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How to Survive 72 Hours of Flight Delays

Happy New Year my little ones!

2014 is a big year–This is the year my amazing class, rowdy and rambunctious as we are, gets to cross across the threshold and add a couple of initials to our names.

The New Year is always a good time to aspire for great things. My friends and I were discussing resolutions the other day. I admire people who are determined to achieve something tangible by the end of the twelve months. Learn to play the piano. Read more books. Go to a foreign country. Do an eye exam in Spanish. But I’ve always been drawn to the quieter ones–express more gratitude, for example.

Maybe it’s the eggnog or something, but I felt oddly at peace when I left home to fly back to Chicago on January 4. The snow was gently falling atop the trees and settling onto the mountains. Cheeks were rosy red and the Tim Horton’s coffee was roasted warm.

Everything was still and calm and beautiful.

2014, I thought to myself, you are going to be an amazing year.

And then it hits.

The polar vortex descends and your resolutions go out the door. It is -40 degrees and you want to die. You are consumed by rage and angst and heavy metal music. All the season’s tidings and happy fuzzy feelings are minced.

Oh. Was that too harsh?

I should have known when I saw the screen at the departures check-in counter. I should have known that as soon as the word “cancelled” was flashing next to my flight to Chicago I was in for a long haul. I should have known if one plane is too cold, other planes are too cold. I should have known if my flight today could get cancelled, so could tomorrow’s. And the next day’s.

All in all, I spent 72 hours waiting in Toronto before I flew back to Chiberia.

Below, I’ve compiled some survival tips if you’re ever in a similar situation. (I hope you’re not, by the way. 2014 is a new Siva. A less vindictive one.)

  1. Bring your charger But beware, other stranded travelers also have smartphones and also need the outlets to charge these prized possessions of ours. I realized that the airport can quickly become that island in Lord of the Flies where we all descend to our most primal level once reason and selflessness fly out the door. No one is giving up their outlet. Be prepared to hover and toe the line of impropriety. Swoop in to charge your mobile devices. Ain’t nobody got time for being polite.

  2. Bring a book in the inevitable event that you can’t find a charger Let’s be real. You are all sweet optometry students or aspiring to be and you don’t have the streak of sheer malice to get a working outlet. It’s why I love you, but it’s also why your phone is dead. Go back to the dark ages and read your book. I know you have one. Turn the pages just like you would a touch screen. Take deep breaths, you’ll survive without your phone.

  3. Diversify Once you’ve exhausted your books, you will quickly realize the second flight you were booked on is also cancelled. Now it’s time to get creative. You always hear financial people extolling the virtues of diversifying. If it’s good enough for my stock portfolio, it’s good enough for everyday life as well. Find a new interest within the confines of the airport terminal. Perhaps today is the day you discover you are an excellent mind-reader. Maybe you’ll find out that you are a master therapist and can resolve marital conflicts with your mad skill. The world is yours. Go find something you’re good at.

  4. Bite the bullet and get a hotel room Yes, it is possible to fold yourself up into a origami paper crane and fall asleep on those airport chairs. You can also throw caution to the wind and sleep on the floor. But when push comes to shove, it’s best to take yourself out of the hostile situation that is an airport full of disgruntled sleep deprived passengers and find solace in a duvet cover.

  5. Practice the art of zen and meditation This is especially important when one is on the phone for hours with the airlines trying to get re-booked onto another flight. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Sit in the lotus position with your hands on your knees. Don’t allow your blood pressure to soar when the agent informs you that you will be charged to book another flight.  Keep inhaling and exhaling like a good yogi.

  6. Control your liquid intake You never know when the toilet water is going to be frozen. I wish I were joking.

It’s important to keep in mind that in the end, you will get to your destination. Weather abates. Storms pass. Toilet water thaws.

Like all things in life, it really all boils down to your perspective. In the midst of my three-day arctic adventure, I realized I essentially got an extended vacation and a chance to explore Toronto. I got to catch up on Netflix and read books without distraction. I got to miss two days of work. I had good friends cover my shifts and pick me up from the airport. I was safe and warm and learned I am a master therapist-slash-mind-reader. In the end, once you make a conscious decision to be more grateful, it’s hard to miss all the great things around you.

Perhaps resolutions aren’t so hard to keep after all.


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