-the-road” type of person with politics, I enjoyed the conversation. My arrival to the airport was flawless as was Security. I purchased a TSA Pre-check pass that really cuts down on all the mess of the TSA. I was able to throw my bags on the belt and walk through. I was able to find my gate quickly and I starting watching the planes.
I am happy to say my fascination with an airport and aircraft has not left me. My plane arrived on time and I finished up texting with friends before boarding. This flight was a small regional flight and based on the time of night, the plane was only half full. We all could have had our own row. I had been specific when purchasing my tickets to ensure a window seat for myself. I enjoy watching the plan taxi around the airport and the various mechanical parts of the wing move as we take off and land. My favorite part is take-off as the speed of air around the wing pushes the plane up from the runway. We had arrived at the critical point where the pilot would give the engines that last nudge of power before liftoff, when suddenly the wheel brakes and reverse-engines activated. My busy brain tried to formulate what had happened as we taxied over to the holding area. We made our way back to the gate and had to de-board the plane. I don’t read too deeply into “the signs”, but this was not a good start to a long trip.
I was unaware how the next decision I made was going to define the rest of the trip. The reason I enjoy planning trips so much is the exactness of it all. Fly here, connecting flight, fly there. The dates and times are so aligned that any delay over 30 minutes really does mess the rest of the plan. The technical side of my mind loves this type of stuff. Unfortunately, the delay I experienced was a good example of how something can really mess up the plan.
“It’s all ‘part of the plan’…”
I could have arrived in Chicago about 5 minutes before my connecting flight or I could wait to see what was going to happen with my original plane. Well, no mystery here, I waited. Based on the time of day [night], there were no other connecting flights, so I would have to be put up in a hotel in Chicago to make the morning flight.
I am happy to say that the plane was repaired and we took off the runway with ease this time and ascended into the dark night. For some reason, the flights going from south to north ascend to a phenomenal height of 38,000 feet (11,500 meters for you metric readers). I had only done one other night flight in my travels and even after the delay, I really enjoyed myself. The small plane carrying less than 30 passengers was almost cozy. People watching TV shows on their phones and tablets. A few people in the back having a very detailed conversation. We travel over sleeping humans far below us. I feel very separate from the world up here. I imagine this would be the same feeling that an astronaut might feel, if only in space for a couple of hours at a time. I can think freely up here without distraction. My phone is off, my window only shows darkness, and the steady bass of the engines create the correct amount of white noise. It reminds me of that Star Trek Voyager episode called The Void. Only darkness.
The magnificent speed and altitude had almost made me not notice the simplicity of this particular aircraft. The age of the plane shows in the lack of screens in the back of the seats, or available Wi-Fi, or app to explore the food menu. My grandfather would appreciate the functional nature of this machine. It is quiet, peaceful, and reserved, much like my grandfather.
We arrived at Chicago O’Hare, which admittedly, is spectacular at night. I was provided a voucher for my hotel stay and taxi ride. What the person did not tell me was the complexities of the ground transportation outside. Remember, by this point, it is after 11:00PM Central Time, so my body and mind are not at 100%. I was advised by a very friendly taxi driver that I had to speak with the official in the middle. I made my way over and they got me set-up with a ride. I know that airlines have a hard job when they have to find a room and travel arrangements at the last minute, but I don’t think they could have found a “hotel” further away from the airport. While the room was nice enough, the night staff were less than together. Remember, I was the one that had to wait for a plane to be repaired and had to be transported here by taxi. Time to wake-up! I made my way to my room and collapsed.
After a less than restful 4 hours of sleep, I dragged myself down to the lobby to find an older couple waiting for the pre-arranged taxi had been told about. Finally, a stroke of luck! So I had the helpful taxi driver and the helpful hotel guests. The trip was looking up from the night before and I was on my way. I made it past Security, after a less than pleasant interaction with a TSA checker, and found my gate. I was pleased to see that my plane was scheduled to be on-time. After about 30 minutes, my phone buzzed and the airline application showed a new notification, “Flight Cancelled”. To be fair to the airline (which I was losing a lot of faith in, up to this point), my final destination was a small town and not easy to get to by plane. My face as I approached the gate must have had all of the past 15 hours of crazy on it as they could see I was not in the mood to be messed with. They let me know that the next flight was at 6:30pm. I knew there was no way I would survive in the airport that long. (They should have super-early check-in at hotels for this reason. I did find an interesting answer for that later in the trip…) The more experienced person behind the desk found me a flight leaving in an hour to another small town less than 40 miles from my destination. I took it and sat down.
