Today was not a good day for me.. Or, at least, I didn’t think it was. Frankly, I’m still unsure. One thing’s for sure, today was a day.
9 hours earlier:
I murmured apologies to my VP, air-kissed my L’Oreal co-workers goodbye and danced out of The Carlton Hotel and onto Madison Avenue like I was in my ballerina days, and back at BDC.
I had a nice French roast coffee that I’d spiked with Bailey’s in one hand, and hailed a taxi with the other. Me and my crop-top… And my statement necklace… We didn’t know the day we had in store for us.
I was thrilled to be starting my weekend at 3 p.m., a Summertime luxury I rarely have anymore, working in big, bad corporate America.
I was set to land in Rochester at 6:06 p.m., where I’d drink rosé and share makeup with my mom in her new Park Ave apartment.. It is after all, the night of her birthday party!
When the traffic started I felt frustrated.. Not nervous, but more, irritated. “I left an off-site training day 3 hours early to be stuck in this”, I spat in my head while refreshing my mobile email and Instagram pages simultaneously. About 45 minutes into traffic, and 25 minutes away from JFK, I checked my Delta app, (which I of course use, as a Sky Miles rewards member), to see that my flight had been pushed back 30 minutes.
“Ah, just enough time to get through security without rushing”, I sighed as I slinked back into the cab’s leather seat.
About 20 minutes later I glanced down at my gold Skagen and felt a pang of nervousness when I realized I only had an hour to both get through security and rush to the gate.
“Nothing I haven’t done before”, I assured, as I remembered my trips to Madrid and Milan that were not only rushed and anxiety induced, but also completely and utterly foreign.
Another refresh of my Delta app gave me the not-so-good news that the flight out was now delayed a full hour. I grunted aloud at the thought of not arriving until 7 p.m., and having to rush through wine-time and skip straight to the appetizer round!
I called my dad pissed off, and he reminded me that there are worse things in life.
“That’s true…” I allowed myself to realize, as my mind went to far worse case scenarios like sickness, being unemployed, or- gasp– my jeans not fitting. “At least I can have a glass of wine now”, I thought.
Well refresh after refresh and long story short, my flight was eventually delayed 3 more times, with an inbound time into Rochester at 9 p.m… An arrival time that, if I were lucky, would allow me to attend the latter half of my mom’s party but sans makeup and completely annoyed.
I called my dad, (are you seeing a pattern yet?) practically near tears, the lump in my throat standing in as my temporary excuse to skip dinner.
“Just get some dinner and relax” he told me, not yet breeching annoyance but certainly growing weary with defeat.
I had decided that “dinner” would then be another glass of wine and some $9 miso soup.
I pulled out Slaughterhouse Five (strangely the only book I had available to me at the time) and tried my best to read myself into relaxation.
There was a reason I couldn’t get through this during AP Lit. Billy Pilgrim just didn’t turn me on, and in my apparent boredom I finished my glass of wine and was off to do more complaining or binge-drinking.
So it goes.
At this point I had about 20 minutes before my 9 p.m. arrival time Delta flight was set to depart. I made my way back to the gate to find that, in my absence, they had ordered sandwiches and sodas for the pissed off passengers. I angrily grabbed a turkey sandwich and hastily ate only the deli meat and American cheese off of it. In equal haste, I made a big to-do about throwing away the remaining bread and sliced tomato.
Just as I was finally at peace with my 3 hour delay, just as I finally packed up to board and finally text my dad something positive and generally encouraging, it happens.
“Ladies and gentlemen flight 1098 with service to Rochester has been cancelled”, a bored sounding Latina woman announces over the loud-speaker.
I’ve always been a crier. You can find me crying in the shower nearly every time I wash my hair, or see alligator tears rolling down my face during any given workday. It’s just how I’ve always been.
But this crying was sort of just a catalytic, completely human response to what was happening.
So I left an important meeting with my company’s VICE PRESIDENT to take a half of a VACATION DAY of which I only have NINE PER CALENDAR YEAR to fly out for my mom’s BIRTHDAY PARTY and now it’s just not even an option.
Of course I cried. I cried the pathetic, wiping-them-away-as-they-come-but-relentlessly-letting-them-fall-cry.
In an impulsive and emotion-driven move I decided to book an overpriced one-way flight home on a competitive airline. I left the last of my tears in Terminal 2 as I boarded Airtran to get a boarding pass and go through security all over again.
5 hours earlier:
Knowing that I would be home at least at some point tonight had given me the comfort that I needed to hold me over for the next 3 and half hours until my impulse-buy flight home was set to depart. Once at the gate, with red brimmed eyes and a sodium bloat leading me to now regret my crop-top “airport chic” choice of attire, I slumped back into a gate holding area chair and contemplated if I should or should not get another $14 glass of wine.
“It’s you again!” a nice, grey-haired man said to me when he arrived at the new Rochester-bound JetBlue gate. He was a little too smiley for my liking, but with my newfound desire to redeem this so far awful day/night, I decided to engage in conversation with him anyway.
“So I see you had the same idea” I offered, mustering up as much “I’m not a murderess” as I could.
He too was on the cancelled Delta flight to Rochester, so he must have recognized me from the three hours of waiting together in the same gate.. That or the hysterical crying that erupted from me post cancellation announcement. Either way, he seemed like a nice older guy, he kind of reminded me of my dad, so I started talking to him.
