No matter how hard we try to plan for things to go a certain way, they don't. No matter how much we hope for things to happen, unforeseen circumstances are going to pop up. Nine times out of ten, Murphy will join us, whether we like it or not. And it has been my experience that travel is no exception. Hiccups, Murphy, the unexpected, and the "S" word... happen. But it is what we do with these interruptions that matters. How we cope with them makes all the difference in the world.
I haven't been on the road in almost six days. I've been waiting... no, I've been asking for a load for almost a week. So last night I finally got the call for a load. Great! Here we go! Another paid road trip. Adventure! Money! Woohoo! Or so I thought.
After getting the call and preparing my things, I headed to the yard only to find out that my truck needs to be serviced for some scheduled maintenance. I can't hit the road until it's done and I can't get in to the garage until tomorrow. What time can I get in? They don't know for sure. When will the work be done? They can't tell me that either. Crap. Now what?
Well, as it turns out, a good friend of mine whom I served with in the Marine Corps lives nearby to where I'm having the work done. I haven't seen him in years. In fact, the last time I saw him was in Japan. So I sent out a text to see if he was available at the last minute just to catch up. As it turned out, he was. We were able to catch up for a couple of hours over a cup of coffee. Not only that, but we've agreed to get together for lunch tomorrow at a local Thai place. Sweet.
This wasn't the first time my plans have been derailed by circumstances that are beyond my control. And it won't be the last. But this wasn't the first time I've taken advantage of the unexpected in a positive way either.
As a matter of fact, while on a joint exercise with the Australian army with the same friend I met up with today, we found ourselves stranded on an Australian beach for three days; separated from our unit. That happened many years ago, probably around the year 2000. While on the 31st MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit), we were sent ashore to the east coast of Australia, from the Great Barrier Reef. Once ashore (and with only enough supplies for a single afternoon), the weather unexpectedly changed for the worse. No boats, hovercraft, or helicopters were allowed to retrieve us. So, for three days, while waiting for the weather to change, my friend and I were able to enjoy a totally deserted beach all to ourselves, and before we were picked up, we were able to spend the last afternoon cliff diving in the ocean. None of that was part of the plan, but we made the most of the situation. While ashore, we met some interesting Australian soldiers who provided us with food, shelter, and tons of unforgettable conversation. Overall, we had a great time.
On another occasion sometime in 2005, while trying to return from a business trip, I landed in New York City for an extended layover, before continuing home. Once again, the weather turned for the worse, lightning storms made the already long layover even longer. The airport was jam packed with people waiting to board flights, the lines of people trying to get rerouted just grew longer and longer, and the day wore on. After many hours of waiting while sitting on the floor against the wall, I finally decided to head to the bar. This was where I found the happier crowd. There was no shortage of angry travelers in the terminal, but the bar was filled with people just taking it in stride, laughing, drinking, and having friendly conversations.
So, I decided to join the friendlier bunch. I ordered a beer and camped out with my fellow airport patrons until someone finally announced that all flights were cancelled for the rest of the day and until the weather improved.
So, with a couple of drinks in me, I made arrangements for a hotel and caught a cab to China Town. I spent the rest of the evening wandering around and taking in the sights before retiring for the night. From my hotel room, I could hear the hustle and bustle of a city outside my window that never seemed to stop. I eventually made it home late the next day, but had it not been for a turn in the weather, I never would have had the experience of chatting with strangers in the airport bar, and I never would have experienced China Town in NYC.
With all of that said, I guess the moral of the story is this, accept the things you can't change. Do the best with what you have. And if you're going to travel, expect the hiccups and be prepared ahead of time to make the most of them.