That Time We Flew To Florida For Lunch

Have you ever looked at your life in reflection and put certain periods of your life in to categories?  The “Remember Whens” kind of categories.  Like, “remember when we didn’t have kids we used to”, or “remember when the kids were little and we always”, or “remember when we lived paycheck to paycheck”, or “remember when you got that promotion and everything changed”.

This is about that time we flew to Florida for lunch.

Around March of this year my husband made flight reservations to fly to Phoenix for a family wedding.  He flew to the wedding with his sisters.  On the return flight he took a voluntary “bump” off of his flight because it was overbooked.  The carrier, Southwest, gave my husband a $500 travel voucher.   Before he even got home we had a couple of conversations about places we could go using this voucher.   The kind of conversation you think of the wildest and craziest things to do because a nice little part of it will be free.  We talked about flying back to Phoenix, to Disney, or places we had not yet seen.

We took Dr. Seuss’s advice seriously considering all of the places we could go.

We hadn’t made any travel plans for the summer and even on his return from that wedding we had not done anything more than talk.  Though that talk became more animated with the voucher.   Turns out that not making plans was a good plan in it’s self.  My husband lost his job.  We didn’t see it coming and had actually been anticipating changes in his job that would make it even better than what it has been.  It was an emotional shock, to him, and to me to see this happen to him.  We started thinking about things other than travel.  He looked in to job opportunities, searching for jobs the very day he was told.  We adjusted our spending and our saving.  I kept working.  He kept working to fulfill his work obligations to the end of his contract.

During this time I kept writing and doodling.  My husband always supporting me.  Reading other bloggers posts and commenting on what others said on my posts.  He takes an active interest in my writing and drawing and anything to do with my life.  He kind of likes me.  And no matter what he was going through, he didn’t withdraw or lessen his support.   In our house, if he is in the home when I finish writing something and I yell “blog” he goes to read it like he has no other worries going on.  We enjoy the opportunity that writing in today’s internet age gives us.   We learn of lives we otherwise wouldn’t even know existed, we learn of cultures, stories, events and worlds we never would have been exposed to.

Once the shock of his losing his job settled into a numbness we started once again talking about chances and opportunities for ourselves.  We had the $500 travel voucher.  I needed a vacation.   He deserved a vacation.  But I didn’t want to spend money.  I didn’t mind using the voucher to “go” but I didn’t want to use money to “be” anywhere else.

One day we were talking about the “bloggers” of the world we had come to be familiar with.  We talked about Bill from “Dealing With COPD” and he stops mid-conversation and says “let’s go see Bill”.  I told him that would be great.  But I didn’t want to spend money on hotels etc.   We jokingly started talking about going to Florida to have lunch with him.   And fly back the same day.  It would be free but for the cost of lunch.  Our conversation soon stopped being a joke.  I contacted Bill to see if this was something he would be interested in.  Meeting strangers who would fly in just for lunch.  Because there is nothing creeper-like about that.  Nothing at all.

Bill was willing to take the risk.

We didn’t tell many about it.  The reaction from the few we did tell was mixed.  Some thought we were crazy for “wasting” a travel opportunity for a day to go have lunch in another state.   Some thought it was a brilliant idea.

We thought it was amazing.  And funny.  My husband started telling me he was going to tell everyone that I was flying to Florida to meet a man I met on line.

So the day arrived.   Bill refused to let us rent a car and was going to pick us up in “Big Red” with his wife.  We got up at 3:06 a.m. and were driving to the airport by 3:45 a.m.   We were in the plane by 6:00 a.m.

Flying Southwest

On the airplane the Flight Attendant asked us our plans while we were waiting for folks to settle and she stood next to her.  We told her we were flying to Florida for lunch.  We chuckled.  She asked why and we told her the story about Bill.  Her eyes flashed brightly and she said it was an amazing thing to do.   She made a point of telling us when we left to have a wonderful time.  She said it was a “generous thing to do with your time”.    I smiled and thanked her and thought it was an amazing opportunity we had been given.  I didn’t see ‘us’ as being generous.  Southwest footed this bill.   I think most people given an opportunity would take a day, take a plane, share a meal with someone you want to meet and feel happy about it.

The day was turning out perfect.  No airport hassles.  The Southwest folks were wonderful from check-in to serving us to talking with us.  I felt positive vibes all day.

We walked out of Tampa’s doors and right then and there were Bill and his wife pulling up to get us.  Perfect timing and no denying it was him in Big Red.   They got out, quick hugs and handshakes so we didn’t get yelled at by the security and we all jumped in and headed out to see Tampa.   They proudly showed off Tampa.   All the while my daughter sending me texts wanting to know how they were supposed to know if these people were killers or not.  To be fair to her I would never allow her to fly off to meet people she “met on line”.  But I freely admit to the hypocrisy and evoke parental rights when I say that in this case she can do as I say not as I do.

We stopped for a wonderful chocolate mousse cake in Dunedin.  We later had lunch at the Rusty Pelican and met Sandy.  You should go there and ask for her.  She’ll treat you right.  Tell her I sent you!


