Things go wrong. People mess up, errors are made, and life happens. We, as ordinary people, always view errors as something negative. But have you ever tried to find beauty in an accident?
This past weekend, I visited my long-distance boyfriend at Virginia Tech. I got up at 3:00 a.m. on Friday morning ecstatic. This was the flight itinerary:
- Depart Boston at 5:45 a.m. Arrive in Washington, DC at 7:00 a.m.
- Depart Washington, DC at 8:11 a.m. Arrive in Roanoke, Virginia, at 9:45 a.m.
This did not go as planned. My first flight was delayed by an hour because our plane needed an extra flight attendant who arrived onsite much later than we had all planned. This mixup made me miss my connecting flight. There were no trains, no flights, nothing until the next day. I began to feel my skin itch due to stress. I was stuck in an airport with me and only me.
Fortunately, I am not afraid of going up to people I am unfamiliar with, so I did precisely that. In the airport, I noticed a girl who looked roughly my age calling her mom. She seemed nervous. I asked this girl where she was headed and discovered we were going through parallel experiences. She was also on the Boston flight and was supposed to fly to Virginia. I noticed another couple in my proximity with that same puzzled look on their faces. We approached them. Yup, they had the same plans. I knew I needed to speak up and try to solve this problem. I asked them if I could join them on whatever journey they were about to embark on. Luckily, they strongly supported this idea and agreed that they would help me get from point A to B with them. The other girl was alongside us as well.
So here we are, four complete strangers about to travel 4 hours in a rental car together to an unfamiliar location for all of us in Virginia. Yet, somehow, there was zero ounce of fear contained in my body. I felt calm and safe, and for the first time in the hour I was in that airport, I felt at ease.
We did not sit in silence. In fact, there were hours of conversation between us four strangers. We soon discovered the girl next to me in the backseat lived 30 minutes away from my hometown. And the couple in the front seat was related to a classmate of mine. We’re not really strangers. We talked about our life stories, college experiences and reasons why we were all traveling to Virginia. Time flew. Once we reached Roanoke, of course, I was thrilled that I would get to see my boyfriend within minutes, but I felt sad that this memorable experience was ending. We all took a car selfie to remember the experience. The couple in the front, although I offered several times, would not let me reimburse them for any part of the car, gas, or Starbucks that they stopped for along the way. Strangers are often good people.
I spent the weekend at Virginia Tech with my boyfriend and had an amazing time. On Sunday, he dropped me at the airport, and I had the same flight itinerary but in reverse. Oh, and it was nighttime now. My first flight from Roanoke, Virginia, to Washington, DC was one of the scariest experiences of my life. There was nonstop turbulence for minutes on end, and I did not think our plane would make it to our destination. We were out of control, rocking rapidly and violently from side to side. I kept repeating to myself, “I am safe.” I probably said it 100 times. I had never felt so alone in my life. All by myself, I was 16,000 feet in the air, with no one that I loved around me. My head was facing down at the floor because looking out the windows was too terrifying.
There was one point about halfway into the flight when I looked up at the seat across the aisle from me. An older woman and I, with fear evident, locked eyes. She looked at me and said: “I have never prayed harder than I am right now. I am so scared.” And I told her I had been doing the same. We’re not really strangers. A few seconds later, this force hit us both, and we started wheezing and laughing simultaneously. We were so afraid that this wave of continuous nervous laughter hit us both. We had tears streaming down our faces and were gasping for air. Our stomachs hurt so bad from hysterically laughing. People on the plane in front of us looked back at us, but we were too busy in our own world trying to be comforted by the others’ presence. It was all there was. In those moments of laughter, I no longer felt alone. The woman next to me was no longer a stranger but a friend. Once we landed safely, we burst out laughing again, so thankful we made it to the ground. We told each other to get home safely on our next flights as she also had a connector. This woman made me feel safe.
We’re not really strangers.