Airports are great venues for people watching. Some folks eagerly wear leis and Hawaiian shirts in anticipation of their tropical vacation, and other folks grudgingly trudge through the concourse in their business attire. People shriek with joy at the first sight of a waiting family member, and others curse angrily at airline gate agents for anything and everything.
I found myself in a couple different airports this week. I arrived early enough in both instances that I had time to grab a bite to eat and catch up on email. By the time I joined the cattle call of fellow passengers slowly shuffling down the jetbridge, I was ready to get to my destination and put the hassle of air travel behind me.
Have you ever been running late to a flight? This is usually the category I fall into, and I’ve had more than my fair share of times zig-zagging through a maze of people as I hustled to beat the clock and make my flight. When I find myself in this situation, sweating through my undershirt and nervously wondering whether my frantic race will be worth it, it is such a feeling of exhilaration to finally arrive at my gate and see the door has not been shut. I want to hug the gate agents, high five the pilots, and do the dance of joy with the flight attendants. I’ve been tempted to commandeer the intercom to lead the flight in a chorus of “We Are the Champions.”
So what’s the difference between boarding a flight with a scowl or a smile? Gratitude. In most instances, we 21st century humans in developed countries see air travel as a necessary evil that allows us to efficiently deliver our PowerPoint presentations in neighboring time zones on consecutive days. We show up, strap in, accrue our frequent flier miles, and reluctantly do it all over again.
But when there is a real possibility of missing your flight and suffering the domino effects of travel trauma, actually making it onto the flight becomes a great victory worth celebrating. When we are truly grateful for the everyday moments in our lives instead of taking them for granted, life becomes a high-fiving, chest-bumping celebration.