Last week, Chrissie and I took a quick flight from Gilbert to Provo, Utah. We were delayed an hour or so, as expected. (I won’t mention the name of the airline, but it kinda rhymes with “deficient.”)
Eventually we got seated and were looking forward to a very short flight. When it works right it is just a little over an hour. The pilot taxied out to the runway, told the flight crew to take a seat, and we were off.
We began rolling down the runway and picking up speed. The signs and markings on the runway were passing in a blur as we reached the speed where one would expect the pilot to pull back on the stick and head towards the sky.
One would expect that.
As the jet thundered down the runway I started getting concerned. Why weren’t we taking off? We seemed to be going plenty fast. (Mind you, I have flown a LOT and had some adventures, but this was new.)
I started to get nervous, as more and more runway passed under our wheels, because I knew that left less and less runway ahead of us.
Chrissie clutched my hand tightly, and looked nervous. I was nervous, too, but didn’t want to show it, because she is a shaky flyer, and I didn’t want to add to her stress.
I take that back. I wasn’t nervous, I was worried. We had easily gained enough speed to take off, but it still wasn’t happening. I leaned over to say something to Chrissie, when, suddenly, we were thrown forward in our seats. Not only had the pilot slammed on the brakes, but threw the engines into a “reverse thrust.”
The thought ran through my head, “Is this how it ends?” We had no idea what was happening. I was afraid we had run out of runway and the pilot was trying to stop the plane before…?
I’ll admit: I was scared. My EC looked completely freaked out, and passengers all around looked, and sounded panicked.
It was surprising how quickly a jet full of people and cargo moving at 200mph could screech to a complete halt. As we fell back into our seats, the scary thoughts mostly passed and we figured we would be okay.
We sat there on the runway for a few minutes, not knowing what had happened. The flight attendant announced that the pilot would give us an update as soon as possible.
The pilot came on the intercom with that classic, unruffled pilot voice:
“Well folks, we apologize for the rejected takeoff. Turns out there was a coyote on the runway who didn’t want to move.”
Some passengers were relieved, some laughed, some were angry that “the pilot didn’t just run over the @%$# dog!”
The pilot continued: “We are going to head back to the gate to have the aircraft inspected, to see if the brakes glassed up or if there are any other problems. We apologize and hope to be on our way shortly.”
Back to the gate.
As were were taxiing, the flight attendant explained to some of us sitting nearby that they take the safety of their passengers seriously, and the pilot wouldn’t have aborted the takeoff unless he felt it was not safe.
I, being me, raised my hand and gently made the point that had they departed ON TIME, there probably wouldn’t have been a coyote on the runway. (I don’t think the flight attendant appreciated my astute observation.)
I must add that we did arrive in Provo eventually, late and safe. They even gave us an entire cup of soda – no charge!
Since then, I thought a lot about what went through my head at the moment: “Is this how it ends?” Deep thoughts ensue.
I’m a Shakespeare fan, and one of his most famous tragic characters, Hamlet, opines the following:
There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow.
If it be now, ’tis not to come.
If it be not to come, it will be now.
If it be not now, yet it will come—the readiness is all. (link)
Am I being a little overly-dramatic? Perhaps. But the point is a valid one. None of us have any idea when it could end for us. Today, tomorrow, 50 years from now. We go through life expecting to wake up the next day, but some don’t.
We simply don’t know when it will be time to shuffle off this mortal coil, but Hamlet had it right: The readiness is all.
Coming off of a fantastic General Conference, and having an experience like we did causes some self-assessment.
What do I need to improve on?
Who do I need to help?
What are my plans – as tenuous as they might be?
How can I simplify my life?
Not simple questions to answer, mostly because the answers require change and work.
A friend of mine who used to be my neighbor wrote a book that tackles the last question: How can I simplify my life?
The author: Greg McKeown (Brilliant guy, sweet British accent.)
The book: “Essentialism, the Disciplined Pursuit of Less.” (link)
It is a worthy book when thinking about such things. Life IS too busy. We ARE overcommitted. What can we change to simplify and focus on the most important things.
It is obvious the Lord and the Church feel that we need to make some adjustments as well. Conference made it clear that some traditions can be tossed overboard in pursuit of the best things.
So, that’s what has been on my brain since Conference: Change. Focus. Simplicity.
I figured that this should be a mid-week post because it isn’t chock full o’ quotes and teachings from the Prophets. Instead, it is just a rumination from a guy who thought a coyote might bring about the end of his mortal existence.
PS: If you are interested in more of my strange travel stories, and the messages they inspired, please check out my latest book: “There’s a Message OUT There Somewhere.”