IMPORTANT NEW NOTES FROM JUSTIN:
US Tour Day 180: Feeling Defeated
I felt utterly defeated by the end of the night. It had been a long two days.
First of all my host in Nashville had to unexpectedly back out. She had to fly to New York suddenly for a photo shoot. It was totally unexpected, and I understood that she needed to do it—I would have done the same thing. She was very apologetic, and we were both disappointed that we wouldn't be able to spend more time together in Nashville.
The main problem was that I was flying in to Nashville with no place to stay and no ride back to my car. She was supposed to host me for the upcoming week. Now all of my things which were in her house had been put in my car. My keys were hidden outside her front door. I could figure out the ride back to my car—there are buses and such. But, the part about the sleeping somewhere besides a 1987 Fiat was more of an issue.
I put an announcement out on my web site asking people if they could pick me up at the airport and host me. One person responded, offering to pick me up and drive me to my car. Nobody offered a place to stay. I checked the internet. There weren't any hostels in Nashville. I could stay in a hotel, except that my financial situation has plummeted from pathetic to dire in the last few days. I've started an all–ramen diet. Well ramen and water.
My mom took pity on me and transfered enough money into my bank account for a hotel, which I booked immediately. I wanted to know I had a place to rest my head once I arrived in Music City USA. I gave them my credit card number and hung up the phone. I was stressed out. Too many things had changed too quickly, and my mind wasn't keeping up. I was trying to remain calm, but it was hard. I felt tired and oppressed by the world. No money, no place to stay, no way to my car, and no idea what would happen next.
I had no idea how much worse it was going to get.
After a night of intermittent sleep, Jennifer dropped me off at the Fort Lauderdale airport for my afternoon flight. The queue at the ticketing counter was the longest I'd ever seen, snaking back and forth like we were at the most popular ride at Disneyland on a summer weekend. Except the people here weren't happy. The gorgeous, tanned people of Florida were clad in frowns and tense shoulders and worried postures. A frantic customer service agent screamed to the people, "Nobody is going anywhere for at least three hours. Expect your flight to be delayed no less than three hours. All runways are shut down. I have no more answers for you right now."
I shrugged. It wasn't worth getting upset about. It's not like I had anyplace to get to in Nashville anyways. I figured I'd just sit in the airport and work until it was time for my flight.
The line moved at glacial speeds, if that fast. Representatives from the airlines told us that strong crosswinds had caused two planes to blow tires while landing at the airport that day. Both planes crashed into the runway—one a FedEx plane and one a passenger plane. I thought about calling my mom to tell her what was going on, but I decided that the last thing I should do is tell her about how planes are crashing like coke fiends after a week long bender at the airport I was planning to fly out of.
My emotional weather was mostly clear and calm with traces of cloudy fear and uncertainty creeping in.
They rebooked me on a 5 PM flight. The ticket woman informed me that it would most likely not fly out until 8 PM at the very earliest. Fine by me! I made sure to smile a lot at her. She was probably having a hard day. The costumers seemed stressed—unable to control the situation around them. The screaming woman was still screaming out information from time to time, reminding us that we still weren't going anywhere and that the line was still the preferred method for queueing.
Holding my new boarding pass, I slid through the security checkpoint and into a seat at my gate. The hours slipped by quickly. I hopped on the free wireless network and got some work done—wrote emails, pitched an article to a few editors, worked with my web designer, proofed the layout for my album.
And, I got a phone call from one of my oldest friends while I waited. She'd seen my last diary post and was really concerned that I would end up in this far–away city with no place to sleep. She's seen my car and knows that even a limbless, contortionist midget would complain about sleeping in there. Her and her husband offered me a generous donation of $400—the most anyone besides my own mother has ever given to me. I was honored and humbled. It can be hard for me to accept help. Ok, who am I fooling. I have a huge problem with it.
We started to talk about our lives and play catch up when I heard an announcement about my flight over the intercom. I asked her to hold on while I went up to the counter. He had a groomed beard and mustache and a red shirt with the Southwest logo on it. His smile was strong and there was more kindness than I expected as he asked, "Where are you going to?"
His smile wilted. "Can I see your boarding pass and identification?" I obliged. He started in with the bad news, "Justin, I have some bad news for you." It was a redundant statement—as his face had already alerted me. "The last flight to Nashville just left. We tried to call out everyone's name on the intercom to get them switched to that flight. I guess you fell through the cracks because your last name starts with a W and are at the bottom of the list. We really did our best. We tried to get everyone on. I'm really sorry. You can't fly today. We can rebook you for tomorrow, though."
Carrie, I'm going to have to call you back. I hung up the phone. My heart sank. It wasn't the end of the world. It was just that so many little snafus had crept up in the last few days—I wasn't prepared to handle any more. I had reached my maximum capacity for adverse traveling conditions.
Can you put me up in a hotel here? "Well, no. All the hotels are full with staff and other travelers who have been kicked off of flights. I would put you up, but there just aren't any rooms at all in the vicinity.
What about my luggage? "It's probably in Nashville. Probably. I was too beaten down to even sigh. I imagined arriving to Nashville to find that I no longer owned clothing or toiletries. Goodbye assorted pants. Goodbye toothbrush and hair dye and vitamins. Goodbye jacket and gloves and various tight black shirts that all look the same.
I told him how I was a writer and that my host in Nashville backed out at the last minute. I told him how I ran out of money. He was understanding and kind and sincerely wanted to do everything he could to help me. The only problem was that he couldn't do much.
I asked him if he could give me a travel voucher for the inconvenience and he agreed. It wasn't going to pay my bills, but I guess I can't scoff at a pass for $100 worth of travel on his airlines. He also gave me $15 out of his own pocket and told me to go buy myself dinner. I felt better after that. Not entirely better, but better than I was before.
I told him, I'm sorry. I'm just sad and scared and I don't know what to do. I really appreciate your help. I guess this isn't all that bad. I just feel downtrodden right now.
He nodded. My spirits continued to rise.
This is seriously the scariest time I've ever had in my life. But, when I think about it, it really isn't that bad.
He agreed. I felt even better as I talked it out with him.
I guess if this is the worst time in my life, then I'm actually pretty lucky, huh? I mean, that means every day of my life has been better than this.
He nodded again, smiling the same smile he'd shared earlier.
I thanked him enough times to be annoying and then walked away.
Jennifer was happy to come pick me up from the airport. I used the dinner money to buy a carnitas quesadilla. I felt like I needed to treat myself to comfort food after that day—plus I'd only eaten ramen for days at that point.
I slept that night—the whole night through for a change. I was scared and unsure. But, why let that paralyze me? In the face of adversity and fear, the best thing to do is to keep going anyways.
The next morning I boarded my flight to Nashville, unsure of who I would meet or where I would sleep or anything at all. It felt scary. And it felt wonderful, too.
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