That Helpless Feeling

Sometimes, one of the most difficult things to cope with is relinquishing control of a given situation. Here’s one example: I might want a certain task completed at work, and I know how to do it both correctly and efficiently, so I just do it myself — even though I may already be too busy or someone else isn’t quite busy enough. Then, too, are the times when any control you may have is unexpectedly taken away from you, leaving you at the mercy of others.

Those scenarios — when you’re forced to rely on people other than yourself — often require healthy helpings of patience and, for many, faith. Yet, these types of adversities usually end up working themselves out, one way or the other.

One of the most stressful experiences for many is air travel. Just getting to the airport with time to spare for check-ins, security and so forth can be challenging as it is, but then the airlines can wreak havoc with your sanity. My mom experienced that during her recent trip out here for Grace’s dance recital and Zachary’s pre-school graduation.

Mom woke up at 4:15 a.m. May 10 after a fitful night’s sleep — she, as well as many others I know who don’t exactly fly regularly, don’t rest well the night before flying. Her flight was to leave from the Albany (N.Y.) airport at 7 a.m., and it’s about a 45-minute or so drive there from where she lives. She made it in plenty of time, and even got through all the check-in procedures just fine before boarding the plane and starting to relax a little bit. But shortly before the scheduled takeoff, there was an unexpected announcement.

Sure enough, there was some kind of mechanical problem. All the passengers were asked to de-board, and the news quickly went downhill from there. A new part would have to be flown in from somewhere. The flight would be cancelled, and even if passengers caught another plane to Chicago later that day, there was no guarantee they would be able to make connections. At one point, my mom was told she probably wouldn’t be able to fly from Albany to Sioux Falls, S.D., until at least the next Monday.

When my mom called me and told me all this news, I was incredulous. Air fares are seemingly always soaring, and it’s no secret that many airlines are continuing to add various fees to further boost their bottom lines. And this is the kind of service their customers get? This was by no means the first time I’ve heard of such ridiculousness — it was, though, the most personal.

Ultimately, my mom made it to Sioux Falls on Friday, albeit seven hours later than scheduled. Somehow, a part was obtained from close by, the original plane flew from Albany to Chicago, and a new connection to Sioux Falls was booked on a different airline. But talk about no shortage of anxiety along the way — which, Mom said, was alleviated considerably by the friendliness of many passengers just like her who were also trying to make the best of the situation. Sometimes, that’s all we can do, right?

There was certainly not much I could do Tuesday night at the Daily Globe, but it wasn’t because of some news-related dilemma. Far from it, in fact — somehow, I was inadvertently locked in the bathroom.

Thanks to some type of malfunction with the latch (I guess) when new/old sports editor Doug Wolter closed the door, I was stuck. My yells and bangs were quickly heard by Doug, and he soon went to retrieve help in the pressroom facility. The tools we had our disposal were insufficient, so eventually the door was simply broken open with brute force by a co-worker.

From now on, I will always take my cell phone to the restroom. I didn’t Tuesday night, and it’s hard to know exactly how long I’d have been waiting had it been (for example) a Sunday morning, when I sometimes stop by to get an hour of work or so done in complete solitude. Talk about a feeling of helplessness — but even that, I suppose, would have been eventually eradicated.

After all, there’s always a larger lens to see life through than our own little foibles. This week’s devastation near Oklahoma City is only the latest reminder, and we get these constantly. When feeling a certain loss of control or no shortage of stress, I suppose it’s only good to take into account that things could be far, far worse.

Plus, I’ve got to admit, I’m still laughing inside about the bathroom incident.