When I boarded the plane, I was greeted by the steward, “I told you we were going to Tokyo today”. I was already smiling and told her “I would believe when the plane began its descent.” Pessimistic.
As I turned right on the 747, I made eye contact with a man who just been joking with his companions. He said to me, “third time’s a charm!”. Still smiling, I responded, “fifth time for me.”
“You were here yesterday? Well at least you’re smiling”.
“Not smiling on the inside.”
But yes, I was smiling. The fifth time I had boarded this plane – or one similar enough – on a trip to Japan, Thailand, and Cambodia. We had first boarded over 30 hours before that. Each time as we crossed from the terminal onto the gangway, I said something like “we’re going on a trip” or “we’re off to Asia” or “this time I’m sure we’re going.”
This fifth time I did it again, as much to be upbeat with my kids in the face of so much frustration and powerlessness as from a belief that we would actually depart on our vacation.
I continued walking down the aisle – my family well ahead of me – still smiling, looking into the faces of the seated passengers, all smiling right back at me. I nodded and smiled warmly to each of them.
Minutes before we were all in the terminal waiting to board for the third time that day. Most people were patient, expecting that the airline would do its job, to get us all to our destination. Several were upset, arguing with the gate agents. One insisted that the airline either cancel the flight or commit to flying that day. Like my family, he had been through this the day before. We had boarded, deplaned, boarded another plane, and then the flight was canceled. By the time we had our luggage it was well after 9 PM – 10 hours after we first boarded that day.
Walking down the aisle felt like the times in movies when the director slows down the scene, of course this time with me as the protagonist.
I passed the second steward. He knew what was going on, and said,
“When you smile, the whole world smiles with you.”
I nodded to him, and as worn as that expression may be, I felt it so truly then.
While I didn’t feel certain that the plane would take off, I did feel better, confident that it would work out. And of course, it did.