Uncertainty filled the air as people waited in line at the boarding gate for our flight en route to Bangkok, Thailand. We were all worried that, with only fifteen minutes left, we wouldn’t make it in time. The staff wanted to check our flight documents a second time, even though we had already shown them at check-in. One man at the end of the line shouted as he demanded to know why we had to go through this again. The more he grumbled the more agitated the airline staff became. “Let’s not let him on the flight,” they mumbled. I decided to keep my mouth shut as they reviewed my documents. Tensions were running high and from the looks of it, no one, including the staff, really understood why they were asking us to do this again.
After that fiasco, we all boarded in time. I was ready to sit down and relax. To my dismay, there was an elderly woman seated in my business class seat. This was clearly a first-world problem, but I scrimped and saved to purchase that ticket. I really wanted my comfy business class seat, and this woman seemed determined not to move. I was angry and frustrated but decided to keep my mouth shut. The passenger pulled out three tickets, clearly confused but stubborn in her resolve. The flight attendant looked exasperated but her voice betrayed none of that. She simply kept pointing to the ticket and calmly convinced the woman to move to the right seat. When she finally moved, I breathed a sigh of relief.
The next thing I knew they announced that one of the pilots tested positive for COVID. That’s when it dawned on me, we were all struggling to keep our composure. The cloud of COVID hung in the air. We couldn’t see it but we could feel it inside. We were scared, what if we get sick, what if we’re quarantined for 10 days and can’t leave the hotel? The more immediate concerns were, what if the flight was canceled? What then? And everything depended on leaving as scheduled in order to comply with the pre-approved, “Thai Test and Go” Pass we had applied for.
In spite of all the apparent obstacles, after two hours they found a pilot and we took off. The trip went smoothly. Then about 20 minutes before we landed the same flight attendant who helped, in the beginning, approached me. She thanked me for maintaining my patience with the woman who had my seat and awarded me 5,000 free miles. I was surprised and explained to her that I was simply following her example. I didn’t really feel like I did anything unusual. She started to talk about how relieved she was that the flight had gone off okay and that everyone would arrive at their destinations.
I had no idea what these flight attendants had to deal with and how much they cared. I wondered how much-hidden stress all of us are coping with during these trying times? My takeaway from the whole experience is that we’re all in this together. The whole situation with COVID is out of control; and if we lose our patience, it doesn’t do anyone any good. We all suffer and no one benefits. I look to my Buddhist practice to help me manage my feelings when I get anxious. My New Year’s Resolution is “Keep Calm and Carry On!” What’s your New Year’s Resolution? Look forward to hearing from you!