Saturday, July 17, 2010

Wrong plane, right conversation

En route to the West Coast to lead a new training for teachers of Active Dreaming, my first flight is delayed. I run from one end of Chicago's vast O'Hare airport to the other in hopes of making my connection. When I get to the gate at the end of the C concourse, the doors have just closed and the gate agent refuses, politely but implacably, to reopen them.

"But we have another flight leaving in thirty minutes," he says. "You might be able to get on it."

"On United? How can that be?"

"The other flight has been delayed over three hours."

Worth a try. I run to the other end of the C concourse to find a crowd of restless, edgy passengers massed around the departure gate. According to the board, there are over a dozen passengers on standby.

I study the airline agents at the gate. I pick the middle guy, who has added a touch of color and sartorial flair to his uniform.

"You are a magician," I inform him. "I know it will be your pleasure to magic up a seat fro me on this flight that does not exist."

He receives this calmly. "At the moment, the flight is fully booked. But check back when boarding is complete."

Fifteen minutes later, I am left alone with a bunch of hopeful standby passengers. The door is closing. Then a boarding pass is slipped into my hand. I get the last seat on the plane, the one that wasn't previously available.

So now I am crammed into a middle seat at the back of the bus, but I'm cheeful because I have avoided arriving six hours late, via another city, on the alternative routing the airline had given me on my voicemail. A cheerful fellow on my left strikes up conversation. He's a salt-of-the-earth, American blue-collar guy. He's worked for 33 years for the same company, and they've been loyal and good to each other. He's sure of his pension five years from now. But he has a big life issue. How does a guy retire? He has friends who couldn't make the adjustment and died within six months of retirement.

"If it were my life," I tell him, "it would be a matter of putting together my strongest passions with the skill sets I've acquired."

He's not sure whether he can name his ruling passions. But an hour or so later, after we've discussed many aspects of his life, I am able to offer the following:

"Listening to you, I have heard about a guy who loves
- the water and scuba diving
- the perfect martini
- driving and travel
- being part of a large and affecionate family or community
- sharing and giving back
and who knows a lot about
- containing and putting out fires
- networking
- retraining to go into a different element."

I continue: "If you heard a list of passions and skills like this that applied to another person, what kind of work would you envision for him?"

He thinks about it. "Maybe running an old-style diner by the beach, in North Carolina?"

He says he'll think about it some more. He adds, "I feel more mobilized than I've felt in decades."

He asks me what I plan to do when I retire. My answer: "When you love your work and do it for its own sake, you never retire."


Don said...

Hi Robert,

If your experience were mine, I see would several things of importance in the event you described. Possibly the most important was being able to help the man who will soon retire. You met him because you were rerouted around a bit. I believe that things like that happen for a reason. I suggest that the man’s spiritual helpers might have arranged for him to meet you. Perhaps your delay occurred so that you would be able to help him. And you still made it to your training session on time. That is wonderful!

Sometimes what begins as a setback is beneficial in other ways. Your story is an inspiration. Thank you for posting it.

Kay said...

Isn't synchronicity a wonderful thing?!?
The guy needed a little boost, you needed a ride and just happened to be able to tune in to what he was saying and offer suggesgtions.
The better part though is your emphasis on doing what you love. I believe that is the next logical step for humanity...let go of that which is weighing us down and delve into that which makes us happy and elevated.

Thank you for your story.

Alla said...

Your last phrase in this post could be a perfect motto for many (including me). Thanks, Robert!

Karolyn said...

I agree Robert, Re-invent maybe, Retire never!

Robert Moss said...

Thanks Don, Kay and Alla! The last part of the conversation I quoted here was repeated almost word for word today in conversation with an unexpected rowmate when I was moved to the "wrong" seat on a much-delayed return flight (having been upgraded to allow a family to sit together).

Robert Moss said...

Karolyn - Yes, indeed. "Re-invent" is a much better idea than "re-tire" (or even "re-tread").

Alex said...

Great blog. I know the feeling. starting a conversation can be easy with a flight buddy. there are many ways you can talk to people including facebook. there's an app called Find a Flight Buddy which finds people on your flight or train journey and network with them. Kind of like a social network at the airport.