Wabi Sabi - a way of looking at the world with a kind of quiet insight, to find beauty, even in imperfection.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Paradigm Shift at DFW

"The best thing one can do when it rains is to let it rain."
--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It was my "Quote of the Day," emailed to me the morning of May 23, 2011. How prophetic.

True, it had been a day full of frustrations at Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport. After returning from Copenhagen where we disembarked from a spectacular Scandinavian cruise, we were ready to return home. I won't bore you with details of our misadventures at DFW, but will simply say after a day full of waiting for hours on an airplane, fighting crowds, delays, cancellations, gate changes, irritable agents and customers, we ended up spending another night in Dallas.

But amidst all the frustration, three things changed my persepective, little by little at first, then, WHAM! The way I viewed those "challenges" changed.

First, I'd heard about the tornado and its devastation in Joplin. As our flights were delayed, then cancelled, it was pretty easy to tell myself that my problems were minor compared to those of the victims of the tornado. However, I'll admit  that as the day progressed and tempers all around me flared, it became harder and harder to remind myself of the relative smallness of my "problems."
Toward the end of the day, as we waited to see if we might possibly be lucky enough to have our names called to board the third flight for which we'd been placed on standby (we were at #87 and #88 on that  standby list,) a young woman who reminded me of my daughter sat next to us.

She smiled. "Are you guys waiting to get on this flight?" she asked.

Stephen and I both chimed in, keen to tell her our woes of the day.

She continued to smile as she exhaled. "Wow. I just had to come over here and sit for awhile - to get away from all that negative energy over there."

That next little paradigm shift came as a whisper. "Ooh," I thought. "I wonder if we're emitting the very negative energy she's trying to escape?"

With the most sincere look in her eyes, she said, "You guys sure are handling it well for what you've been through."

It's hard to describe how her words - her demeanor - affected me. I knew inside that we'd done our share of complaining, but she took the time to find something positive, and it immediately made me want to be positive, too. But, it was as I thought more about her words over the next few hours, even as I went to sleep, that I realized the kind of power her kind of attitude had.

The next morning as we prepared to head to the airport for another day of attempting to get home, I asked Stephen, "I wonder how it would affect the customer service agents if we empathized with the kind of day they must be having, even thanked them for their help?"

Sure, I'll admit they could have done much to provide better customer service through the
delays and cancellations, but I put myself in their place, and imagined a customer saying a kind word.


That morning while we waited for the aiport shuttle from the hotel,  I watched news stories about people who'd lost loved ones in the storms in Joplin, saw video of the complete destruction, and the pettiness of the previous day's inconveniences was reinforced to me again - so minor inconveniences ompared to lives that have been changed forever in Joplin.

Though I believe dealt with the frustrations better than many, I, too, was affected by all the negativity around me by the end of the day.

The girl at the airport will probably never know how her kind, positive words changed my perpective and my own demeanor. I realized how a smile could be a positive influence on someone else.

Maybe sometimes all we can do is let it rain, but it sure is nice to see a little sunshine in the storm.


  1. Although not immune to negativity eminating out of Joplin, I managed to avoid that of DFW, Ohare, etc., by staying home. If others would follow my lead, the air-travel industry would see their way to service improvements. Why must air travel be expensive, unreliable, inconvenient, and uncomfortable? Because the public puts up with it. Relax, stay home, read a book.

  2. ed_quixote, that's definitely one solution. The other is to realize that such frustrations are simply a part of travel, and one who travels must deal with it. :) Though at this point, relaxing at home with a book has a certain appeal.