Cross country flying is always an adventure, especially with a 2-year-old in tow. My latest experience was no exception. Last Wednesday I took off from LEX after a great fall trip home to visit both sides of our family. Although we had a great time, we were certainly looking forward to being back in Arizona. Since there are no straight flights from Lexington, I booked a connection through Chicago with a 2-hour layover to give us plenty of time to grab some food and catch our next flight. Everything was going according to schedule and my boy was doing great. I took a quick look at the departure time and boarding gate on the Flight Board and headed through O’Hare to Gate K3. Klay and I grabbed some McD’s chicken nuggets (the only meat, if you can call it, that my kid will eat right now) and headed back to the gate to eat it. I don’t know what it is about flying but I’m kind of an anxious traveler. I don’t ever feel settled until I’m sitting at the gate.
Time to figure out how to kill 2 hours. I got my boy set with a coloring book, some action figures and Temple Run II which he rotated through in addition to say hi to random strangers walking by. With the little man good to go I decided to get lost in Narnia for a little while. I had been listening to the Chronicles and was on book 4 so I figured it would be a good time to resume. On goes my noise-canceling headphones and up goes the volume on my laptop. After listening a while, my internal alarm clock goes off and I start thinking that it must be getting close to boarding time. So I take a quick look at my laptop clock, which does not update according to time-zone, and after adding 3 hours to account for difference I realize that I still have over an hour before my plane leaves. So I continued on my fictional adventure until I looked up at the TV and saw the Royals game come on the screen. Game time was 3pm that day. I remembered because I was bummed that my flight was going to take off 5 minutes before the game. [Insert obscene words that were not verbally expressed]. I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and sure enough my fears were confirmed. I had calculated a 3-hour time difference based on my time in Kentucky, but Chicago is only 2-hours ahead.
Frantically, I grabbed our stuff and threw it in my bag. I’m pretty sure my son said something like – stop freakin’ out dad – in his toddler babble as we rushed over to the Flight Board. I found the flight to Phoenix and beside it read – Departing Gate K5 now boarding. I don’t know if I had misread the board the first time or if they had changed the flight gate, but off we raced around the corner literally 2 gates down the terminal to the correct gate. I wish I could tell you that we got there just in the nick of time, but as I looked out the window there was no plane to be found. It had already departed without us. I got that same pitted feeling in my stomach that you get when you see those flashing lights in your rearview mirror and your about to be pulled over. That sick feeling of anxiety was then overcome by an intense frustration, not at the airline, but with myself. After waiting for over 2 hours to hop a plane for our final destination, we missed it! Not only did this affect me, but my son was counting on me to get him home as well.
As I was reflecting on this situation over the next 5 hours as we waited for a later flight to Phoenix, I came to a conclusion that this was a perfect storm. I was operating on assumptions that were not true and therefore it caused me to have a false assurance in my knowledge. I was incorrect on both the gate and the time and I had no clue. Then, by putting on my headphones I shut myself off from hearing the warning. I’m confident our names were called from the intercom system, but I could not hear it because I was lost in my Narnian world. The only way I was going to make that flight was if someone interrupted me. I needed someone to somehow challenge these assumptions I had made – someone who would find out where I was headed and when. Maybe I would have heard the intercom. Maybe I would have checked my cell phone. Maybe I would have rechecked the Flight Board. I honestly didn’t want to interact with anyone that day, but man, how I wished someone would have interrupted me that afternoon.
I’m fortunate that being at the wrong gate only caused me to miss a flight. I was inconvenience, but we caught another flight later. But Jesus spoke of two gates that have an eternal distinction. “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14
If you get this one wrong it makes all the difference in the world. Is it possible that the people you interact with today are sitting at the wrong gate? Might they be like I was: operating on false assumptions, closed off to the warnings, oblivious of the signs, and distracted by their own little worlds. Maybe the only way they will make their final destination is if someone is willing to interrupt them for a moment. Interrupt someone today and make sure they are sitting at the right gate!
“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.” – Jesus