This was not supposed to be the hard part of this trip.
One of the many aspects of this trip was going to be the use of Uber and AirBnb to really get a feel of the platforms and seeing if I was up for it. (I had booked a very nice room on my last trip, in Ocala, FL and really enjoyed it.) The room I booked when I arrived was nice, but the host didn’t seem to know that I was coming. The room was fine, but the feeling of the house was just strange. I was not running on a lot of sleep, but still. I decided that after my airline adventure, I needed a hotel. A real hotel, not some 2.5-star thing. I went onto on of my many travel apps and found one nearby and packed up my bags very quickly. I have not had a feeling like that very often, but you have to feel comfortable when you sleep. If not, what it he point? The hotel only had suites, but the price was reasonable and I could finally relax. I contacted my local co-workers to confirmed I had arrived safely and just took a deep breath.
I went to dinner with a co-worker friend of mine from the area. I am taking a series of trips to see my virtual co-workers in-person and to observe different parts of the company that I work for. I have only spoken to these people via online channels at work. Meeting these people in real life was quite nice and interesting. It is hard to read a person by their texting. It is also nice to meet someone from work outside the workplace. After I basically absorbed my dinner, (I was hungry after all that travel and delays and such) we walked around the historic downtown area for a while. Walking was a good change from all the sitting I had already done. Also, it gave us time to chat about “all the things”, big and small. I enjoy a one-on-one deep conversation. These are my favorite.
This friend of mine had gone through some recent medical procedures and the walking around was more than she had done in a while. I felt honored to be included in her “breaking-free” celebration. It was something that I have never experienced. I have been very blessed with personal illness issues. I don’t have many and when I do, they are minor. I would like to know why every third female I know between the ages of 20 and 30 have some sort of “unexplainable” condition that the doctors are unable to figure out. Has anyone else experienced that?
After our rather long outing, I made my way back to the Hotel to chill before an early bedtime. The next day was a full day of shadowing in a new department at work. I needed my sleep. What new adventures awaited me?
The Canyon, wide and deep, overwhelms me
Standing on the edge I stare
Rust colored land lives on
We want comfort. At work, at the gas station, and in social settings. Statements that begin with “I’m not comfortable with…” are all too common. A certain level is expected in life, even though a lot of people don’t have it. Let’s assume for the purposes of this argument that the person has a normal job, a house, and two cars (I am not trying to solve poverty with this post). As with many things in this world, it all comes back to power. Do we have the power to change the way companies interact with us? Are there exceptions that are allowed based on circumstances? Is the industry too regulated to allow such adjustments?
I constantly see companies making it easier for the customer to open accounts and communicate with their business. Live chats on websites and 24/7 social media presence has raised the expectation. One company offers additional or different services to compete against others. Those that don’t adjust to the wildly demanding customer base will end up losing customers. These customers can move their accounts to another company with ease. The varied sizes of start-ups and major players make it easy to take advantage of the opposite. If a company is half the size of the competitor, they can charge less for the same level of service because of lower overhead costs. Maybe the smaller company has an efficient modern system for housing and manipulating the data. This would make changes to accounts much easier for the customer. In the meantime, the large company is in the process of updating to these new systems from legacy systems. The programmers desperately use several “bridges” in the software which tend to fail in times of high volume.
The differences all come down to what the customers wants. Some people want a more financially secure company with a wider range of products, even if the price is higher. Some shoppers are constantly looking for that lowest price so they can feed the four kids at home without breaking the bank. The other large change in the customer base is how the type of interaction has changed. A growing number of people, mostly younger adults, want to complete everything online. This creates a problem for a company that has been providing in-person service for a larger portion of the customers. The surface level applications will get a face-lift, but the internal processes of manually applying changes to accounts bottleneck productivity. What is your favorite way to conduct business? Does is vary based on the type of business?
In the extreme versions of this idea, the customer may think they “deserve” or are “entitled” to a service. Depending on the industry, the local or federal law may be on their side. There are many protections to keep businesses from charging absurd fees and taking unethical actions. However, many times the customer is comparing their experience with a different company. This leads to making large assumptions that don’t generally hold true. I do wonder sometimes if this is a location-dependent response or a more cultural update of a different customer base. Do you think your location in the country or the world makes an impact on the way you expect to be treated as a customer? Where does personal responsibility come in? Does it appear at all in this new world?