He was from Rochester and was in the city for business. “Is Rochester your home too?” He asked.
“Yes”, I said reflexively. “Well, it’s my home in that it’s where I’m from… I reside in New York City now actually”, I corrected.
Because that’s all you can ever do in New York City, right? Reside. No one calls it “home”, because it’s never really anyone’s home as much as it’s one’s place of residence. Much like the difference between living and existing.
Anyway, we got to chatting and he told me about his son, a twenty-four year old kid who graduated from Bucknell and now lives in Manhattan and works at a hedge fund.
Maybe it was the wine and exhaustion, or maybe it was the simple truth that I’m truly and utterly delusional, but here is where my mind went…
“This son of his is going to be my husband”, I thought with such vigor that anyone else inside my head would believe me immediately.
“Everything happens for a reason, and the reason that today’s flight was cancelled and the reason that I dropped $250 on a one-way flight home was to meet this man and, then meet his son and marry him and live happily ever after”.
My genuine thought process was truly that.
My mom has always told me “everything happens for a reason, Haley”. A notion that I’m now starting to believe is just verbiage set to comfort me when I fall down and scrape my knee, or end up being dumbed by the guy I love outside of Penn Station.
So here I am, inside my own head thinking about this newfound future husband of mine that I met by way of fate and expensive airfare, and he says it..
“Yeah, him and his girlfriend just love their new place”, his dad said to me, with a level of casualness that clearly proved he had no clue he had just shattered my whole thought.
“Oh that’s great! Wherebouts do they live”, I asked with a smile.
If nothing else I’ve always been an actress. I can be speaking to you head on with a smile and body language and conversation ability that would cause you to think I’m just your biggest fan in the world, where, really, I’m sitting there thinking about how shallow and senseless you are, and how fat you look in that dress.
So somehow I got myself out of conversation with the man. I wished his son good luck, and found another place to sit and wait for the remaining 3 hours.. Someplace closer to the bar.
Like the clinical psycho that I undoubtedly am, I found his son online immediately. I had everything I needed to know to find him. First name, university, job-title and place of residence. He popped up immediately. He wasn’t necessarily cute, but he wasn’t not cute either.
“Yeah I could definitely be in love with him”, I thought, wearing my crazy on my sleeve.
I realized now, in this moment, googling airport man’s son, that fate doesn’t exist.
There’s no such this as “destiny”, and maybe things don’t at all “happen for a reason”. Maybe there’s no fucking rhyme or reason to any of this. Maybe my flight just got cancelled because Delta is a shitty airline. Maybe I just fell of my bike because I lack basic motor skills and maybe I got dumped outside of Penn Station because life is just life.
That’s what I had thought and so I decided to go have another glass of wine.
“Had enough sitting?” the bartender offered with a smile after I ordered my glass of Sauv Blanc and proceeded to stand despite the empty seats surrounding me.
“Yeah, I’ve been sitting for 13 hours today”, I replied curtly.
He poured my glass of wine and walked away without making eye contact again.
I was completely happy in my own misery as I shifted my weight and sipped my wine thinking about what a truly awful existence we bear here on this planet.
A busty blonde woman with huge lips drunkenly plopped down in the seat next to me. Her apparent inebriation and overall demeanour would be enough to piss off your average airport drinker. Especially one who had both a flight and marriage cancelled all within the past 5 hours! I however, liked her immediately. I stared at her and studied her for a few minutes, and then decided that she was probably the only person in this airport who didn’t piss me off.
She was looking for a place to charge her phone, so I offered her the USB part of my laptop.
“Thank you thank you sweetie” she said to me while flagging down the bartender.
After another moment or two she looked at me and started to tell me what a smart girl I was.
I thought it was strange that someone would offer that, of all things, completely out of the blue and without really talking to me, but because she was intriguing I turned to her and offered my attention.
She began to tell me that she knew I was smart, “a very clever girl”, but told me that if I want to be successful I need to focus more on numbers than opinions. She then had a slightly strained look on her face for a minute, and then confirmed to both herself and to me that numbers were a focal point for me.
“Yes, they’re telling me numbers sweetie.. They’re telling me that opinions aren’t what you need to be offering right now, and that you need to focus on numbers for success”.
It was then I realized that she was, as we say, connected.
“Are you like, connected” I asked, with eyes so wide I imagined myself as a PowerPuff girl.
“Yes I am, I’m a gypsy” she told me, taking a big gulp of clear alcohol that I didn’t even see the bartender put in front of her.
“This is what I’m getting right now, from you” she started.
She then proceeded to tell me everything that I already knew about my own life, and offered some insight on things that I sort of knew but wasn’t really sure about.
She had insights on my career, my parents, my personality. She told me things I needed to hear, things I wouldn’t have otherwise heard.
And this gypsy was truly spot on with each statement or piece of advice.
We talked for what must have been an hour or so, because I heard my flight boarding announcement over the loudspeaker. I started to take out my wallet to pay for my drink but she wouldn’t allow me.
“No sweetie, we’ve got this one”, she said. Who “we” is I do not know, but I obliged.
As I turned to walk to my gate she stretched out her arms for a hug. I hugged her and she planted a big kiss on my cheek.
I flew home with a strange sense of serenity and calmness.
It wasn’t until late tonight, around 1:30 a.m. when I was wiping the pink lipstick off of my face that I realized that everything truly does happen for a reason.