“Hurry up and wait.”
Your Wellness Team got to travel down to the University of Florida last week to present at the Building Healthy Academic Communities (BHAC) Conference. As fate would have it, we picked a really bad day to fly.
Our flight plan on Wednesday was already going to be a long one, even if things went smoothly. Apparently, there’s no easy way to get from Bozeman to Gainesville, and we were looking at a marathon day that included three flights. At least in that sense, we were mentally prepared for what was to come.
A series of spring storms were ripping their way through the midwest and southeast as we were boarding in Minneapolis for flight #2. We got on our plane, sat for a while, and then they finally kicked us off. The weather in Atlanta was bad, and we were going to wait it out.
No worries. We had some more time in MSP to get lunch and some extra steps. There would be no time for a workout that day, so the plan was to get in as many steps as possible during layovers. We did things that wellness professionals do to entertain themselves in airports. For example, did you know that by taking a 50-meter moving walkway you lose about 20 steps? We know, because we conducted several trials of counting steps with moving walkways vs. regular carpet. At MSP, this kind of thing adds up, as the entire airport is pretty much a series of moving walkways. Of course, if you’re in a hurry, those things are handy. It’s better to miss some steps than miss your flight. But we were in no hurry. “Hurry up and wait” would be our mantra for the foreseeable future.
Finally we boarded. We were still good on time. Our connection in Atlanta would now be short, but I was confident that our plane in Atlanta would be delayed as well. What an understatement. Upon landing in Atlanta, we didn’t have a gate. Hundreds of aircraft from around the country had done what we had done–waited for a clear window of weather, and now we all sat together on the tarmac. After a two-and-a-half hour flight, we sat on the ground for another two hours. The gentleman seated next to us pointed out that usually, if you sit this long in an aircraft, you should get out in Europe. Being that we were only in Atlanta, that statement hurt a little.
When we finally deplaned, the airport was a madhouse. ATL is the world’s busiest airport, and over the course of the next several hours and even days, it would no doubt become the world’s most miserable. We could barely navigate through the terminal. A sense of dread hit when we saw a line with hundreds of people in it—they were waiting to get to a help desk that currently had a staff of one. Later, we would find ourselves in a similar line long into the night.
As part of our Wellness education, we talk a lot about stress hardiness, which is the ability to handle and mitigate stress, and we definitely had a chance to practice our stress hardiness skills amidst the chaos. I took many a deep breath and told myself that this too shall pass. We also had a chance to witness many others who could’ve used a dose of our stress management education—seeing our share of meltdowns and fully grown adults acting as if their situation was somehow special, different, or more important that the thousands of others who were trapped in the exact same ordeal. To be fair though, the combination of crowds and lines, fatigue, and a complete feeling of helplessness will push anyone’s stress limits to the brink.
To make an already long story shorter, our flight would become one of over 3,000 that were cancelled over the weekend. And though we were only a few hours from our final destination, every rental car at the airport had already been taken. We were stranded; completely at the mercy of the airline gods. I realized that the terminal carpet would be our bed that night, but it didn’t matter. I had been up for nearly 22 hours, and I think I could’ve slept on anything.
By some miracle, we were able get out of Alanta Thursday morning on standby, and by perhaps a greater miracle, our bags somehow made it to Gainesville as well! As a consultation prize, the weather in Florida was outstanding—we barely saw a cloud the whole trip. The storms that brought the blue had also brought cooler temps, with highs only in the 70s. The locals were freezing 🙂
After thinking we might miss the whole thing, your Wellness Team was able to present at the BHAC conference after all! We got to share about how we use media (including this blog) and video, in our Wellness program. We felt very proud to talk about our program and our people (YOU!).
Although we were welcomed back home this weekend with snow, after six flights and too many hours of travel to count, it was great to be back in the 406. We knew that we could’ve easily spent our entire trip in Atlanta, like so many others ended up doing.
Now it’s on to the next for your MUS Wellness road-warriors. A 3-hour trip on wheels up to Great Falls College MSU will seem a breeze compared to our travels last week. At least we’ll be in control of the driving this time!
May your next trip be better than our last, but just in case, remember to practice those stress-management skills!