Lessons from the Road
Zen and the Art of Travel Delay
Thursday, December 7, 2017
by: Sally Garrison, Managing Attorney, Baer & Timberlake, P.C.

Section: WILLed Q4 2017 (Please click on article title to read full article)

Not long ago, I was returning from a trip to Spain – the country that unanimously rejected orderly lines in favor of milling about until you get to the front. My point of entry to the USA was Detroit. I love Detroit – the home of Motown Records! Stevie Wonder? Marvin Gaye? Smokey Robinson? Yes, please! But, I realize that Detroit is not everyone’s jam. Specifically, it was not the jam of a certain middle-aged gentleman who was smack-dab in the middle of a full-blown, four-alarm, profanity-laced breakdown in the international terminal. I am not one to interrupt performance art, but this guy was violating various social norms at the expense of one unimpressed-looking airline representative. Before I could interrupt this improvisational act in the name of good manners, the airline representative shut it down. I wish I could remember her exact turn of phrase; it was effective. He was left speechless and alone. Later, after the representative was gone, he found some additional courage and loudly cursed his way down the terminal. He was an artist – an artist without an upgrade, flight change, confirmed seat, or comped hotel room. This was a man willing to suffer for his art.
Travel is fun and adventurous. It can also make you nuts if you let it. It all boils down to control and acceptance. When you travel, you give up some level of control. Inconvenient things will happen. You have a choice on how to handle inconvenience: you can accept your new reality, you can stew on it and ruin your day, or you can flip smooth out. In such situations, three Buddhist teachings come to mind:
Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.
(Or from a gate agent when you are too late to board.)
You only lose what you cling to.
(Like your sanity, reputation, and schedule.)
Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
(And we know you were drinking something, sir.)
It is a fundamental truth that no passenger has improved their lot by verbally abusing a representative. And while a verbal catharsis may seem fleeting, it will likely follow you. Airlines have developed detailed reports to inform flight attendants of your status, occupation, preferences, and pre-boarding behavior. That same attendant that knew 7B is a frequent flyer with a vegetarian preference, will also know that he was intoxicated and cursed a blue streak at the gate agent.[1] Rather than enduring a lifetime of notated airline judgment, maybe just accept your new reality and enjoy some “me time” in Motor City. Further, should you find your flight delayed or canceled, be nice! Airlines are not legally required to provide vouchers for hotels or food when a flight is delayed or cancelled.[2] Their obligations are set out in their contracts of carriage, which generally only require “reasonable” accommodation, like booking you on the next available flight. Consequently, the accommodations you seek are generally left to the airline’s discretion. With that in mind, your best bet is to ask for accommodation nicely.
Which leads us to Karma: the intention of your deeds leads to future consequences. If the threat of an airline dossier containing the details of your bad behavior is not motivation enough, society will do its part to regulate such antisocial behavior. For example, the passenger shaming Instagram account[3] will astound you with the horribly inconsiderate and aberrant behavior of airline passengers. Rated #20 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s “100 Best Instagram Accounts” and with over one million followers, you might find your performance art going viral. If flight delays cause you to go into a tailspin, imagine what internet shaming will do.
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Comments (1)
Reyna Joynerr
12/18/2017 2:49:39 PM
Great insights, Sally! Unfortunately I too, have witnessed the airport meltdown and it always comes with the rise of anxiety within me. You are 100% correct in your retort for control and acceptance. Life changes when you realize the energy you put out into the world, is the energy you attract. Thanks for the article.

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