Ten years ago this coming October, I was passenger to a plane trip from hell. My outgoing flight was delayed from Harrisburg International Airport, not once, but twice. Because of the delays, once I got to my stopover destination, Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport, the last connecting flight to my final destination in Austin, TX. had just left the runway. I was dropped off at the airport by my wife and daughters at 7:00 a.m. The final connection for the day from Atlanta to Austin left at 11:00 p.m. Delta provided to all of us inconvenienced passengers a hotel voucher and a shuttle ride to the hotels that were participating. My luck continued to get better. By the time I got to the front of the line of people checking into the Flea Bag Motel and Car Care Center (now near midnight) the person before me had taken the last ‘non-smoking’ room. With my asthma and allergies, I wasn’t looking forward to putting down my head on a pillow that smelled like an ashtray.
As luck would have it, Delta was able to get me on the first connecting flight to Austin the next morning…at 7:00 a.m. which meant the shuttle was going to come pick me up at 4:00 a.m. Guess how much sleep I got that night? Things could only get better, right?
After getting back to the airport wearing the same clothes I had left in, and by the time my connection landed and I retrieved my luggage, I was already two hours late for a meeting that had started at 8:00. When I got to the car rental stop in the terminal, guess what? Because I didn’t show up on the day that my car reservation indicated, they gave away the SUV I’d reserved. Even though I called them from Atlanta the day before to explain my situation. Even though I had paid in full when I booked the trip. So by the time they could find me a vehicle to replace the one they’d given away to someone who hadn’t reserved it, I showed up three hours late to my meeting.
There were only seats for a dozen people in this conference because that was the way the organization arranged things. Small group dynamics and all that. When I opened the door to the meeting room, of course there were 11 people seated and one empty chair…at the end of a full row of people. The first guy in the row had a rather large glass of Merlot in front of him, and since I’d not taken time to go to the hotel to drop off my stuff, I had most of it either on my back or in my hands. As I shimmied between the chairs, the bag on my shoulder met the guy’s wine glass and there went the contents all over the desk in front of him, on his paperwork and some onto his clothes. An inspiring start to my conference. Couldn’t even find a place to crawl under and hide.
As we broke for lunch, I made my way over to the gentleman on whom I’d dumped red wine that doesn’t come out of your clothes. I apologized profusely, and he was gracious and not visibly angered. He was from Kelowna, British Columbia, and I’ve found with almost all of the Canadians that I’ve met since, that they do have a different outlook on things than do we.
He said to me, “Do you have a car?” I said, “Absolutely, I have a car, Why?” He said he doesn’t drive when he’s in the states, and asked me if I could give him a ride back to his hotel after the day was over, and he would call my debt even. I thought that was the best deal I’d get that week, so I jumped on it.
On the way back to his hotel, he asked me if I drank beer. I replied that I hadn’t yet had one that day and was in need based on the tremendous trip I’d had. We stopped into a package store, and he went in and bought two six packs of beer. When I pulled into the parking lot where his hotel was, it was directly next to the hotel in which I was staying. The two buildings were separated only by a parking lot.
We proceeded to sit in the car and drink beer until well past midnight. Hey, after spilling his wine all over him, I couldn’t let him drink alone. We talked about our families. He had two daughters to my three, and he adored his wife as much as I do mine. We were in different industries, but had a lot of other things in common. We’ve been best friends ever since, even though we might only get to see each other once a year, and we live five time zones apart. If I were to take ill and go to the hospital tonight, if my wife called him, he would be in my hospital room tomorrow, and if something bad were to happen to me, he’d make sure that my family was squared away before he flew back to Kelowna.
He once told me, “Good friends come into our lives to multiply the happiness and to divide the sorrow.”
My oldest baby recently turned 21 and we had some friends and family over for a small celebration. Our friends are as good as they come, and they’ve watched our oldest grow up since we moved here when she was three. As usually happens when we have people over to the house, everyone stayed in the kitchen and dining room after the meal was over, just talking and laughing and sharing stories.
One of my daughter’s college room mates commented, “We don’t have friends like this. If we had a party like this, there wouldn’t be anyone here except a few close family members.”
At first I thought her comment odd, then I was sad. I just assumed that everyone had a circle of close friends that they share their lives with. Then I had another thought (I know, 2 thoughts in five minutes). What an incredible treasure are good friends. We’ve all heard quotes by famous people about the value of friendship, and most of them are true. My wife and I are blessed and grateful to have good friends.
I hope that when I’m on the other side of the grass, that I’m measured not by the monetary things I might leave to my daughters, but by the number of friends who see me off and drink a shot of bourbon over my gravesite.
I need to explain to my daughters the value of good friends.
P.S. Don’t forget to tell your daughter that you love her.