Hassle-Free Traveling, Living

We get dropped off at the curb at LAX in the morning, a few days after Christmas, the four of us, myself, my wife, two toddlers, three bags we want to check, four carry-ons, and a large, collapsible wagon we use to schlep our gear around whenever we attempt to navigate the serpentine marathon that is airline travel with a family of four. Our plane boards in a little over an hour. Odds of making it? To be determined.

There’s a crowd at curbside check-in, so we scurry into the terminal and access the nearest available self-service kiosk, which prints a set of boarding passes for us but fails to give us the option to check bags. Rats, wrong kiosk. We wait in line for one of the correct ones (of which there are only three), eventually print a new set of boarding passes, check our bags, then mosey our caravan onward toward the, holy cow! Is this the line for security?

A matrix of posts and retractable straps cordon off fifty or so passengers, lines of cattle halted at the base of an escalator which ascends to the security checkpoint somewhere has yet invisible up on the second floor. No choice. We take our place among the horde. I turn to my wife, “If we don’t make our flight, that’s fine. We’ll get home eventually, one way or another.”

Just then, an airport employee walks by us, notices our oversized wagon and suggests we take the elevator instead of waiting for the escalator. Brilliant. Two minutes later, we’ve effectively jumped the line and probably have shaved about thirty minutes off our time. We get through security easily enough (thanks to lots of practice and a system which has my wife handle the kids while I handle everything else), then we’re on the other side, with kids, carryons, and wagon in tow. But, after all, this is LAX we’re talking about here and, as fate would have it, our gate is number 60, located at the dreaded “mid-field terminal”, a bus ride away.

To get on the bus to the mid-field terminal entails another line, another wait. Then, getting onto the shuttle is itself no easy feat, with the kids and their batman and spider-man roller bags, my wife’s bag, my bag, and that wagon for me to awkwardly fold up and unfold at each transition while impatient fellow travelers (as is always the case) cast mean eyes and audible sighs at me.

The shuttle literally transports us right alongside the runways of LAX, eerily adjacent to taxiing jumbo jets and baggage transport vehicles, while the minutes inch ever closer toward us missing our flight. We arrive, unload everything off the shuttle, unfold the wagon, load that up, then hike back into the terminal to arrive at our gate, a whopping five minutes prior to boarding. Victory, or so it would seem.

Boarding time arrives, our tickets get scanned, we walk down the jetway to find, are you kidding me? Another shuttle to take us to the plane. Kids in, bags in, wagon in, cram into shuttle, wait, arrive, wagon out, bags out, kids out, gate check the wagon, enter plane, locate seats, hunker down, buckle up, and then settle in, at last. Oh, but it turns out that the plane has to now go taxi to a gate to get potable water before we can take off. Just one of those things.

The flight back to San Antonio experiences “moderate to severe turbulence” throughout and takes about two and a half hours. Once the wheels hit the tarmac in Texas, I lean over to my wife and say, “All in all, this was quite a pleasant experience.” She looks at me somewhat perplexed. “Why do you say that?” Hmmm, I thought. All I could tell her after some brief reflection was that I didn’t know why I felt this way, but that I just found myself enjoying a deep measure of peacefulness and patience throughout each step of our journey.

Now, back at home a few days later, with more time to consider things, I realize what had happened, what enabled me to face each opportunity for aggravation with grace instead. Early on, I had given permission. I had announced that it was okay for things to turn out differently than we expected or hoped. If we missed our plane, so be it. We could get on a later plane or even rent a car if it came to that. All would be well, no matter what. With this in mind, I at no point rushed or hurried in ardent pursuit of a specific outcome. I slowed down! This, I discover in retrospect, truly made all the difference. It was permission that fostered calm, calm that fostered grace, and grace that fostered pleasure and enjoyment and appreciation for the passage itself. This, as such, is not just a lesson for travel, but for the whole of life, the journey we undertake from birth to death, and the infinite number of smaller journeys we take along the way.  Life never has to be easy to be enjoyable. It is our attitude that determines our experience. Bon voyage…