Traveling as much as I do, I have learned that airports don’t have to be the worst, most stressful place to be during a delayed flight. Sure, I could wax poetic about my top five favorite airports and of course the least favorite airports, but I think anyone who flies has those lists ready for conversation. I am writing this post to highlight one particular occasion that occurred a few weeks ago and how it impacted not only my day and night, but most importantly my personal relationships at home.
Those of you in the U.S., have probably heard about the Delta Airlines delays that affected the whole country in April of this year. If you didn’t hear about it, it might be due to the other airline controversies that took over the news. I fly pretty regularly and was headed home on a Thursday evening traveling from Atlanta to Boston. As soon as the weather turned for the worse earlier that day, the delays started piling up. When I arrived at the airport, my flight was already delayed and scheduled to leave 5 hours later so I figured I may as well make myself comfortable and get a bite to eat. As I walked into the Terminal, I saw more people and longer lines than I have ever seen in Atlanta (and that’s saying a lot for such a very busy airport), so I knew it was going to be a long night.
I got through security and located my gate and the closest restaurant. As I sat down to order, I listened to all the chatter from everyone around me. Eventually, I ended up getting into a great conversation with the person sitting next to me. Within a few minutes, we found that we both had the same job title but at different companies in the Northeast. Immediately we shared business stories, some strategies about how we handle varying situations, and overall the conversation was going great.
When we were out of business topics, we started talking about family and how we were both excited to get home to see them (whenever that may be due to the delays). It turned out that he and I had daughters of similar age (9 and 10). After going through some of our fun anecdotal stories, sharing pictures of our kids and so on, the conversation turned to a computer game called Minecraft - a virtual world where the player either joins in an existing location or builds their own version. Since I have an older son who played this years ago I was familiar with it, but had never understood the draw to it. I found the graphics weren’t nearly as nice as other games, the directions were sometimes difficult to understand, and overall I was unable to understand why my son was wasting so much time playing it. But my newly found friend had a whole different outlook. He saw tremendous benefits from this game and was more than happy to explain them to me. I was fascinated that there was so much more to it than I ever knew, such as how a young person can develop insights into their physical worlds as well as even some basic Project Management techniques.
As the dinner ended and we parted ways, I knew I had to learn more about this game and see if my daughter knew anything about what he was talking about. Eighteen hours later as I arrived home, right about the same time my daughter did from school (yes, the flight delays were indeed brutal enough to push my arrival home by a day), I started asking questions about the game. I was mesmerized by how much she knew and how to play it. She has a whole virtual world she created and plays in with a good friend. Since that day, she has even creatively built a house out of blocks to my specifications in her virtual world.
If you have gotten this far into my article, you may be wondering, “Why is he writing this story?” Here’s why: it made me realize missed or delayed airline connections provide an opportunity to make many other valuable connections. Since that adventure, I now regularly listen to my daughter explain her virtual world, its latest “crisis” and how she plans to address it. Just this morning she was trying to save one of her virtual animals from falling off of a cliff!
It saddens me that I can’t take back all the time years ago when I naïvely dismissed my son’s interests in Minecraft rather than using it to become closer to him and learn more about his character. It has certainly opened a whole new connection between my daughter and me. Those of you with young, inquisitive children the age of mine know it is sometimes difficult to get beyond one-word answers when trying to connect or engage in discussion. . My daughter and I now discuss the challenges and happiness she experiences in her virtual world, giving me insights I would never have gained otherwise. I have the feeling the same is true for her.
So, the next time you miss an airline connection and are trying to pass the time, I hope you too are able to make a new connection, learn from that temporary travelling colleague and then apply the lesson with someone much closer to you at home. You never know how it may change your life - it changed mine!