We had a fabulous show of clouds all day long.  Sadly I can’t capture the intensity of them.


The trees in Tampa are amazing.  I would go back just to look at them.


This is about one third or one fourth of what used to be a house.  I couldn’t get it all in one picture.  Part of a college now.


Bill and his wife treated us to the sites and flavors all over Tampa.  It was only after buying our foods for the day and us thanking them again on the way back to the airport that he said he had no intention of letting us pay for anything while we were there.   I told him I missed opportunities when I didn’t have him stop at the jewelry stores.  Drat!

We spent seven hours with Bill and his wife.  Not an uncomfortable moment.  Not a wasted second.   Certainly not a wasted opportunity.

They returned us to the airport and my head was swirling with the event.  I was still not ready to end this day.

There was a time in my life when I kept my head down.  I didn’t engage in or with people.  I just went with whatever happened.  It was a way of hiding from life.  No chances.  No goals.  No efforts.  No reaching.

In the last ten years I’ve learned a great deal about existing.  And that I have options.   How I exist is up to me.  There was a time when I never would have imagined a day like today.  But that time no longer ‘is’.   Now I not only look for opportunities, I let myself dream fun and “you’re kidding” kind of things.

When we returned to the airport my head was still open.  I was looking at people  and wondering where they were going.  I sat at a work station at the airport and a fella came up to me and called me “Buddy”.  He asked me if I wanted any of his eggrolls (not a euphemism).  His name was Ryan.  He was a Port Captain and he needed to charge his phone.  I unplugged my phone, plugged his in and he sat on the floor next to me talking with me.  I learned about his girlfriend from Iran and that he likes beer.

On the plane home another man noticed my block “O” shirt and struck up a conversation.  I learned about him growing up in Chicago.  Coming to Columbus.  I learned about education and his career and his children.   He’s 69 and looking for more to do.

This was only one day. A day full of taken opportunities.  I kept my head up.  I don’t have to reflect on what was.    I’ll always be able to say “remember that time we flew to Florida for lunch” and know that this time-is.

Meeting Bill


61 thoughts on “That Time We Flew To Florida For Lunch

  1. What an awesome story. Love how you grabbed the moment. Tampa is a beautiful place to visit with wonderful people. Glad you were able to visit. Thank you for sharing.


  2. I am glad you are realizing, more and more, how simply amazing you are, Colleen.

    That was the perfect way for you and your hubby to spend that travel voucher.

    A day for the ages. Lunch and friendship and sights and sounds and new people halfway across the country. Good God!

    Congratulations to you all, my friend.


    • Thank you Mark!

      I don’t know how amazing I am. But I don’t mind you telling me so. 😉 It really was a great opportunity. And I hope that others get this kind of chance. I think many would do if given that chance. Thank you for having fun with us. 🙂


  3. I am so deeply moved that you did this! For so many reasons but mainly because of our mutual love for our dear friend Bill. Beautiful, all of it. With one sad exception, I’m so sorry to hear your husband lost his job. Got my fingers crossed that a great resolution is around the corner for you two. Love, Paulette ❤


  4. This story is as good as any movie. Imagine that. What a globe-trotter you are, Colleen.
    “Heh. Hubby and I just flew into Tampa for lunch.”
    Love this story and you visited with someone I know from online as well. What a small world but best of all, what a wonderful hubby you have. ❤ Both of you have hearts of gold.


  5. My comment will pale in comparison to your post. What a beautiful way to spend the day. You said some things that have quite a bit of a ring of truth to me. If I could fly in for lunch with someone, you would be one of my first choices. I can’t even begin to tell you how much of what you write, inspires me to “look” at my own thoughts.


    • Aw April!!!! You’re my favorite today! I’m glad to make it on someone’s list!!! I am honored and humbled that anything I write may inspire you. I think those of us who read and write so voraciously do so for just what you said, to “look” at our own thoughts. Thank you for enjoying this with us.


  6. Colleen,

    I was given the gift of your friendship months and months ago, yesterday you gave me the gift of your presence for a day, for lunch. We laughed, we teased, we shared looks and meals, and we had the pleasure of meeting your husband David, truly a great guy and gentleman. Steph and I had the greatest of times. On top of all that we got to host “Jet Setters,” LOL LOL for a day. But now having met you, having given you a hug, and a kiss on the cheek, having held hands for the briefest of periods, I can say without a doubt you are exactly the person you portray in you blog, the love you have for humanity shows in every smile, every twinkle of you eye, your sense of humor, the passion you have for your job, the importance of family, talking to you face to face those 1st 5 minutes showed me there isn’t one I-oh-da of difference between the words you share in your blog and the person you are in real life. The running dialog we shared the rest of the day just solidified my thoughts. Thank you and David so so so very much for taking time to make our day. You both gave me such a wonderful gift. During lunch you presented me with a framed piece of your artwork, depicting you and I. It was all I could do, to not cry. I will cherish it until the end of retirement.

    Thank you, Love Bill


    • Bill….. I’m reading this and my mind is going blank. I’m just smiling. It was such a wonderful experience. It’s amazing how we had never ‘met’ and yet we had much to talk about and already knew enough to ask questions about how things were going.

