A 30-year winning streak of not missing a flight came to an end for me last week at Dulles International Airport. My flight was scheduled to depart at 8:25 a.m. As is customary for me, I planned to arrive at the airport about an hour-and-a-half early.
My early arrival habit makes it possible for me to obtain my boarding pass, make my way through security, hop a shuttle to my concourse, and arrive at the gate with plenty of time to spare. If all goes well, I can relax and get in some good reading time while waiting to board.
On this particular morning, however, I had been a bit lackadaisical about getting out of the house, and I knew I was cutting it close when I arrived at the airport at 7:30 a.m. Still, I figured 55 minutes should give me plenty of time to make my flight.
After obtaining my boarding pass from an automated kiosk, I marched resolutely toward the security area. But as I approached it, I was confronted with what appeared to be at least a thousand people herded together in the roped-off lanes.
After standing in line for a while, I glanced at my watch and realized that my flight was scheduled to depart in 25 minutes. Given that it was the only flight that could get me to my appointment on time, I decided to do something I’ve never done before. I went up to one of the security people and explained that I was going to miss my flight if I remained in line with the rest of the cattle.
I then asked her if it would be possible for me to take a shortcut and move to the front of the line. In a language that most definitely was not English, she talked it over with a bored-looking security guy.
I was in luck. He gave her a nod of approval and – Presto! – I was led to the front of the line. Well, almost to the front. There were still a half-dozen passengers ahead of me, and, unfortunately, one couple was stripping down in slow motion – and laughing hysterically as they explained to their small children why they had to temporarily give up their toys. Grrr!
Finally, my turn. I tossed my personal belongings into two filthy plastic containers and pushed them onto the conveyor belt to be scanned. Surprise! I had no weapons. And neither did the 90-something woman in front of me. Even her cane passed muster. What a relief. And here I thought she might be one of those granny-bombers I’ve seen so often on television.
Now I could begin my long walk down the stairs, through the tunnel, back up the stairs, and wait for a shuttle to take me to my concourse. When it finally arrived, I got on and waited for the card-carrying union driver to stroll aboard, sipping what was probably his tenth cup of coffee for the day. He sleepwalked into his cozy driving compartment, pulled away, and drove slowly to the concourse.
On arriving, I hustled off the shuttle, breaking into a trot toward my gate. Two minutes before flight departure time, but… hey… planes are always late, right?
As I hurried up to the check-in desk, I asked the agent where my flight was boarding. Answer: “It’s already left.” Faking a warm smile, I responded, “But it’s just now 8:25.” Agent’s gleeful answer: “That’s right. And 8:25 is when the flight departs (heh, heh, heh).”
(Note: Not all husbands and wives murder their spouses when they wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Some have the self-discipline to wait until they get to work, where they can take out their anger on the real enemy – their company’s customers.)
I thanked Mr. Heh-Heh for his graciousness, walked calmly away, then did what I always do in bad situations: I asked myself what I did wrong that brought my 30-year winning streak to an end. Sure, airport security may be a colossal waste of time and money. It may be outrageously intrusive. It may be absurd. Nevertheless, it’s a reality of a world where nonsensical exercises are the norm.
The lesson I relearned? When you have to be somewhere at a certain time, take into account the realities of life – not the realities of the perfect world you long for. Things are what they are, and will be what they will be, so what is to be gained by deceiving yourself?
Perhaps you’re a sympathetic soul who is thinking, “But how could a person possibly have known there would be a thousand people trying to get through security all at once on that particular day?” Answer: It’s not my job – or yours – to know such things in advance. Most people aren’t clairvoyant, but everyone can be prudent.
And prudence means factoring in plenty of time for unforeseen circumstances. Everyone reading this article knows exactly what I’m talking about – an accident that backs up traffic for an hour… not being able to find a parking space at the airport… and, yes, being confronted with a thousand people waiting to get through security.
The reality is that unforeseen circumstances are an integral part of everyday life. And the only way you can exert any degree of control over them is to make the necessary allowances in advance.
I aim to profit from the frustrating end to my 30-year winning streak. Not only will it be at least another 30 years before I miss a flight, I am now refocused on operating my life on the assumption that unforeseen circumstances have a way of jumping in one’s path at the worst moment… something to do with a guy named Murphy, if my memory serves me correctly.[Ed. Note: In Robert Ringer’s powerful personal-development package, The Magic of Synchronicity, you’ll find out how to achieve prosperity, purpose, and peace of mind by getting all areas of your life in synch. Plus, get The Best of Robert Ringer, Volumes I & II – absolutely free. ]