The weekend when most of the nation was required to “spring forward” is dreaded because in the process, we “lose” an hour. Ironically, that particular Saturday earlier this month found me with time on my hands.
The week before the time change, my wife and I left for an early spring break “vacation.” When you’re retired, it’s something of a contradiction in terms to call any leisure activity a vacation. I mean, it’s a vacation from… what? A normal day finds us sleeping a little later than we once did, lingering a while over breakfast, and then deciding what chores we can put off until tomorrow.
Still, when people retire, the announced plans usually include spending more time with family and finding opportunities to travel. Happily, both of those pursuits were on our agenda for that week.
Alas, all good things must come to an end, and there we were in a North Carolina airport on March 9 waiting for our airplane to arrive so we could fly to Dallas-Fort Worth.
We had barely checked our luggage before the messages starting dinging through the airline’s app on my smart phone. Our flight had been delayed. Similar messages kept repeating at 30-minute intervals, and by the time it was over, the flight had been delayed by almost three hours. Violent weather in Texas that morning had affected airport operations, and those delays extended throughout the day.
We had expected to land, get our car from the parking lot, eat dinner, and then drive home in plenty of time to see the 10 o’clock news. Instead, we didn’t arrive in Brownwood until after midnight.
That’s after midnight, you will recall, on the night we later needed to “spring forward.”
While we waited near the gate, passengers struck up conversations with people we’ve never met and probably will never meet again. A small café and the gift store across the walkway benefited greatly from this situation, but the store’s employee wasn’t totally pleased. She was overheard telling someone that she was required to remain open until the last flight had boarded, and it became apparent that ours was it.
As the delay continued, conversations waned. Many tried to nap. Others picked up their phones — some to surf the internet or check emails, while others actually made calls. For my part, it was impossible not to eavesdrop on a man seated directly behind me. We were sitting back to back, and he made no effort to speak quietly.
I soon determined that while waiting for our flight to take off, he was making the best possible use of this unexpected time he found on his hands. His phone call went something like this:
“Jim, I’ve been meaning to call… I feel so bad. I should have stopped by. I saw Steve yesterday and he told me what was happening… If anyone can beat it, you can. You’ve already proven that twice…”
It went on for maybe 10 minutes. It was poignant.
Obviously, his friend was fighting a serious disease, and for whatever reason, the man had avoided making contact. It happens. We get busy. But fate gave him plenty of time to do what he needed to do.
Each of us has something like this we have intending to do. We need to find the time, and not wait for an unexpected opportunity. That chance may not ever come.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.