I was down in South Australia for the week-end just gone. It was my first time there, but instead of spending any significant time in Adelaide, I stayed in a small town about two hours north-west (?) of the capital. The fiancé of a good friend of mine was having a bucks’ party, except it wasn’t your typical bucks’ party because I was invited (I’m in the bridal party), so was the fiancee, and their respective families (including lots of little kids between 1 and 13 years of age).
We spent time at the beach, where some of them went boating, kayaking, etc; we had plenty of games and activities for all ages; there was a very insightful quiz about the groom-to-be; and his sister had even hired a caterer for a night. I had a great time, and met a lot of really lovely, down-to-earth people with good senses of humour. My kind of people.
My friend and her fiancé were staying a couple of extra days, but I had to fly home on Sunday night, to return to work on Monday. I’d intentionally booked a later flight – arriving back in Brisbane around 9:30pm – but I figured that would still give me enough time to get home and into bed to get sufficient sleep.
I was at the airport really early because the people who gave me a lift back to Adelaide were flying back to Melbourne a couple of hours before my flight. Of course, I didn’t have a problem with this because I had a book to read, and some writing to do besides. Once I’d seen them off, I strolled over to my gate, sat down somewhere away from other people, and got to work.
After I finished the writing I needed to do, I moved on to reading. To give myself a break from the very intense novels I’ve just read, I decided to read Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. The blurb tells me that Marcus Aurelius was the only Roman emperor who was also a philosopher, but I know him only from The World According to Garp, in which the main character reads his works. After I read Garp, a few years ago now, I went out to buy this book. Since then, I’ve read bits and pieces at random, but never actually tried reading it cover to cover – until now.
And so it was that I was reading Meditations, waiting to board my plane home, when, less than half an hour before scheduled boarding, I received a message on my phone that the flight details had changed. Perplexed, I looked around at the other would-be passengers to see if anyone else had received the message. Sure enough, people started getting out of their seats, and walking over to the screen that listed the expected boarding and departure times. The flight had been delayed an hour. There was also an announcement shortly afterwards, explaining that the incoming plane had been delayed, and there were engineering requirements that had to be taken care of before our flight could proceed.
One hour… Ok, I thought, that’s not too bad. Inconvenient, yes, but I’ll survive. It gave me time to go have a snack, but, after all the eating I’d done that week-end, I figured I didn’t need it. Instead, I went back to reading.
As the revised boarding time approached, however, there was another announcement, interspersed with apologies, advising of a further half-hour delay. This stressed me out a little bit, but, as I looked around the terminal, most people seemed to still be quite relaxed about it (but I suppose I probably looked pretty relaxed too, as I went straight back to reading). (Just want to note here that I was not even flying with one of those budget airlines that’s always delayed, and it’s more surprising when a flight is on time than when it’s late. Even so, I suppose delays can happen to any airline.)
The attendant who made the announcement afterwards went over to an elderly woman sitting in one of the airline’s wheelchairs (for priority boarding), and apologised for the delay. I was a bit far away to hear their conversation, but, judging by her gesture to the TV, and the laughing that ensued, she was probably joking about at least getting enough time to finish watching the show. Similarly, the couple sitting opposite me continued reading as if nothing had happened (if they even commented to each other about the delay, I hadn’t noticed). Pushing aside thoughts of how late we’d get back, I was soon likewise untroubled.
I’ve been reading Meditations very slowly because I often have to re-read paragraphs to really let Aurelius’ words sink in. Then I thought maybe I should write about some of the things I’ve read; I could do a “mini-series” of blog posts with various “meditations”. This one will be the first. (Bear with me – this is going somewhere!)
When we were finally called for boarding, and as we filed onto the plane, I noticed that everyone still seemed quite pleasant and very casual about the whole thing. Of course, the airline staff were apologetic, and kept thanking us for being good about the whole thing, and getting on the plane quickly; but they didn’t really seem stressed out either.
And somewhere in all of this – somewhere between the first announcement of the delay, and taking my seat on the plane – I thought of this passage I’d just read:
‘It is my bad luck that this has happened to me.’ No, you should rather say: ‘It is my good luck that, although this has happened to me, I can bear it without pain, neither crushed by the present nor fearful for the future.’
– Marcus Aurelius
This basically tells me not to lament bad luck or misfortune, and reminds me that I can and will get through pretty much anything. And maybe none of the other passengers had to get up before 6am the next day; and maybe none of them were worried about getting home so late at night; but everyone already seemed to have this mentality, this attitude, that it’s all ok.
Maybe it’s a South Australian thing?