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A Life Lesson In Patience and Understanding

Yesterday I had the worst day of travel in my life and I bet a bunch of you who were following along with my updates are expecting me to have a HUGE RANT. Well, I can tell you I am not going to go on a RANT and I will explain why.

Lets recap my travel day first. I flew into Atlanta from Philly on a 9am EST flight. As we landed in Atlanta it had just started snowing and when I say snowing I mean flurries. Anyone who is used to snow would look at this and say this is nothing. But when you live in the south and you are not prepared for this once in a while occurrence any snow becomes a major issue.

I will spare you many of the smaller details and jump right to important facts. I was supposed to take off from Atlanta at 12:30pm EST. Due to the weather we were going to have to de-ice the plane before taking off. For anyone not familiar with this procedure, the plane is literally hosed down with an anti icing solution that clears all ice from the wings and fuselage.

This process usually wouldn’t take to long at an airport where they are used to getting any amount of snow. But in Atlanta they rarely see snow so the process was taking about an hour a plane.

Here is where the patients and understanding part kicks in. We ended up sitting on the plane on the taxi way for just about two hours before the plane was moved in to place to be de-iced.

So imagine yourself sitting for longer than most flights you ever take without going anywhere? You are crammed in with a couple hundred other people in the same situation. You have no food or water unless you brought your own for the flight. You can’t really get up because the seatbelt sign was on. The best you can do is sit there and hope you can get out safely.

By the time we were de-iced we were sitting on the plane for three hours. Due to a new law if you are stranded on a plane for three hours you must return to the gate to let people who want off off. To add insult to injury your de-icing is only good for 20 minutes and beyond that our pilots were out of flight time.

Yes, we now did not have pilots for our plane and would have to wait another tow or so hours in the terminal until they could find us new pilots.

You have a few options in this situation. You can start to freak out or you can remain calm no matter how annoying the situation. You can argue with the flight crew about how bad the situation is and how bad you want to get to your final destination. But you have to remember that the flight crew is in the same situation as you, stranded.

Sometimes you just don’t have control and have to accept that. The sooner you can accept that what is going on is outside of your control the better off you will be. I made sure not to get angry with the flight crew if they did not have an answer. I took time in-between them asking how I was to ask how they were. They were working their ass off and keeping a smile on their face as much as possible.

Back in the terminal I started to consider doing a portrait of people who were stranded. That ended up not happening as they kept telling us we would be leaving shortly and I could only imagine some people not really wanting one. What I did do is start to talk to the people who were in the same situation.

I met a former airline pilot who started flying in 1964. I sat there asking him questions about his former job and took a genuine interest. Everyone has a story and most people love to talk about themselves when promoted. This honestly would have been cool to capture for a podcast but maybe I will do that in the future.

I met a former NFL player who was wearing his Super Bowl and NFL Championship rings. This guy was huge but as nice as could be. He had no problem sharing his story with a smile on his face.

I met random everyday people who were just trying to get to their final destination. There was the guy with dreads who was flying back from somewhere and told me he was about to move his life to Bethlehem PA which is not to far from me.

There was a girl on her way to Australia, couples with kids attempting to keep them calm, business people who shared what they did and others who I ended up not speaking to.

The amazing thing about being stuck on a plane that is not going anywhere for roughly seven hours on two different occasion is that the majority of the people stayed calm and cordial. When you realize you are all in the same boat it does not pay to flip out, it accomplishes absolutely nothing.

The best you can do is stay calm and make the best of a terrible situation. That is the realization that hit me yesterday during this ordeal. Take the terrible situation and attempt to make the best of it, it is not easy and it is not fun, but what choice to you really have.

In the end we took off from Atlanta around 11pm EST and arrived in LA at 12am Pacific Time which was four hours and forty minutes later. We arrived safely, said our goodbyes to people we had spent the better part of 15 hours with and went on with your life with an interesting story.

Extra Thanks

I first want to thank the delta flight crew for all of their hard work and for staying nice over a long period of time. They worked their ass off and continued to mostly have smiles on their face.

And my final thank you was to the new pilots who arrived to take control of the flight. They were upfront and honest with exactly what they needed to do to make sure that our flight was safe. That meant telling us it could still be a few hours more or explaining exactly what process they were going thought. On top of that the pilot took the time to come around the plane and answer any questions we had. He put himself out there as the face of his company and he was amazing.

If you have a story about a terrible travel experience feel free to share it below.