My wife and I recently traveled to Texas to visit our son and daughter-in-law and to do a little hiking in the Hill Country. For many weeks before our trip, I researched flights, car rentals, lodging and hiking trails. I usually did this at night, when I was already tired, which might explain some of the trouble we had on our travels.
I booked our flight flights on Southwest and kicked in the extra money to be in the first group of borders. (Southwest does not assign seats but does arrange boarding order.) On our way to the airport, we stopped at Ikea to pick up some shelving for our other son and daughter-in-law, who had checked inventory online to make sure we wouldn’t waste our time.
But the inventory list was off, and we were unable to get all the shelves that were needed. By the time we left Ikea, I was getting anxious about the time. The airport wasn’t far, but finding off-site parking and getting a shuttle took time. Getting through security was delayed. For some reason, TSA agents always seem to choose me to search, and it happened again: “I’m just going to slip my hand beneath the waistband of your pants…” (“You’re going to do what?”)
We hadn’t eaten, but I thought we would have time to grab a quick bite at McDonald’s. I was wrong. Our flight had been changed to a different gate, and by the time we got there the early boarding group, of which we were supposed to be part, had already boarded. My hopes for an exit seat and a little extra room for my 6-foot-4 frame were dashed.
That wasn’t the worst part. I used to get a stabbing pain — like an icepick right through the eye — a few minutes into the descent. Though it only lasted for 30 seconds or so, it would bring tears to my eyes. I hadn’t had that pain since I underwent surgery to straighten my nose five or six years ago — until this trip. This time the icepick went right between my eyes.
When we got to Texas, I discovered I had booked our rental car at the wrong airport. I asked the agent if we could change airports, and he said, “Sure. Just let me calculate the cost.” Instead of $248, the cost would now be $798. So, we grabbed a shuttle back to the airport, hopped aboard a taxi, and $65 dollars and about an hour later were at the right car rental place.
By the time we started the 45-minute drive to our hotel it was 11 p.m. Unfortunately, our GPS couldn’t find the hotel, and neither could we. Nor could anyone else — I asked three people. Our 45-minute drive took an hour-and-a-half.
The next morning, we discovered the liftgate on the rental car didn’t work — the car I rented so we would have room for family to ride. And when it started misting, it became clear the washer fluid reservoir was dry.
So, pretty much everything that could go wrong did go wrong. I was tired and frustrated, and already fretting about returning the rental car on our trip home. But the return trip could not have gone better. The rental car company charged less than expected. A taxi was already at the facility, as if waiting for us, and charged just a little more than half the fare of the first cab. When we arrived at the airport, we discovered we had TSA pre-clearance — don’t know why, but we weren’t complaining. Though we were the 29th and 30th people in line, respectively, we somehow got first row seats — the most legroom on the plane. There were no icepicks on the way home, and the plane touched down about a half-hour before our ETA.
If I could change one thing about this experience, it wouldn’t be the rental car or the icepick pain, it would be … me. I would relax. “Each day has enough trouble of its own,” Jesus reminded us, and isn’t it true? Yet he managed to move through the world in a relaxed and confident manner, though the troubles he faced were bigger than rental cars and 30-second pains. I hope to learn from him to do the same.
— Shayne Looper is the pastor of Lockwood Community Church in Branch County (Mich.). Read more at shaynelooper.com.