I’m sitting at Reagan National Airport as I write this blog post.
Shortly I will board a plane and head home to my family. (This turned out not to be at all true–read on!) It’ll be a late night, so I probably won’t do more than say “hello” and “goodnight” to them before heading off to bed. As I contemplate heading home, I’m struck by how people, but especially fathers, readily shift between their many roles. For the past two days at a meeting of program directors from each of the United States and Territories, I’ve been “Indiana”. When I’m at work, I’m “Boss”. At home, I’m “Dad” or to Jenny: “Mr. Buddy”. At the moment, I’m the chunky guy sitting at Qdoba taking advantage of their free beverage refills and complimentary Wi-Fi.
I don’t mind any of these roles. In fact, when things are stressful at work I find myself yearning to be “Daddy” and when things at home are challenging, I wonder how the guy at Qdoba at the airport is doing. I suspect that geography has a little bit to do with the ease of flipping among roles like the channels on a hotel television. The fact that I’m hundreds of miles from home and that, during the week, I commute an hour each way gives me a little time and space to switch between roles. When my family shows up at the office for a visit, I find it more difficult to switch roles in that environment. It’s not easy to be “Boss” and “Daddy” at the same time. Trying to relate to co-workers and family at the same time seems to be particularly challenging for me. I suppose that, although this is probably a skill I could develop, the need doesn’t arise all that often, so maybe I’ll just leave it alone and enjoy the socially-acceptable personality split that comes with being a working father with lots of roles and responsibilities.
How do you handle role-mashups like this?
7:00 pm Update: Within an hour or so after writing this blog post, I also played the role of “The guy whose flight was delayed for over two hours, but because he was pleasant and charming was upgraded to a first class seat for the flight home.” <grin>
10:50 pm – Another update: Charm only goes so far. My 6:30 flight was delayed until 8:30 and then delayed again until 10pm. Before the 10 o’clock hour arrived, they announced that the flight was cancelled. The options that were presented to me:
1. Fly into Cincinnati and ask a friend or family member to pick me up from there and take me home. (That’s about 2.5 hours each way by car.) Won’t ask my family to do that–especially on such short notice!
2. Stay in a hotel, in Pittsburgh, (DC hotels are booked) but the flight wouldn’t leave DC until 11pm and I would have to be back at the Pittsburgh airport for a 5am flight. Sounds like a lot of running around and very little sleep.
3. Stay in the airport terminal overnight and catch a flight at 8am the next morning AND for my troubles I would be presented a $10 meal voucher. This is what I’m doing.
So, here I sit on a bench at Reagan National airport, making friends with the mouse that skitters out from a hole in the wall, around my feet and suitcase and back into the wall when he doesn’t find any snacks. Duncan Donuts is the only restaurant open all night. I may enter into negotiations with the mouse before the night is over.
10:57 pm: Insulin pump runs out of insulin!!!! Oh, come on, drama seekers, of course I carry along extra insulin! No big deal.
11:07 pm: Tweeted to @usairways about my situation and invited them to read this blog as my experience unfolds. (Fingers are crossed for a local hotel and cab fare.)
11:30 pm: Insulin pump must be working because blood sugar levels are dropping fast.
11:32 pm: Pay $6.00 for a stale donut and some chocolate milk.
11:51 pm: A young mom and her tiny baby are thrilled to see husband/daddy get off the plane. The little reunion REALLY makes me wish I were home with my family! But on a lighter note, it seems that stale donuts work just as well as fresh ones for bringing blood sugar levels back up. Medicinal pastry–oh yeah!
11:59pm: I send another tweet to @usairways facetiously asking for a cot or something.
12:23 am – So sleepy: It’s an unsettling feeling to not have a place of your own to lay your head and sleep. I’m getting pretty tired and I’m realizing that I’m going to need to search out a place to sleep. I find myself weighing factors that have never been part of my bedtime routine. I mean, I’ve camped and had to choose a campsite before. I’ve been to parties and events where you ended up choosing which couch or La-Z-boy to crash on. But I’ve never been in such a public place with people milling around and tried to make my bed for the night. A quick stroll to the restroom and back helps me lay out my options. I can find an isolated area where no one seems to be and maybe sleep fairly well. I can find an area most near the police substation–that’s more safe, right? I can try to balance getting some sleep with staying in one of the areas that seems to have regular foot traffic? There’s even a set of benches where people who seem to have a system in place are sleeping–like this might be one of their regular places to catch 40 winks. In the end, I find a group of benches where four or five other guys with laptops are plugged-in and lights-out. Maybe they’re also stranded. At least they have laptops–for some reason that common denominator makes sense as a good enough reason to bed down in this particular area of Reagan National Airport. “Reagan…” I wonder what the Gipper would say about all of this nonsense.
