Monday, March 31, 2008

The Benefits of Flexibility

I spent last weekend in Park City, Utah, with one of my best friends, Greg. We traveled together last year in Europe, and I hadn't seen him since leaving him at an airport outside Frankfurt, Germany last September. So when Greg invited me to visit him and his family in Utah for some spring skiing, I was pretty excited.

Last week, I worked Monday instead of Friday. That meant I only needed to take two hours off on Thursday afternoon to catch my plane, instead of those two hours and Friday. So I drove to the airport, parked in the Mt Elbert lot, and flew out of Denver Thursday evening. Although Greg was sick with the flu while I was visiting, we still had a great time. He was in a NyQuil induced haze for a good part of Friday morning, but he recovered in time to hit the hot tub and watch some of the NCAA tourney. On Saturday we skied at Robert Redford's resort, Sundance. Redford and a group of investors purchased the approximately 5000 acres in the late 1960s, but have only allowed about 450 to be developed, preserving the remainder. The three-lift resort is steeper than anticipated, cheaper than it's competitors, and powered by wind. Oh, and it's only 15 miles from Utah's "front range," which makes it an easy commute if you live anywhere near Provo.

Greg and I were scheduled to flight out of Salt Lake City early on Sunday (different flights), so his dad dropped us off at 6:50, one hour before my flight. We sailed through security and were standing at my gate when the airline representative announced that the flight was overbooked and they needed volunteers to give up their seats in exchange for a later flight and a free ticket on United anywhere in the contiguous United States. United uses Denver as a hub, and I couldn't get to the counter quickly enough. I cashed in and walked with Greg to his gate. After saying goodbye (again at an airport), I went back to my new gate, sat down and started reading. A beautiful German woman sat down next to me, we started talking, and my flight was again overbooked.

I collected my second free ticket of the day, got bumped to a flight 2 hours later, and said goodbye to the beautiful German woman as she boarded the flight to Denver. Almost jokingly, I said we should have lunch in Denver later if we ran into one another at the airport. I tried to get bumped again, but my third flight of the day wasn't overbooked. I landed in Denver and thought that because my bags had been sitting outside of carousel 15 since 9am, a few more minutes wouldn't hurt. As I was walking through the airport, I saw two flights going to Frankfurt, and stopped to look for the German woman with whom I'd been talking in Salt Lake City. No sign. I turned around and almost ran into a representative from United, and I asked her if any other flights were going to Frankfurt that day. She told me the gate, and again, unrestrained by time, I walked that way. Yeah, you know where this is going...

I wasn't even to the gate when I saw Simone walking off an escalator in front of me. She'd been sleeping upstairs in the airport, and if she hadn't come down at exactly that time, I never would have seen her. We had lunch and talked all afternoon before I walked her to her gate she flew home. It was incredible.

It's unique when you're on the same wavelength as someone else, but you know it can't last. You're forced to live the moment without thinking about the past or future, and the result is beautifully simple. In a few hours, you can learn so much about someone that you're shocked, and you miss them when they leave. Maybe it's the power of honesty. Maybe it's the connection you make when you realize that someone from another part of the world understands a situation that you thought was unique to your own life. But you've got to be willing to give it a shot.

Here's to life.


Andrew said...

Well said. And thanks for the awesome gift.

brett said...

Flexibility also makes one able to touch ones toes, and is advantageous for sports such as ultimate frisbee and basketball, which require balance and the ability to change direction easily, both being things that flexibility improves.