By Cindy Dollar
I attended the biggest slumber party I’ve ever been to when I slept in Chicago O’Hare International Airport on Thursday night, September 19th. My accommodations in Terminal 3, between Concourse K and Concourse L, included a metal frame Coleman cot with a mesh mattress, a small airline pillow, and a thin polyester flannel blanket. The next morning I received a goodie-bag containing toothpaste, a tiny toothbrush, a face-wipe, a packet of tissues, and a one-ounce bottle of moisturizer. I wish I’d had all those the night before. In all honesty, though, I had an airline-approved plastic bag containing toiletries of my own.
I had never had such an experience in my life and I got to watch myself in the arena of “this has never happened before.” I observed my emotions and reactions as one after another, beginning at 7:00 a.m., all three flights that I was booked on were canceled from Charlotte to Chicago.
Due to storms in the Midwest, numerous flights out of Chicago were canceled, stranding people from all over the world. Travel plans changed moment to moment. Two women were on their way to a wedding in San Antonio and were rerouted into Austin. My new friend, Vicky from Tampa, was on her way to visit her 78-year-old mother in northern Michigan. Here we were—a microcosm of the whole world—having a slumber party. Vicky slept one foot away from me on her cot. On the other side of me was a five-year-old, dark-haired, dark-eyed boy, who slept in his dinosaur pajamas, curled up next to his mom. We never made eye contact.
Every day is a “this has never happened before” day. Every day. Yet, most of the time, I go through it as if I know what’s going to happen. Perhaps you do that, too. That night in Chicago, I watched the unfolding of the evening with rapt interest and wonder. I let go of what I thought was going to happen so that I could experience what did happen.
I experienced the kindness of an employee at Barbara’s Bookstore, who brought a stepstool for me to sit on while I charged my phone, and spoke with Tammy, an American Airlines agent in Dallas, who rebooked me on a flight back home.
I experienced the cold of sleeping on a mesh cot in an air-conditioned, brightly lit airline terminal.
I experienced waking up at 2:38 a.m. and not going back to sleep. As I arose, a man asked me for the pillow and blanket I’d been using. I watched him take it to a woman with a child. I freshened up and wandered through the airport, pulling my roll-y suitcase behind me, my backpack a familiar presence on my back.
I watched airport personnel gently wake up sleepy travelers as the airport reopened. I watched employees arrive to clean the floors, sell coffee, open up security lines, and re-route luggage. As I watched the day unfold, I had the opportunity to see it as “this has never happened before.” I guessed that perhaps the morning was the same as ever for those airline employees. Although the night had been eventful for me, no one in Asheville knew about it. My friends and family in North Carolina had had their own experiences that didn’t involve me.
All in all, I wouldn’t trade that big slumber party for anything. I know for a fact that I do not know what the day will bring. Today, I vow to show up to my life with wonder, because that’s what life is filled with—wonder. I invite you to wonder, too.
Love and Namaste,