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.
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.