Waste of time – or not


Last Wednesday morning I flew to Cape Town. It is a two hour flight and my workshop with a client started at 11am. I had deliberated over the time of my flight as there were only two times available with the service provider I preferred; 6am and 8am. A flight at 6am means that I have to get up at 3.45am to get to the airport in time even if I do on-line check in the night before. I decided 8am would be pushing it to get to the venue on time so I book the 6am flight. The small silver lining to the early morning cloud was that I would be able to have a leisurely breakfast with my colleague on the other end and would have time to freshen up and relax before the workshop started. I was presenting a short section which always makes me a bit anxious, even though I do present regularly.

The drive to the airport was uneventful [I have taken wrong turns in the past and arrived late and in a panic – I have no sense of direction at all]. I passed through security and went straight to the boarding gate, thinking I would sit and wait while enjoying a strong cappuccino. People were boarding at the gate but it wasn’t for a flight to Cape Town. Oh uh! I walked back and checked the flight board – my flight had been delayed 90 minutes until 7.30am but the gate remained unchanged. I was annoyed – I could have slept for an extra 90 minutes. For some reason an early start always leaves me feeling like chewed up string. A later night is more manageable for me even though I consider myself to be a morning person. So I sat and worked for 75 minutes sitting on a very uncomfortable chair in a small airport café. I resorted to eating a very sweet and stale blueberry muffin in lieu of my planned relaxed breakfast and the cappuccino was so horrible I couldn’t even drink it. At 6.50am I made my way back to the boarding gate and sat down to wait out the 10 minutes before boarding started. The next thing, all the waiting passengers jumped up and stampeded, just like a herd of elephants, across the airport. Naturally I felt obliged to follow as I guessed the boarding gate had been changed. Indeed it had, to a gate right on the other side of the airport. They [those unknown and unreachable planners of flight departures who ensure that boarding gates for connecting flights are as far away as possible from the point of landing of the previous flight) had changed the gate to the furthest gate possible just to heighten any inconvenienced caused and make sure any minor feelings of remaining goodwill towards the airline were completely obliterated.

My flight ended up only boarding 30 minutes later with the result that all the passengers stood in a queue at the new boarding gate for 30 minutes. To pass the time, I started chatting to my fellow passengers and hearing their stories.

There was a lovely young girl travelling back to university. She had been home for the long weekend and needed to get back for a test at 9am. She was quite upset about the fact that the delay meant she would miss her test. She didn’t know whether her lecturer would let her take the test on another day.

There was a bald headed man with a great smile and jolly sense of humour. He owned his own company and was going to Cape Town for meetings with clients. He had successfully re-planned his morning to accommodate the delay. He was travelling with an employee who was feeling quite jaded as she lived out of town and had been up since 3am in order to make the 6am flight.

The IT consultant behind me was travelling down to Cape Town for two weeks to install a new IT system for a client. He was also a jolly fellow who was taking the delay in his stride.

There were two young ladies further forward in the queue. One had hair dyed a shade of purple which made her quite noticeable. They were travelling to Cape Town to present training and were discussing changes to their agenda in order to fit the entire two day workshop into a shorter timeframe.

There was a young lady who worked for a large insurance company who was travelling down for training. As she was being trained so that she could roll out the training in Johannesburg, the training course was being delayed by two hours to accommodate her.

Last but not least was the lady executive who was travelling down to Cape Town for a very important meeting at 9am. The meeting could not be rescheduled and she was livid about the delay. She was ranting and raving to anyone who would listen about the inconvenience.

So were to two hours wasted. Not for me. I really enjoy meeting and talking to new people and had some interesting chats to my fellow stranded passengers. I would have preferred to sleep in for an extra 90 minutes if I had known about the delay. As I didn’t know in time, I like to think I just made the most of it and didn’t waste energy getting annoyed and irritated about something I could not change.

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31 thoughts on “Waste of time – or not

  1. Human interactions in such stressful situations are truly instructive, and provide revealing insights. Some remained self-absorbed with being inconvenienced, while you indulged in the adventure of reaching out with genuine interest in the plight of others. Fascinating!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It depends on how one takes it. You made the best out of it, for sure. I always prefer to err on the side of getting there early but yes, at times you don’t know what to do for the best. I’m sure the workshop was great and the conversations too… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m pleased you made the best use of your time, Robbie, and have come to the conclusion that it’s best to accept the things you cannot change and to not waste precious energy moaning. What were you presenting?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Norah. I really enjoy chatting to new people so it wasn’t that bad. I was presenting on how to prepare financial information for purposes of a listing on our local stock exchange. That is what I do – I advise companies on how to list both locally and sometimes abroad as well. I know quite a lot about the Australian Stock Exchange too.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting post-Robbie. It got me to thinking about delays in all walks of life. I now wonder if we as writers are all the same. I too tend to make written or mental notes when delayed for a long period of time, whether it’s a flight delay, a long line at the supermarket, an appointment with a doctor, etc.. I once interviewed two police officers in Georgia(I always carry a pad and pen in my purse) when we had a flight delay. I told them I was writing an article about life as a police officer and assured them I would not use their names. Another time I chatted with a lovely woman and discovered that she worked at the United Nations in New York. I find that people are more than willing to chat in a stressful situation. I later retrieve my notes, some written some just mental notes and post them in my journal knowing they might never see the light of day but every once in a while I can eek out a story from them. I would love to know if I am alone in this practice. As writers could this be how we handle a stressful situation?
    Great post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your lovely comment, Patricia. It is interesting that, as I wrote this post, I thought the same thing that you did. I always like to learn about people and their lives and what they do. I study people and often write about the things I learn and see. I also carry little notebooks around with me and frequently jot down bits of interesting conversation and ideas. I think it probably is a writer thing as we are more observant to detail and always looking at life from an “external” perspective. I am glad this got you thinking.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Nice story, Robbie – now if only one of those folks had been an arch-villain in disguise… (Cuddly Carl the Charismatic Chef plotted his overthrow of pastry cooks everywhere. If only those fools knew what was hiding behind his enigmatic smile… Mwah hah hah…)

