An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Speak to Me Sunday: A Perspective on Gratitude

On the morning we left Venice, I was delayed at the Air France check-in counter because the computer system had somehow merged my ticket with that of my sister-in-law. In a way, I could understand ... Maria Anna Novajosky and Mary Treacy Novajosky sound and look very, very similar. It was a problem we had encountered earlier in the trip when Mary checked in for our Atlanta-Amersterdam flight and they gave her my boarding pass.

So one at a time, members of my group received their boarding passes while I stood at the counter waiting for Air France to fix the problem. I finally told the group to go through security and that I'd meet them at the gate. My sister, who had her boarding pass, remained with me.

Time passed. The nice Air France attendant typed furiously on her computer. She made three phone calls. Four. Then five. She called her manager. Finally, she had to cancel my ticket and re-issue it, and by the time she handed me the boarding pass our plane was already boarding. Luckily, the attendant had stamped our passes so we could race through security. Honestly, I have never gone through security so quickly--straight to the head of the line, throw our bags on the belt, leave on our shoes, run through the metal detector, and grab everything and go. We made it to the gate just in time.

Now, while all this was going on I had been very calm. I knew the issue would be resolved. I was even happy that, out of everyone in the group, it had happened to me because I could speak Italian (which facilitated things greatly with the ticket agent).

But when I boarded the plane I realized that, in canceling and then reissuing my ticket, my seat assignment had been changed. Prior to our trip I had been so careful with my seat selections; in fact, on that particular flight (Venice to Paris) I had even paid for an upgrade so I could have more leg room. Now, however, I was stuck in the middle, with an elderly American woman on one side and a gentleman of Middle-Eastern descent on the other.

I was mad. And hot after my airport run. Then I thought how my seat assignment on my next flight--the one from Paris to Atlanta--was probably changed too.

So I sat there stewing, with my elbows wedged to my side, typing a text to Joe asking him please (when he woke up) (hopefully before I landed in Paris) to go online and try to get back my original seats. I ignored the lady to my left (who, I was sure, was going to talk my ear off) and the gentleman to my right (who, I was sure, had nothing in common with me).

You know how someone can give off an air that tells people not to mess with them? Well, I gave off that air. Don't look at me, touch me, talk to me. Don't smile at me. Don't be nice to me. Just. Leave. Me. Alone.

I was in a mood.

A little later the pilot announced that there was a clear view of the Alps out the window, so I leaned over to take a look. What a view! Grandiose. Majestic. And it put things into perspective for me. Our plane was so insignificant compared to that majestic mountain range, just as my little ticket problem was insignificant compared to what had been a wonderful and problem-free trip. I thought back to the past 13 days of traveling with 31 women, a trip I had organized, and of the thousand--no, the MILLION--things that could have gone wrong ... and nothing had.

It's so easy to complain that the rose bushes have thorns instead of rejoicing because thorn bushes have roses.

Just then the flight attendant came by offering snacks and drinks. The woman next to me asked the attendant for a gluten-free snack, but they were out so she settled for a cup of hot tea. I took a deep breath and turned to her with a smile.

"As it happens, I have a gluten-free muffin in my purse," I told her. "It's from our hotel breakfast this morning. You are welcome to have it."

And I handed it to her. Then, because I didn't want ignore the gentleman on the other side, I turned to him.

"I'm sorry," I said. "That was the only muffin I had."

He smiled and, in broken English, asked where I was headed. And there I was, having a conversation with a gentleman from Egypt who was flying to Paris on business and nervous about everything because he had never been out of his country before.

As we started our descent into Paris, I was awash in gratitude--for our wonderful trip, for the memories and laughter and experiences, for the time with my sister and the visit with my relatives, for smooth flights and good health for everyone, for the view of the Alps and the sight of Mont Blanc. I was grateful for the elderly American woman on my right and the Egyptian gentleman on my left. I was even grateful for my ticket woes and wherever I happened to be seated on the next flight.

There was so, so much for which to be grateful.

Mostly, though, I was grateful that when I was so quick to resort to childishness when something didn't go right, God's grace enabled me to see the roses through the thorns.

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