Sunday, January 14, 2007

How to Maintain Serenity When They Evacuate the Airport and Everyone Around You is Freaking Out

Nothing like a good old fashioned Red Alert security breach at the airport to cap off your holiday season.

On Friday January 5th, my brother graciously agreed to drive Citlalli and I to the Oakland Airport for our 1:50pm flight. It was about 12:30 when we got off the freeway and since we were checking lots of baggage, I felt pretty good about being on time.

As we headed down the main road into the airport, traffic slowed to a standstill. For the first 2 or 3 minutes we figured it was due to construction until we saw a news van and a reporter. Hmmmmm, better switch on the radio.

An unidentified man ran past the security perimeter at Oakland International Airport at approximately 11am this moring. All operations have been halted, including the grounding of all flights and the evacuation of all passengers, numbering over 1000.

There we were in my brother's van, my 13 year old niece reading a book in the front seat, Citlalli and I in the back. We noticed people around us were turning their cars off, some even getting out. Two women were running down the lanes of stopped traffic, suitcases in hand. They didn't look serene.

Our key to serenity was tied up in the mood and joy of our 4 year old passenger. Being stuck in traffic with a preschooler requires creativity and patience from the adults, not unlike taking a long road trip with kids. Keep the kid happy and we'll all be happy, was our unspoken motto. So we started on an alphabet game, everyone got a turn to say a letter and an animal that started with that letter. We cut major slack for Citlalli, but overall she did pretty well.

Over 30 minutes passed, then we turned on the radio one more time. A spokeswoman for the Oakland airport was making a statement.

"No one will miss their flight today." She said a few more sentences, but that was all I needed to hear. Cool, I thought, no one will miss their flight today! Hey let's play another round of animal alphabet!

At 1pm the airport was reopened, and with that thousands of people converged upon the Terminals for their flights. I saw impatient people losing their cool left and right, but I kept the words of the spokeswoman in my head: No one will miss their flight today. I need to get spiritual in stressful times so I told myself that it was my higher power letting me know all would be well.

For whatever reason (I think it was because we didn't fly Southwest which was a total fluke), there was no line at the counter. All of our Christmas gift loaded suitcases made the baggage limit, we got ticketed without a hitch. The woman behind the counter looked at me. "You have missed the scheduled check in time for your flight and there's no way you're going to make it in time." Awww, uninformed pessimist that she was. I looked her in the eye. "No one is going to miss their flight today." (Just then her co-worker clued her in that the computers weren't updated yet and she exhaled a "Hmmmph") I think she still wanted to see if we'd crack.
"See that huge crowd of people over there?"

I nodded.

"That's the security line. Good luck."

No worries mon! I kept the mantra flowing, "No one will miss their flight".

We walked for ages trying to find the end of the line and finally got there. A young woman with a backback was obviously distressed; her face red with worry. I didn't know her, I wasn't asked for a comment but I simply turned to her and said, "No one will miss their flight today. You're fine." She looked a bit marveled at my comment, but just then a security agent yelled out numbers of flights and she was yanked out of line and taken to the front of the pack so she could get on her plane. Coincidence? Hmmmmmmmmm.

Hey this spiritual approach rocks, I thought to myself. Citlalli was being such a great sport, too. She had a stuffed kitty to play with and was beyond content. She barely noticed we were standing in line. I made a game out of it and when I sensed impatience, managed to get her mind back on our fun game.

The security line lasted forever, but we made the best of it. I saw how hard the airport staff was working and when one was nearby I'd tell them what a great job they were doing. "Thanks for helping us all out", I said. You should have seen them beaming! Most other people were raising their voices and getting stressed out. (I don't think they heard the "no one will miss their flight" part)

Citlalli and I now had an important job in this event: we had to be ambassadors of gratitude and joy.

Eventually we made it to our gate, and of course the flight was delayed but that was fine. Our 1:50 flight became the 4:00 flight but that gave us time to grab a bite. The young woman at the gourmet burrito stand was really exhausted from all this. We chatted a bit and she said it was the most awful day of work. "You're doing such a great job. All of you are! Thank you so much."

If you've ever seen a person's energy rise, you'd know what I'm talking about. Simple words of thanks truly brought people up. And each time I shared my gratitude with someone, I felt better too.

We ultimately made it onto our plane, met a charming college student named Clare, and next thing you know we're on the curb waiting for our ride home.

When I got home, I found lots of unopened mail. The first envelope I opened was a Christmas card from my friend Laurel. In it she attached a pin. It said "Gratitude Attitude".

Now wasn't THAT the perfect topping to an unusually awesome (yet spiritually rockin) day.


Diana said...


My thoughts and prayers are with you and your mom. Stay strong and positive and soon your mom will be in remission.

Con Carino,
Diana Hernandez

Nancita said...

I really appreciate that! She had a couple of awful weeks... now she's on the mend and then we have to go through icky stuff again. but we all stay in today and not try to control what tomorrow will bring.