We thought we had it all finally worked out – we would rent a car when we arrived in Washington DC and drive to New York City for the show. But that was before we had to get off of the airplane TWICE before it was concluded that new aircraft was needed from our departure city of Minneapolis. Hours had passed. The reality of getting to the show in time to see Trevor Noah do his stand-up routine, the whole reason for this crazy overnight in the city for Robert’s birthday, seemed to fading.
We are very fortunate that because my step-daughter Lauren works for Delta, we can fly standby for free. It often works out brilliantly; it sometimes goes disastrously wrong. It’s all part of the fun, of course, but less so when tickets to an event you are really looking forward to have been purchased. But as an exercise in holding events philosophically loosely, it can’t be beat.
We had planned to leave Saturday morning from Kansas City. A direct flight! Time for a lovely bite to eat before the show at Radio City Music Hall! Instead, when checking the numbers for that flight and seeing they had taken a bad turn, we packed in ten minutes and left on Friday night for Minneapolis (temperature upon arrival minus nine degrees). We stayed at an airport hotel and even had time to eat our complimentary breakfast (hello, make your own waffle) before our morning flight to La Guardia. Just prior to boarding that flight, it was cancelled, hence our scramble to be willing to drive from DC.
When we finally sat in our seats to DC (for the third time) on a new larger plane, I sat down in the middle seat next to man in the window seat. Here’s where the serendipity comes in. Robert was in the aisle seat and as a frequent flyer, he makes it a point to address who he’s sitting with, if only to say hello. The man on my right said hi and then didn’t stop talking.
A former Marine for twenty years, he’s now a Delta pilot who was flying standby home after a five-day work trip. He told us about a shuttle flight that we didn’t know about to NYC and even put us on it. He said the drive we had planned could easily take six hours. I almost cried with joy when I realized we would make it. He also told us about being a Marine, his sense of duty and service and as he was talking, I realized that he took it as his mission to get us to where we wanted to go. He spends his free time with his non-profit that identifies sunken aircraft in the Pacific with MIA soldiers from World War II. I don’t have much interaction with the military and this man, whose name I don’t know, really impressed me. Here he is checking to make sure we found the gate for the shuttle flight…
Here’s the delicious food we ate while standing in line in the freezing cold to get in to the theater…
Here’s Trevor Noah – squint really hard! He was awesome!
But there was more! I recognized this actor (Peter Gerety – he’s been in so much, but The Wire is my favorite) in the La Guardia airport and we were on the same flight to Atlanta. He was charming and talkative and Robert even had the next flight with him to Albuquerque after I went to Kansas City. A copy of my memoir Float On is now in his possession and he talked to Robert about the first few chapters that he read on the plane!
Merriam Webster defines serendipity as the phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for. But, as I am reminded from this adventure, to find it you need to both be in motion and be looking for the unexpected. May you find a moment of unintended pleasure and may all of our eyes be open to it.