Let me know what you think! I am curious about these things.
I made a rather sudden choice today when I went on my Meal Break at work: I sat outside. Over the past year or so, I have been sitting in a far-off break room that is usually pretty quiet except for a few polite greetings. I have any number of good memories in that spot and I will be back tomorrow, most likely. I wanted a change in mindset. I had this very enlightening weekend and wanted to carry that into this break. My line of work is a constant rush of material coming at you at galactic speeds. I think even Mr. Tuvok would be overwhelmed at times. I use my lunch to review the news or social media in all its complexities. Today, however, I wanted something different. A change in scenery does wonders for the mind. I had a complete experience. I recalled the other times in the past where I had eaten outside with a similar feeling. Removed from the grind of everyday matters, yet acutely aware of my surroundings. The sound of the interstate and a fire truck’s high-pitch whine because of unyielding traffic. They ground me from thoughts of anything too far away. I embrace these moments with everything I can muster. I need these moments of peace (even when the physical location is not very peaceful). I am sure most of us would benefit from this type of mental rest.
The mundane chores of my weekend reminded me that a simple change of habit points me to my goals. I know this sounds a little “on-the-nose”, but it is true. My example for today was running the dishwasher one extra time to make sure that my counter was clean. A clean counter opened up a place in my mind for other things. This feeds right into my journey of Minimalism. I know Josh and Ryan have written and spoken about the different ways to de-clutter. This was a good example of the physical enhancing the mental space. The less items you own, the easier this is to achieve. I am not selling everything and moving into a tiny home….yet.
I am, by most measures, an Introvert. I would say that I am closer to the center, but leaning towards the “I” of the scale. I have actually been meaning to retake the Myers-Briggs test again. My results seem to change each time I take the test. I hope this is a sign of growth and change as I gather more life experience. If you told me 5 years ago that I would be more reserved in my manner and personality, I would have told you that you were crazy. I cannot explain how moving out on my own changed the “me” over time. I most certainly wouldn’t have thought that I would take poems and put them into a book or be writing a blog post twice a month. This little change in my daily habit at work opened up all these old and new thoughts.
Recently, to flex my creative side, I use these times to think of poetry ideas. Artistic expression comes to the artist out-of-order and jumbled. I know that most writers would agree. From poem to novel, nothing comes in the exact package you end up with. Even something as simple as what you are reading now was mixed up and washed and folded into something new. Laundry metaphors aside, I believe deeply in this idea. To make sure I am embrace the most positive side of this personal exploration, I take comfort in the change. It would be far to easy to call the change a lack of structure in my life and that I am falling off “the path” that I have been following the past year or two. “Um, yeah, that is the point…” If habits are never broken, good or bad, you will never see the light ahead of you. I have been in a “less than happy” place recently. One of the main ideas of this ongoing feeling is that I have become stuck in a routine that only looks backwards. At best, I was stuck in the present, unable to even imagine my future more than a few months at a time. The rational side of my brain always plans out in those small segments. My imagination should not be limited by these very structured timelines. I want that side of me to break through the norms of the current culture. Even the concept of the imagination being trapped by such binds seems strange.
Have you had any similar experiences recently? What are the ways you find inspiration when you are feeling down? I would love to hear about them!
A familiar place with old memories
Sounds of aircraft break the white noise of traffic
Clear reminders of my actual location
My mind is elsewhere
Deep inside the creative, thought lost after recent experiences
Sirens break my focus
The clouds refuse the sun passage to the ground
The difference in mindset is startling
The tree limbs sway in the soft breeze
The storm approaches
I find myself in a peaceful state
A new sensation as of late
The sign reads “Emergency Exit”
I’m actually safer inside, with maybe one exception
It may not look it, but I am happy
My faith keeps me grounded
New experiences open the door
There is no invitation
I pass through the threshold
I have arrived
The dust unnatural
Floats in the sky then sinks down
Covering your dreams
Thunder claps over me
My slumber interrupted
The building groans as water passes through the aging pipes
The abandoned conference rooms mind their own business
The white noise competes for attention as it breathes through the space
A maze of hallways and corridors boggle even the sharpest mind
Printers come alive, spitting out reports
The machines, always on, always ready for battle
The uneven melody of speech comforts the fearful
The sparse human population remains
As I returned to the Turnpike on my return trip to Ocala, my mind wandered again. Being later in the day, this drive seemed to be much smoother. I was able to watch the sun lower at about the same rate as my gas tank level. I wanted to make it back in time for some sort of normal dinner time. I arrived safely back to the old brick house from before. As I was walking up to the house, my friend called and said that he had kind of crashed a small-group meeting with a BBQ dinner. After being on the road for over 4 hours, this was music to my ears. I almost threw my bags into the bedroom and set off to find the food!
