28 January, 2014

Reactivity versus Clarity

Sitting in the seat, having just boarded the aircraft, I was feeling a little strange and self-conscious in first class. I hadn’t purchased a first class ticket, but was automatically “upgraded” because I am now an MVP on Alaska, having flown enough miles to qualify. I’d just finished cup of water they’d brought, and was waiting to see a couple of my colleagues boarding the plane after me. They’d walk past me in a few moments, and I would feel self-conscious again, and a little embarrassed, for whatever reason. Then, suddenly, I had a realization: I forgot my car key at the security checkpoint! Holy shit! Normally, I would not take my key out of my coat, but since I was going through the pre-approved line (another benefit of frequent traveling), I was allowed to keep my jacket. To be safe, and not accidentally set off the metal detector, as an afterthought, I removed my car key and a car phone adapter, and placed them in one of the little dishes. A separate dish from the one I’d already placed my phone. And when I passed through security, and collected my belongings, I had only remembered to grab the dish with the phone. 

I have lost my car key. My car is at the airport. I have only one backup key which, for reasons I can’t begin to explain, is IN MY CAR! So now, I will be faced with coming back late at night in two days, with no way of getting in my car, other than calling AAA. This is not looking good.

I jumped up from my seat, and ran to the flight attendant, and they suggested I go to the get assistant (yes, get off the plane) and have them take down my information to see if it can be tracked down and held at security or lost and found for when I return. When I arrived at the gate, the woman at the gate says “Do you want to go back to security and see if they have it? The doors don’t close for another 13 minutes. You can probably make it.” We are at the very end of C Gates. I start running, top speed. Sprinting. I arrive at the checkpoint, and find someone who looks like an authority figure, out of the dozen or so TSA agents, and ask them. They check everywhere. No key. They go to the TSA office, and ask if it has turned up. No key. A few minutes have passed, and now I am more concerned with also missing the doors closing. So I turn around, and run back, crestfallen, with my chest pounding, having worked up a pretty decent sweat. When I arrived at the gate, there were still people boarding. They asked me at the gate if I found what I was looking for. No. When I got back on the plane, they asked me if I was all set. No, but what can you do? I was messaging my girlfriend, lamenting the nightmare of pain-in-the-ass that I will surely be facing when I get back to Seattle at 10pm on Thursday. 

I sat back down in my seat. Opened the pocket of my jacket, which I’d left on the seat. And, of course, my key and the phone charger were in the pocket. Where else would they be?

In hindsight, there was a fleeting moment, when sprinting toward the TSA counter, where it occurred to me that I hadn’t even bothered to check if I had the key on me. I was so sure that I hadn’t picked up that dish, that I trusted my recollection of what I’d done more than I should have. So much that I didn’t even make the obvious check. Instead, I bolted through the airport like O.J. Simpson.

The point here is about reactivity. Losing the car key would be a minor kind of emergency. Not a fire. Not a severed limb. But a pretty big inconvenience that should be addressed urgently if at all possible. Especially, when considering the circumstances of a plane about to leave a gate. And the urgency caused me to abandon virtually all rational thought and reason, skipping over the “easy solutions” and going right to the disaster management mode. 

When I found the key, a flight attendant walked over to me to check on what my plan was for dealing with the problem, and I showed him the key, and we laughed. I asked him to promise not to tell anyone. Shit happens, right? All’s well that ends well, right? 

But the lesson here is that the time where clarity, discernment, and intelligence, versus reactivity, is more critical is when you are actually in an urgent or emergent situation. It’s really easy to have discernment about how deep to go in your Triangle pose, when you’re in the comfort of a yoga studio, with nowhere to be, and nothing to do, except Triangle pose. I guess I failed the test? But not necessarily, if all was well that ended well. I got a little life lesson. A reminder not to react. A reminder to stop and breathe and come up with a plan. The 30 seconds it would have taken me to look in my jacket were 30 seconds I could afford. I also learned that having my spare key IN MY CAR is probably something to rethink, yeah? 

I even wonder if my uneasiness about being in first class led to me manufacturing this crisis...

But it’s okay. Life gives us plenty of opportunities to learn. Some of them, harmless, even.

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