The Layover

One of the most dreaded parts of any last minute trip to me is getting through the unpleasantness of airport travel. Of taking off shoes and walking through detectors and standing in lines. But my least favorite part is the dreaded plane change.

Yes, I had a layover on this trip to Philadelphia on the way back. I made sure I knew the airport (Dallas-Fort Worth) and that I had two hours (enough time to account for a delay) in between flights. Things were going pretty well, I had time to eat dinner and we were even boarding the plane early when the line stops cold in its track.

The murmurs of people who are stuck in an airport at nearly 9 p.m. on a Sunday begin. “What’s happening?” “Why’d we stop boarding?” Then, over the intercom: “The crew on the plane has told us to hold the boarding. We should start again in about 10 minutes.” Then, without missing a beat, blue lights start flashing and an alarm like a middle school fire drill goes off. Bomp. Bomp. Bomp.

In my head I immediately thought, “This is why I plan ahead so I don’t have layovers.”

I’m a miraculously non-spontaneous person. Here’s an example. I took what I would call an incredibly last minute three day trip to Philadelphia earlier in April.

The point was to have a free, fun, relaxing vacation. That means I oooooonly: looked up the restaurants within walking distance, made sure there was a used bookstore nearby, packed in one small carry-on to make traveling through the airport easier, and researched the highest-ranking free four hour walking tour of the city.

There are all these sayings about the thrill of impulse, that spontaneity breeds authenticity and that organization just sets you up for disappointment. Sheryl Crow wants me to Soak Up The Sun. Tim McGraw wants me to Live Like I Was Dying. In the words of the philosopher Jon Bon Jovi, “it’s my life, it’s now or never, I ain’t gonna live forever, I just want to live while I’m alive.”

But as Oscar Wilde puts briefly “spontaneity is a meticulously prepared art” and as Malcolm Gladwell further explains, “Basketball is an intricate, high-speed game filled with split-second, spontaneous decisions. But that spontaneity is possible only when everyone first engages in hours of highly repetitive and structured practice–perfecting their shooting, dribbling, and passing and running plays over and over again … spontaneity isn’t random.”

That’s the feeling I subscribe to: that planning allows for impulse.

This is of course the rationale of a crazy person – me – but I do all this planning to avoid unpleasantness. And this is what I’m thinking during the Bomp. Bomp. Bomp. that tells us all we’re getting delayed. Now we eventually board another plane and take off for Phoenix but in that time we’re all refugees of that U.S. Airways Flight 468, talking about all the other times we’ve had disastrous layovers. And I realize that each story I’m telling is a slight bit of unplanned chaos before a transformative experience. I once had a delay that had me running through Dallas-Fort Worth with five minutes between the moment my plane landed and the next one took off. But that flight got me to a two-week fellowship in New Orleans that gave me some of my great friends, one of which I saw for the first time in four years on this trip to Philadelphia.

So, like the good word nerd I am, I looked up layover, and this definition will make me rethink my overplanning ways. A layover can be seen as an inconvenience, but really all it is, is a period of rest or waiting before a further stage in a journey.

Or at the very least, it’s a fun story to tell your friends.


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