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Loved reading the way in which you spend those delayed hours to learn more about your fellow passengers.. Patience is a virtue obviously some had it while others had not..
    I do hope that young student was able to sit her exam though.. It was through no fault of her own she missed it..
    I also wonder to that lady who was missing her 9 am meeting how many times perhaps she had let others down,
    A lesson is always there in any situation if we care to look for it..
    I hope your own presentation went well Robbie..
    And you had a safe and On time trip back home.. 🙂

    Love and Hugs Sue

    Liked by 1 person

    1. HI Sue, I must be honest that I am careful not to wait to the last minute when I travel which is why I took the earlier flight in the first place. I don’t like to be late and prefer to allow times for delays and issues that may crop up (they often do). If I had a 9am meeting I actually would have flown the evening before but everyone is different and so are their individual circumstances. I also wondered about that sweet girl and her exam – she was such a lovely person. My presentation went exceptionally well – thank you. Have a lovely day.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It is practically expected anymore that flights scheduled late in the day won’t leave or arrive on time – but at 6AM it must have been more serious than run-way access or connecting flight scheduling. The best thing about it is that, whatever it was, they caught it BEFORE you boarded and the plane took off!

    I understand how gate access can be difficult to schedule without making ALL the planes shuffle, but as often as it occurs I have never understood why the airlines don’t have some kind of train-like ground transportation ready to shuttle people in cases like this one. The first airline to make this a standard will quickly become the go-to fav!

    I always chat people up as well, Robbie – so my behavior usually wouldn’t change, delay or not. However, with my sleep disorder and since I don’t wake to sound, I could only make an early AM flight, if I were to stay up all night to make sure I was awake for it – hoping to nap on the plane. The much bigger problem is that whenever I am forced to stay up all night, it takes 3 weeks or more to restabilize my chronorhythms, during which time my life pretty much falls apart.

    If, after staying awake for 12-16 hours after everyone else got to sleep, I were going to miss important portions of my event anyway, I can’t say I wouldn’t be one of the VERY grouchy folks that everyone else talked about ever-after, as if the playing field were level.

    So more power to us whenever we are able to remain pleasant and make the best of situations like this. It is clearly the best way to handle it – but I also think it’s important for ALL of us to do our best to avoid judgment for people who are unable to be as “positive” about facing delays unless we’ve walked at least a mile in their shoes.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I do understand the irritated perspective, Madelyn. I never stand in judgement of others as I don’t know their individual situation and circumstances [but I do watch them and take notes – smile]. Fortunately, I can sleep anywhere, anyhow any time and, particularly, on any vehicle that moves [the motion completely lulls me – I find it a bit annoying when I had planned to write and find I fell asleep for the whole flight]. There was not problem with the plane actually – the maintenance and overlooked servicing it the night before – very South African. I subscribe to the “Smile and wave” principle of the penguins in Madagascar or I could never travel and work in Developing Countries.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m not surprised at all to read you don’t stand in judgment, Robbie, but I think a few comments may have tasted of same to my sensitive palate.

        I’m probably more than a bit oversensitive to make-wrong. I can taste it one part to a million, I’m sure, working with so many neurodiverse individuals who have been beaten bloody with the positivity stick. I don’t feel comfortable using their examples so I shared one of my own. Truth is, ONLY for legal stuff or when penalties are likely to be stiff will I do the overnight thing anymore (I just say no – lol). I usually take the latest flight I can get the day before to avoid having to travel early.

        I probably should not have commented at all – my apologies.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I am glad you commented. I love to hear other people’s thoughts and reactions. Your point is well made and I do understand how frustrating delays can be. I also don’t really like travelling the day before, I miss my boys so prefer to shorten trips to the extent possible, but I try to weigh up the options. I think people think that travelling is glamorous, and maybe for some it is, but for me it is exhausting and I only do it because I have too. I hope you have a good day today.


  8. You did the right thing, Robbie. And I love the way you wrote about your experience. There were great bits of humour in there about a situation which you had no control over. I’m exactly the same in situations like this. I enjoy talking to other people. It’s a great way for me to get some new story lines and characters.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I see we two would be a pair traveling, lol. Every time I go somewhere and return home, I’m the furthest gate and the plane’s hangar is the furthest walk to customs. But glad to hear you made lemonade from the lemon part. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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