I never get tired of watching planes take off, and the bigger they are, the better I like them. For instance, every time I see a 747 lift off the ground, I wonder what fabulous adventure awaits its passengers.
I’m currently watching quite a few 747’s and even a few A-380’s jet off to the far corners of the earth. I’m sitting with my wife Stephanie in the Admiral’s Club at the San Francisco International Airport. Technically, I shouldn’t be watching them. We should be on a flight to Phoenix for the first leg on our way home to St. Louis. But thanks to faulty wiring, a monsoon in the Ohio Valley, or a wicked case of IBS in the abdomen of our pilot, our flight has been delayed by over two hours.
And because our layover in Phoenix was only an hour… guess who’s going to miss their connection?
Back when the airlines didn’t give a rat’s ass about saving money, they used to have exponentially more flights. Think back ten years when you would sometimes get on a flight to find a grand total of eight people… three being the flight attendants.
Once things with the economy went south and jet fuel skyrocketed, the major carriers came to the conclusion that they could save a fair amount of shekels by drastically cutting the number of flights, and overselling the ones remaining.
The result did save them a lot money, but also provided travelers that little extra… something. Now, because every plane is stuffed like a tube of liquid sausage, if you miss a connection due to any type of delay, you almost never get a decent re-route to your destination. I won’t say the name of the airline, but all that the acronym for Alcoholics Anonymous could do for us was a tick shy of miserable.
Thanks for that, AA.
Originally, we weren’t even booked on this flight. When I first found out I was going to be speaking at Stanford Medicine X, I made the assumption that the talk would probably happen on the first two days of the three-day conference. Seriously, who actually does anything on the last day of a conference? It’s usually breakfast, a keynote, lunch, and the door.
So I made a reservation for a 6:30am flight that would get us back to St. Louis in time to spend time with our boys, Sam and Ben.
Well, you know what they say when you assume…
My friend Sarah, who got me on the panel in the first place, informed me that our time was 9:15… on Sunday morning. After a phone call and an additional $ 400 (thank you AA!), our flight was rebooked for 3:45pm. At least we would still get home on Sunday. Barely.
Once we arrived in Palo Alto, we didn’t give another thought to our travel plans as we immersed ourselves into the wonder, awe, exhaustion, and life affirmation that is Stanford Medicine X. Stephanie and I got so much out of the speakers who shared their stories, and even more out of the people we met and befriended.
The panel that I was so blessed to be a part of went off swimmingly. My compatriots Sarah, Pamela, and Bob were so smart and knowledgeable and nice. I actually became smarter via osmosis. At the last minute, we were even able to include my friend Dave from Stupid Cancer to talk about the amazing app Instapeer, and how it is radically changing how young adults with cancer connect with each other.
I could not have been happier with how it went. The reaction from our audience was so positive, and the questions we were able to elicit gave us confidence that we struck a nerve. It was probably one of the top five highlights of my professional life.
I was still riding a natural high when we walked up to the kiosk at SFO to print our boarding passes. My first hint that something was wrong was the bright flashing red light when they found my itinerary. Before I could decipher what was happening, my phone rang.
…said Jane, my robo-caller…
This is Alcoholics Anonymous. You’re going to miss your connection home, which blows a goat. Here’s your only choice… which is actually our choice. We’ll get you to Phoenix. Then, you’re going to wait five hours to take the red-eye to Chicago at 12:45am, but we suggest you eat early, because they shut everything down at 9:00pm at Sky Harbor on a Sunday. After arriving in the crotch-rot that is O’Hare at 6:30am, you’ll have forty-five minutes to choke down a breakfast burrito and sprint like a gazelle to catch your third flight to your final destination. Have a super day!
So we paid the $ 57 per person that the Admirals Club charges for two one-day passes. They killed the thirty-day family-awesome pass in May that would have been a much better value.
Thank you, AA!
After stewing for a few minutes, Stephanie called her mom to tell her the good news while I went foraging for neon-yellow cubes of cheese, pita chips, a surprisingly amazing soup with chicken and lemon and orzo, and two large glasses Pinot Grigio. Tip of the cap to Angela for the full pours, by the way.
After devouring the provisions, Steph and I sat back and reminisced about our favorite speakers of the weekend. There was Jonathan Bush, CEO of athenahealth, who gave possibly the funniest, most-entertaining, and crazy-insightful keynotes I’ve ever heard. You knew you were in for a good time when the first words were…
Well shit. How do you follow the prior speakers? These people are like roses, and I’m just a turd. Thanks Medicine X for exposing my turdness.
There was the panel on the potential opioid epidemic in America, and how my thoughts of it being an either/or issue were so grossly wrong. There are more nuances than you can imagine, and some of the participants got a little chippy with each other. Definitely popcorn worthy.
But then there was Terry Marlin. Terry is a husband and dad who owns a small manufacturing company in Tennessee. He has two sons, Jonah who is twelve, and Emory who is ten. In 2009, both of Terry’s sons were diagnosed with an absolutely horrible disease called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. It’s a disease that robs the body of its physical ability to move… before it kills you in your early to mid-twenties. Since diagnosis, both boys have lost the use of their legs, and Jonah has lost the use of his arms. And things will only get worse.
There is no cure. More than likely, there will be no cure before both boys succumb.
This has not stopped Terry. Together with his wife Sonya, they have raised just shy of a million dollars for research. It is a staggering number, guaranteed to make a very large dent, if not full blown crevice into the scourge of DMD.
But while Terry has hope, there are times when this disease tears at his very soul. His boys ask, “Daddy, you’ve raised so much money. When are we going to be able to walk again?”
At this point, all of us in the audience were in bits. We knew, like Terry knew, that he didn’t have the answer… and possibly if not probably wouldn’t before it was too late for Jonah and Emory. It would be enough to sink anyone into an unquenchable depression.
Yet through his tears, Terry left us with this piece of beauty…
My son has lost the use of his arms and legs, and yes, it’s physically hard on all of us. But whenever I pick him up, I have to wrap his arms around my shoulders. So no matter how hard a time I might have at a given moment, I get to hug my son every day. And that can’t be a bad thing.
And hours later, as Stephanie and I sit in a luxurious lounge with wine and cheese and pita chips and wifi and power outlets and football on twelve televisions, I realize that no matter how bad my day gets, my worst day will never be as hard as Terry’s best day.
But while his hardships are many, his moments of joy dwarf them, because he’s figured out what so many of us haven’t: we have the ability to choose our focal points, and he’s decided to focus on the blessings he has.
So while I could sit here and think about the fact that we’ll be traveling for eight more hours that we should, I will instead pour my energy into embracing the eight more hours that I get to spend with my best friend, my traveling buddy, my forever everything, and the woman who gave me two loves of my life.
And to top it off, some guy sitting across from us in the Alcoholics Anonymous Admirals Club just gave us two free drink tickets on his way out the door. Things are looking up already.
If you would like more information about Terry, Sonya, Jonah, and Emory, I urge you to visit Fight DMD here.
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GPS for the Soul – The Huffington Post
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