The first thought for the title was “Fiasco in LA” and then I decided to change it to “Adventure in LA”. And well it makes lot of difference when I say that. Yes I missed the flight, yes I did few assumptions and yes I was not proactive to get to the right gate on time. I ran and kept running in desperation till the last moment, I was saying only one thing “I have to make it”, I was panting, gasping, I was angry and I was frustrated as well.
I thought I would still make it and I was there at the gate just 10 minutes before the departure, but sadly it was too late. I could see the flight right in front of me, all set to go and Etihad flight assistant sympathizing with me, but at the same time showing their helplessness to do anything. I pleaded, I requested and I did all sort of insane suggestions to get me in and they could see my desperation for not losing a day. But then it was time to accept the fact, I messed up.
Sad and disheartened I left the place, but while all this was happening the lady at the counter booked my flight for the next day and escorted me to American Airlines counter, where they also helped me to get the new itinerary printed and even though it was my mistake, none of them charged me even a cent extra. In fact comforted me and gave suggestions for the next day. Indicating that the goof ups happen, take it easy and don’t be too harsh to yourself.
I had waited at wrong gate after my travel from Austin to Los-Angeles and was a bit too relaxed as there was 3 hours layover between the two flights. Both American Airways and Etihad were quite helpful. They booked my ticket for the next day for a flight to Abu Dhabi and then to Mumbai.
Well yes, I messed up, kind of not expected, because I never did this kind of mistake before, But then come ‘on I don’t have to kill myself, I can’t belittle myself and start feeling pathetic. Life is a great teacher and I need to learn. Mistakes happen and I need to quickly accept it and move on.
The thought really changed my outlook, I decided not to wash out all the excitement, I had, when I started. I decided to find a place for a night to stay and also got few suggestions from friends. May be it was my opportunity to have a look at LA a little closely. It was this opportunity to understand the things that can happen when you lose your flight and look at that part of life experience that otherwise I would not ever be party to, if I would have been perfect as I tried myself to be. And then I said dude its okay to make mistakes, its okay to mess up at times.
I found a dormitory to lay my head and get some sleep in the cold of LA. I experienced waiting for the pickup shuttle to take me to Backpackers Paradise Youth Hostel and something was waiting for me there.
A wonderful and happy family with three kids, asked me to take their pictures as I sat in that spacious, plush shuttle, having looks of a limo zine in the interiors. A quick check-in and I was at the bar to pick my free welcome champagne and to see if I can find something to eat.I had that free champagne at the tiny bar and listened to that stream of pop music they played later till 12 pm.
I met Lucas from Australia, who has set out for his American adventure and have been enjoying his trip so far. He is again a wanderer and is a marketing executive by profession. A Bulgarian sitting opposite to me had been to India twice and was excited to talk about his Indian encounter. I saw a father and his kid’s getting into the pool at 50 degrees Fahrenheit and have their time of life
Adventurer’s lodge did not have anything to eat and it was time to find something to eat before it’s too late. I did find Jack in the Box and Pizza Hut, but all of them were closed. I was a bit worried, but then I also felt strong at that moment, I had missed my flight, things can’t go worse than this.
It was this Chinese restaurant flooded with people at 10 pm in LA, which was waiting for me. The choice was enormous and looked delicious and hot. I had this sudden eternal hunger making me forget everything else and I was enjoying those savory Chinese dishes right from chicken wings to fried rice and noodles to chicken sticks. The price was value for money as they charged per weight.
Back in my room I met Magnus from Nigeria. Magnus was MSC and was pursuing his PHD, he works for Ethiopian airlines. It was interesting to know how devout Catholic he was, with no alcohol and non-vegetarian food. He had his small scale export import startup as well and really loved his country and the modest people. I also met Sensue from Sao Paolo working in San Francisco as Portuguese Language Professor, who shuttled between Sao Paolo and San Francisco as his mother and rest of the family stayed in Sao Paolo.
My family back home was not only worried, but very upset with me. But then they were really not in a mood to listen to any of my stories at that moment.
As I walked down the streets of Inglewood at 6:30 am in the morning, I could watch those palm trees aligning themselves at both side of the street, which was quite rare for me in this part of the world. I admired the beautiful x’mas decorations and took few nice picture and that made me feel nice. Yes I missed a day with family, but all these people that I met, I would never would have met, I would never would have gone through these adventures of staying in a dormitory and sleeping in a dorm bed, all at the $50 with free breakfast and a free shuttle service to airport.
A Srilankan couple settled in Canada inquired curiously about me and described the cold that they face every day as I took my muffin for the breakfast and enjoying the hot coffee with Magnus.
Well I had this sudden enlightenment while going through all these events in past few hours. Life is too short and too precious to belittle yourself, to feel pathetic and sad. It’s a celebration. So focus on what you get rather than what you lose. Be open, be an adventurer, be optimistic and connect with people. Celebrate every moment and don’t tie down things to any one thing.
I pledge myself not to spoil my vacation, I decided to cease feeling pitiful and awful. I decided not to romanticize my mistakes, but at the same time not to lose all the excitement, all the awesome feeling of going back to India on a vacation and meeting my loving wife, a sweet son and a wonderful daughter.
I made that conscious decision to be a different person, different than what I have been all this while and take the whole circumstances in stride, fight out valiantly, positively and I knew I will meet few angels who instead of sympathizing would make me feel wonderful, share their contacts and decide to meet at some point of time. All those human links which started by this incident of missing my flight would not have happened otherwise.
Life is all about experiences that you create, impressions that you get from people, perceptions that you conceive and finally the responses that you generate in each of those circumstances. I decided to be strong and happy. No matter what happens to you, no matter if it’s your mistake or some external factor affects your plan, you still have a choice not to start treating yourself as a victim. You still have choice to get back in control, accept the fact of life and move on and not get derailed to commit more mistakes. Everything that happens has a purpose and you would realize that, if you look at all such experiences in your past, you would agree with me.
Magnus bade good bye to me as if I was his old buddy and came down to drop me at the gate. A Korean guy in the bus, Peter described me his story of learning English, doing his graduation in English literature, having polish girlfriend who likes to travel, how he likes Mumbai and his desire to get in touch when he comes to Mumbai. It was nice to hear these stories and get connected momentarily with no prejudices no expectations.
And you know what, why should there be answers to all questions, why should you be always perfect, why things always go as should planned, and why should you always feel awful about it. I was feeling much lighter, enlightened, happy and all the more excited as I boarded for my journey to Mumbai. I made sure, I thank the Etihad Flight Assistant who helped me yesterday and she was happy to see me much before time today.