For the first time the whole trip, I didn’t get lost on the way to this very exact address. This was a big moment for me; I was starting to get a feel for the area. I arrived looking exhausted (hard to see why…) and I was directed to the food. These people, none of which I had even seen before, welcomed me into their home, provided me food, and engaged in conversation about my crazy trip that was starting to come to a close. This house was noisy, but in a “full of happy people” type of way. It actually didn’t bother me at all. From the solitude to the crowds. After speaking with some of the others, I realized this was a small group from a church that is not the one I would be visiting the next day. This was surprising and encouraging. I am not sure why, but in my “old age”, I don’t see a lot of that type of crossover. I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t happen, however, it struck me as interesting. (That is probably enough adjectives for the idea, William.)
Many of these people, close to my age range, had children running around, so stopping the fun was a chore. I was happily invited back to my friend’s house to chat, as it was still pretty early for us adults. I followed my friend’s car, as the Google Maps voice was becoming annoying. They must have taken the longest possible route to get to their house, but I didn’t question it. When we arrived, I came to realize they had taken this path to help the kids wind down so putting them to bed would be easier. These people were in full parent-mode and it was a joy to observe. Ironically, I think my presence actually made it harder to put the kids to bed. So after probably 15 interruptions, the kids were finally, actually, pretty sure….yes, asleep. I am sure any parent of young children can vouch that this is normal. We chatted and had real conversations. I told them about my struggles of finding a church community that I was comfortable with. They were naturally supportive and I could go on and on about the amazing qualities of these people, but I won’t. I know they read this and I don’t want to embarrass them too much.
We said our goodnights and I returned to the large brick house with the soft bed. I was done after that full day of people and talking and driving, so I collapsed. I woke up early to make sure that I was “up and moving” and had plenty of time to arrive at the church. I actually arrived early because my Google Maps was on walking mode for some reason. The extra time allowed me to park and wonder around for a bit before the service. The building itself was of a traditional design, which I enjoy. I enter the sanctuary and can see the sun lighting the stain glass windows around me. My friend is practicing with and leading the praise band as everyone arrives. The space is not as large as some churches. People fill all the pews, even the “dreaded” first row. The service style is very familiar and comfortable. The service liturgy has personal meaning to me and is not just something that is memorized. This is a key part of my faith. While the prayers were written by men as part of a religion, I use them to help focus my mind on my God. (He can be your God too, if you want, don’t worry.)
After the service, we walked back to my friend’s office to drop off a couple of instruments, but not before several stops along the way to humor his adorable preschooler who didn’t seem to want to leave. She actually stopped and climbed a tree for a few minutes with some other boys. This created an instant, full-bodied, flashback. It was like in the movies when the person is standing as their present self and the surroundings are slightly fuzzy. You see your younger self and it superimposes on the current life experience. No, just me? Well, it was a nice way to end my time in Ocala. We said our goodbyes and I headed off to grab some lunch. Driving while hungry is not a good plan. My drive back to Jacksonville seemed very slow after the Turnpike two days in-a-row. I wanted to be home to sleep in my own bed and start to process all this stuff you have just read. Obviously, I didn’t share everything, but this covers most of it.
I am sure you have figured out by now that this particular trip was mostly about friendship. I needed to remind myself that I have long-term friends that care about me, no matter what mistake or sin I may have made in the past. I describe my Ocala friend has a beacon of light, but he would be the first to admit that he was never perfect. I didn’t realize until I started writing this series, but on my outline for this, I wrote the words: “Lasting Friendships” for both locations. Both of these friends have shaped me into what I have become today. A stronger person that I had realized, for sure. The Prodigal Son may be a bit of an exaggeration, however, this captures the feeling before I arrived.
800 Miles, 4 Days, 2 Cities, 2 Close Friends, 1 State, 1 Road Trip.
I have truly enjoyed these and hope to continue in a similar manner for my other trips. Let me know what you think! Any suggestions are welcome. This is still very new for me. I am hopping into new ideas every day and may be getting ahead of myself. Either way, let me know! 😀