1:27 am: A Spanish-speaking woman who is WIDE awake , very happy, and perhaps a bit inebriated, walks through the concourse carrying on a loud conversation with her male companion waking me up along with several others. She seems miffed when one of the laptop guys a few seats down just shrugs at her when she speaks to him in Spanish. He’s from Nepal, but I guess he must look like a Spanish speaker to her. I contemplate finding a water fountain and taking one of the pain pills that I have with me for the pinched nerve in my back. I decide to forego the water in favor of going back to… hmmm…. we’ll call it “sleep-ish”.
1:31 am: Some tiny winged insect dies immediately after flying up my nose. I go looking for a water fountain after all.
1:59 am: After wandering around a bit, finding a water fountain, taking my pills and filling my eco-friendly re-cycled aluminum water bottle from the fountain I go back for another attempt at sleep among the men with laptops–these are my people.
2:07 am: Just as I am about to close the laptop lid and try to doze again, a cop, carrying a machine gun, strolls by jovially conversing with his colleague–something about living vicariously through his son. Wow, that machine gun seems out of place here. Makes me recall the days of travel immediately following the attacks on 9/11. Gives me a little perspective as I drift off again…. buh bye.
3:00am Hallelujah!: About the time the worker with the motorized buffer came by to polish the marble floors, I remembered seeing a sign for a chapel in the airport earlier in the evening. I stumbled along the concourse, with my suitcase in tow and my prayers were answered when I found a little chapel that, aside from a girl with the name “Emily” on her backpack, an empty, serene little room with benches that didn’t have arms between the seats to keep you from getting entirely comfortable. They did, however, have poky-sharp wooden edges that also seemed to be intended to keep anyone from lying down during their religious experience–or laying over on their layover. Hoping only momentarily that Emily didn’t mind a snorer, I folded myself into a corner pew and dozed off yet again.
4:35am Time to make the donuts: For those who don’t remember the commercials, in the 70s and 80s, Dunkin Donuts was famous for their commercials depicting a man getting up early every day to make the donuts. Turns out that the chapel shares a wall with Dunkin Donuts at DCA and although the donuts aren’t made fresh at the airport each day, they are unpacked with gusto–and using squeaky carts at 4:30am. With the banging and thumping of pastry people unloading donuts, my nearly-ninety minutes of sleep came to an abrupt halt. It’s time to get “up and at ’em” and join the people streaming in and lining up–people complaining about having to get up so early to catch their flights. Poor babies.
5:58 am – Back at the Gate: Although I’m experiencing serious deja vu, I’ve made it through security (with only the standard hassle that comes with all my computer gadgets) and I just had some oatmeal and bacon. With coffee in hand and Sam Cooke on the iPod, I have my fingers crossed that my flight will actually depart at 8:40am and get me home for a nap!
8:00 am – Finally!: Well, I have been told that in about five minutes I will be allowed to board a plane that will take me to Indianapolis this morning. Fingers crossed and ready to be home! I feel sorry for whomever has to sit next to my air-port-scented self on the flight home.
12:05 pm – Home Sweet Home (Final update): I am home, just finished a bite of lunch and am going to get in the shower and try to take a nap and catch up on an incredibly restless and mostly frustrating night. I did, by the way, get a Twitter response from @usairways and I’ll paste it below. No free round trip airfare to an exotic location, and not even an apology, but at least acknowledgement of the situation. I would love to get on my soap box and say that I will never use US Airways again but, alas, my travel is generally booked through the state of Indiana’s travel agent and in the world of “the lowest bidder”, it’s likely that I’ll dance with US Air again.
Lesson learned? In the words of Steve Winwood: “Roll with it baby!”