Rain crashes and slides down the windows. We rock gently in the belly of the mini Air Canada jet as the wind thrashes everything on the runway outside. The guy in front of me curses, worrying that he won’t get to Toronto in time to pick up his rental car. I exchange jokes and smiles with the guy in the yellow shirt and headphones across the aisle from me. We’ve been diverted to regional Hamilton airport, along with dozens of other planes, to wait out the storm. I’m powerless in my seat.
This has nothing to do with writing or publishing books. That is, it has nothing to do with writing or publishing books if all writers and publishers do is write and publish books. At some point in the pursuit of every career path or worthwhile aspiration you have to do things that seem to contribute very little to the achievement of your goals. Sometimes they directly oppose them.
I’m on my way to deliver the marketing strategy I developed for one of my clients. My rental car waits for me to pick it up at the Toronto airport, just like the rental car of the angry guy in front of me, before the attendant leaves for the night at 1:00 am. My cell phone says 10:30pm. After a few texts exchanged between me and my new girlfriend, and then a few more between me and my friend, Rashi, who’s stranded in New York, it’s time to watch a movie. Seeing the new Star Trek for the 2nd time is perfect.
My previous thoughts had been occupied with typing out and completely establishing the strategy I’ll deliver tomorrow. Now they’re all photon torpedoes, Spock and Romulans. Man, I like that movie (I realize it’s the second time I’ve mentioned it now in an article I’ve written). Marketing ideas have left the galaxy.
Two hours later, Star Trek concludes. We still sit in our seats, locked in the plane while rain continues to drip from the clouds to the ground. Pretty soon other planes start to move. We don’t. The guy in front of me starts cursing again and tries calling Avis to make a car rental reservation in Hamilton, since the pilot says that we’ll be bused in to Toronto.
â€œYou know, I got some great advice from an annoying little French guy a long time ago,â€ I say to the yellow-shirted guy across the aisle, loud enough for SeÃ±or â€œCurse-a-lotâ€ to hear.
â€œTheengs weell work aut. Eets going to be au-k.â€ My French imitation needs practice.
This promotes smiles, and general agreement, and I continue, â€œIt really hit home when I saw his train start to leave before he got all of his bags on board. First a bag flew off. Then another bag flew off. Finally, he jumped out with his backpack on, rolling on the platform while the train accelerated and stunned Germans stared. ‘I weell take zee next train,’ he said calmly. Ever since then I figure that my travel plans will come together.â€
The guy in front of me stops cursing, and the three of us start laughing and talking. Mission accomplished. Forty-five minutes later, we walk out the plane door, in strict observance of the white lines drawn in exactly right angles on the cement tarmac. The customs official actually laughs and smiles as I joke with him, allowing me entrance to Canada after a bunch of questions. Our bags arrive, and passengers of Air Canada Flight 8114 walk out the door into the terminal lobby. It’s 1:15am.
After standing or sitting around for about 15 minutes, the remaining passengers realize that no one ever told us what is supposed to happen. Some of us, including the cursing guy (who got his Avis car) and the yellow-shirted guy, have already left the airport. The rest try different methods to find out some information from different people who don’t know anything at the airport, finally waiting outside for a bus to pull up and take us to Toronto at 2:15am.
The bus arrives at the Toronto airport at 3:15, and I walk, with a tiny speck of hope, to the car rental location. No one sits behind the Thrifty/Dollar counter. I’m going to have to get a taxi. After talking to a couple janitors, who confirm that the guy left at 2am and that I need to get a taxi, I walk back to the taxi sign, and an attendant hails a cab.
Anoup, or â€œLolly,â€ as he says most people call him, is the most interesting cab driver I’ve ever met. He’s managed an Indian restaurant, wrestled, worked as an engineer, and raised 2 boys with his wife, whom he married 30 minutes after meeting her for the first time. â€œHow old do you think I am?â€ He grins as he turns to look at me, jet-black hair glistening in the glare of passing traffic. I would have guessed wrong, but his history tells me he must be 60 or so. He’s 61 (and dyes his hair).
The Howard Johnson attendant opens the door for me as I get out of the cab. I check into my room and then send an email to my clients, asking them if we can push our meeting back to noon, since I’ve just arrived at 4:15. Then I send one more email to Vicki to let her know I’ve arrived. Sheets and bed feel good.
Rashi’s call wakes me up at 5:30am, but I silence it. My client texts me at 5:55 to ask if 11:00 am is ok. I agree and go back to sleep until 8:45. My bleary consciousness decides that food wins over sleep this morning, since dinner last night was a bag of salted cashews. At 9:15 I head to the hotel restaurant. After breakfast, one more dangerous 30-minute nap gets me enough resolve to take a shower before my client arrives to pick me up.
Our meeting goes well. Turns out that a couple of the company’s decision makers got home almost as late as I did the night before. They struggle to stay awake as my extrovert superpower turns on, and we go over the strategy I’ve prepared. We discuss all the fine details, agree, and finish early after eating some amazing Montreal beef sandwiches. I return to the hotel to take a nap for a couple hours, catch up on the rest of my work, help my friend Rashi out, eat dinner, and talk to Vicki, before writing.
A few years ago I screened a movie about these two pastors who started a website called XXXChurch.com to help people addicted to pornography. In the middle of the movie, one of them exclaims in frustration that he wanted to make a difference, but 95% of his life consists of juggling plane schedules, hotel rooms, and long nights on the road, compared to the 5% he spends actually doing what he set out to do. He quit to do something that gave more obvious results while his partner continues on to this day. Sometimes that’s the way life goes.
Star Trek didn’t give me any marketing ideas. All the delays made me way more tired than I would have been had a thunderstorm not altered my plans. But my clients made progress toward their goals of growing their business, and I met some interesting people and completed the purpose of my trip ahead of schedule.
None of those things will make you sell more books or write more world-changing words. You always have the choice to choose frustration or joy as the storm rages all around you. Even if you choose a good attitude, you’ll still face your impending task with more weariness than you thought yourself able to bear. If it’s worth doing, you’ll find a way to persevere long enough until things work out.
Just like my French friend told me long ago—–â€œEets going to be au-k.â€
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