      I’m glad you like the little picture. 🙂 Some day I’ll have to take pictures of all the ones that didn’t pass muster! 🙂

      Thank YOU and Stephanie for your generosity. ❤ to you both!


  7. What a wonderful day, how blessed I feel to have been able to read it. I loved both the post and Mr. Bill’s response. Brought tears to my eyes. I always love reading Bill’s responses to your posts, so got a kick out of knowing that you spent your day meeting such a funny guy with a large heart. So sorry your hubby lost his job. Will be praying that something awesome comes into his pathway.


    • Thank you Charlene. My husband and I appreciate that. Fingers crossed he is working on a few things that may lead to positive income. 😉

      Bill is exactly in person as he is on the blog. There were no surprises and no let downs. Pure joy he and his wife were. 🙂


  8. I think it is nothing short of fantastic that you did this! What a fun experience and easy to strengthen y’all’s connections! Definitely, I would have been one of those encouraging you to just go, go, go! 🙂 I am glad you did ❤


  9. You catched a fantastic idea and made it real for you and your husbond, wow, so great to hear, that all of you had a fantastic day together. Thanks for sharing this Colleen 😀


  10. Thank you and Dave, Colleen, for your visit. Bill and I enjoyed your visit so much — we must have said more than a dozen times after we dropped you off at the airport “it was a good day!”. Glad you enjoyed the clouds and the trees and most of all the chatter:) When you want to come back this way, let us know. Best of luck as Dave transitions to his new adventure.


    • We loved Tampa Stephanie. But I’m sure it had more to do with the company than the place (though it was beautiful!).

      We have said the same thing every day since. And I suspect we’ll be saying it for a very long time. It’s not every day that goes so perfectly and joyfully. Thank you for sharing it with us.

      We’ll keep you all posted on David’s adventures. 🙂


  11. This is just beautiful! You are so blessed with a wonderful husband, friend and personality. You live life to the fullest .,.. Even if they are pretty crazy i hope I will have a chance to say… Remember when we flew to paris for lunch!


  12. Southwest (one of my favorite carriers), the Rusty Pelican, being in flow, and meeting Bill and his wife. You had all the ingredients you needed to create a lasting, memorable experience. 🙂


    • Eric I have been on Southwest before for short flights. But this day I really paid attention. They were fantastic. Not a sour face or comment or behavior. Very upbeat. I will fly them again if given the chance.


  13. Fantastic! My grandpa retired from United Airlines many years ago and he flew my grandma to New York for lunch once (they lived in Vancouver, WA) since they could both fly for free (an old-fashioned perk, for sure).

    I love your story!


  14. What a beautiful story. I love the impulsivity of your plan! It made perfect sense given your circumstances at the time, and sounds like it made for some wonderful memories. Plus, it’s pretty cool to talk about. I once flew to Canada for a normal two-day weekend while in high school — it was great watching classmates’ eyes bug out when they got such a crazy response to the question “Any plans for the weekend?”


    • “Oh….flying to Canada for the weekend”. 🙂 I can SO relate to that now.

      It did make sense didn’t it? thank you!

      I would encourage anyone getting a chance to do something like this to do it. It felt good all the way around.


  15. A day that certainly will be remembered. Bills comment was gorgeous, your story was heart warming and your hubby David sounds amazing…you are blessed, good people attract good things…you’re such a person. xx


  16. Wow! This sounds like such a lovely trip! And the spontaneousness of it all…have to seize that day before it passes. A great adventure with great people. 🙂


  17. Colleen, what a wonderful idea! You and your husband made the world smaller, and made Bill’s day. Has he written about it? … and by the way, I am proud owner of a few ‘Block O’ items myself, having graduated from THE Ohio State University back in the days of Woody Hayes. Two of my sons also graduated from there, so I have made many a trip to “the 614,” as my sons call it. Small world indeed.


    • He has written about it in my comments. I don’t think he’s done a post about it. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. 🙂 It would be interesting to see his perception of it.

      614 !!!! And Woody Hayes. I don’t care what anyone else says about him, I love him. He did a lot of wonderful things that were forgotten in the moment of regretted anger and frustration. Good to say hello to a Buckeye. I grew up in Clintonville. Just up the street. 😉


  18. I have missed a lot… especially the chocolate mouse cake… That means I don’t have to make it. 🙂 Now I know you didn’t eat a rusty pelican. (joke) Sounds you all had a pleasant time.

    It’s fascinating you “went down” for lunch! I’m also glad you and Po were able to use a voucher for the flight…and that it was apparently a direct flight!


    • Uh….you DO have to make it. 🙂 I want to make a comparison!

      The Rusty Pelican tasted like fish, remember?

      And it was NOT a direct flight, in either direction!!!! 🙂


    • It really was amazing Peter. I can’t tell you how grateful we are we did this. It wasn’t too long after that we were contacted, Bill had passed away. Though we knew it was coming…I don’t think I really expected it. I smile thinking of all of the conversations we had. Thank you for taking the time to enjoy this visit.

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