Friday, January 30, 2009

The End of the Story--Monday...

Monday dawns, bright and early. And I do mean EARLY. My wake-up call jangles at 6 am, which means I got almost 4 hrs of sleep. I stagger from bed, anticipating a nice, hot wake-up shower, when memory collides with hopes. Ah yes. The only thing I'm going to get from my shower is lukewarm dribble. I immediately call front desk. "The shower on/off handle is installed backward," I tell them. "Can you please have it fixed today so I can get hot water with pressure? If not, I'll need a different room."

"No problem," say they. "We'll have it fixed right away." Finally, good news.

* I make it to the office for the mtg. What's that? It's been pushed back to 9? So you're saying I could have had an extra hour of sleep. But I'm not bitter. Not a bit.
Now...where's the coffee??

* First meeting goes from 9 to noon. Grab a quick lunch and on to next meeting from noon to 4, then next meeting from 4-6:30. Then back to my temporary desk to deal with a day's worth of emails and calls. Hit hotel around 8 pm, ready for a hot shower. Which would have been possible if they'd fixed the thing! Water still lukewarm, still dribbling. On/off handle still backward. I draw a deep breath and call the front desk again.

"Oh, that's right. We'll send someone right up."

* I now am in desperate need of comfort food, so order my fav: Chinese. Arrives around 9 pm. What hasn't arrived is anyone to fix shower. Call desk again. "I need a different room," says I.
"We'll send him right up," says they and the phone goes dead.

I hang up and there is, indeed, a knock on my door. The guy comes in and walks to the shower muttering, "It's usually a setting on the shower head that makes it hard to get water." I start to tell him that's not the problem, when he reaches in and messes with the shower head, turns on the water, and grins at me in triumph when water comes out nice and strong. I stand there. Staring. His grin fades.

"It's not getting water that's the problem," says I. "Stick your hand in there."

He does so. Frowns. "It's cold."

To my credit, I don't utter the "DUH!" that screams in my head. "The on/off handle is installed backwards," says I.

He examines it, turns it this way and that, and turns to me. "It's backwards."

"Yes, it is," I reply, too weary and hungry by then to be angry.

"It'll need to be reinstalled."

"Yes, it will," I say, now somewhat faint from hunger.

He turns it off, then eases it on, feeling for hot water. When dribble turns warm, he says, "Is that warm enough?"

Really? You want me to say I'll shower for a week in a dribble? Are you out of your-- Breathe. Relax. I step forward and feel. "No. And there's not enough pressure."

He pushes it a smidge. "How about that?"

I don't even stick my hand out this time. Just fix him with a look. "No."

"I'll get someon--"


He stops, stares at me.

I grab my suitcase and start packing. "I need a different room."

"But we can--"

"--get me a new room." I straighten. Look at him. I don't raise my voice, don't let anger out. Just look at him. "Now."

Okay, so something came through ( ) because the poor man pales slightly and steps back. "I'll see about that new room right now."

Forty-five minutes later, I'm in my new room (which I know has a working shower because the guy who came to "fix" the one in my old room makes a beeline for the shower in my new room and makes sure it's working, bless his pea-pickin' heart), warming up my Chinese food. So what if it's past 10 pm. I'm hungry. I settle onto the couch, take a bite, waiting for those flavors I love to ease my tension...and grimace. Two more bites and it's confirmed. Worst Chinese food I've ever had. Totally disgusting. How lovely that I'd ordered extra so I'd have dinner the next night ready and waiting when I got back to the hotel. Everything goes in the trash. I eat the apple I'd brought on the plane and go to bed. Begging God for better days ahead.

Happily, those better days arrived. The rest of my trip went really well, as did the rest of my meetings. And the flight home last Saturday went like clockwork. Both flights left when they were supposed do, and I landed at home without mishap or delay, utterly delighted to be home.

So what, you ask, was the purpose of all this?? Well, I actually have an answer for you.

I've had really bad travel days before. I'm ashamed to say I didn't always handle them. I'm way too prone, when I get tired and hungry and frustrated, to let my emotions rule. This time, though, all that was held in check. Every time an unkind tone or word inched toward my lips, I remembered those people on the plane with me from Medford to Denver, and then Denver to N'ville. Those folks who were also delayed and inconvenienced, but who handled it with humor. (Yes, sometimes the humor was just this side of desperation, but it was humor all the same.) Their attitudes stayed positive and that made it all bearable for all of us. By God's grace, their examples stuck with me and for once I didn't give in to irritation. I didn't focus on me and my woes, thereby making things worse, not just for me, but for everyone. Even when I'd hit the wall with the hotel and told them I needed a new room, I didn't do so in anger. I was firm, but not angry.

So though those were some of the worst travel days I've ever had, they lack something that past travel days have had in abundance.


I can look back on those days and, as horrid as they were, they don't weigh down today. I don't have to wish, deep in my heart, that I could apologize to anyone. Rather, I can smile at the moments of shared laughter. I can thank God for the glimpses of shared mercy. And I can even feel good about times I reached out to help or comfort others. There's no bitter taste in my mouth--or spirit--for things I said or did. Just the succulent flavor of grace and gratitude.

My next trip will come in about three weeks, and while I don't like leaving home again so soon, it's okay. Because I've seen what God can do when you let Him, and I know that even if more Horrid Days await, I don't have to go through them alone. Nor do I have to walk away from them defeated.

By His grace, you and I can meet those days determined to show kindness and grace. And if we do that, no matter how horrid a day or experience, we can walk away in peace and freedom.

Wishing both for you today.



photoqueen said...

Wow. Karen, your story is incredible! I've been amazed at a) how many things went so very wrong, and b) how you (and your fellow travelers) handled it with so much grace. Thank you for sharing your story - what inspiration for the next time I'm tempted to let out MY frustration on the nearest person!

On another note...I just read John Olson's "Shade." It was so good! I picked it up because I'd read about the long road it took to get it published. I'm so glad you championed John and the book - it was a terrific story!

Nicole said...

Love good endings.

You're to be commended for keeping your cool through a grueling trip. Yeah, okay, it's just the inconvenience of traveling sometimes, but you had a fair amount of challenges and allowed the Lord to have first call in the matters. Good for you.

Dineen A. Miller said...

Oh my gosh, you had me rolling at the "Duh" moment. This is hysterical...well, in your voice it is. LOL! So glad it all worked out. :-)