Not gonna lie, I feel like a total warrior for exercising each day last week, despite the live exorcism taking place inside my stomach.
If I’m really being honest though, it was less about a deep-seated desire to be a warrior, and more a rebellion against that blasted stomach flu for daring to insinuate I couldn’t complete my 365 days of sweat challenge.
There was only one other occasion when I remember reacting this way upon being told that I couldn’t do something.
It was Thursday December 20th, 2007, and I was just getting ready to fly home to Toronto from a business trip to Fargo, North Dakota.
I arrived at the airport, dropped off my rental car, and walked towards the check-in counter.
My first clue should have been the fact that the airport was dead quiet. There were a handful of people milling about aimlessly, but all in all, a general absence of movement or urgency. Or any sign that I was actually in an airport.
I walked up to the kiosk and tried to print my boarding pass, but was denied with a message that I needed to go see an agent. Clue #2.
So, I walked up to the United counter and the super cheerful representative. I jest. She was far from cheerful.
She looked up with dead eyes and glibly uttered one word, “Yes?”, making it clear I was imposing on her in the worst way.
Me: Oh hi, I was trying to print my boarding pass but the screen said I had to come talk to you.
Dead-eyed United Agent (henceforth known as DUA): Where are you going?
Me: Toronto, via Chicago
DUA: You aren’t going anywhere today. Haven’t you heard the news? All the planes are grounded in Denver due to a snowstorm.
Me: No. What? Wait. What?
DUA: Give me a second, I’ll see the earliest flight I can book you on, but you won’t be getting out today.
Me: No. No. NO. It’s Dec 20th. I haven’t bought a single Christmas gift yet. I need to get home. I need to do my Christmas shopping.
DUA: [ignoring me, typing, and after a few minutes] Okay, I can get you on a flight to Chicago on Sunday. With any luck, and no delays or cancellations you could get home that day.
Me: You might be able to get me home on the 23rd?? NO.
DUA: You. Don’t. Have. Any. Other. Option. [delivered in high pitched staccato]
Something snapped inside me at that moment.
Me: Oh really??? I think I DO have options.
And off I stormed in an indignant huff. All the while wracking my brain for what my options were.
But then the light bulb moment.
Wait a minute… I can drive to Winnipeg and then fly nonstop Winnipeg to Toronto using Air Canada. No grounded fleet of aircraft in Denver. No problem.
I am a fucking genius!
So I called my assistant and asked her to see if she could get me on a flight out of Winnipeg that night. She told me there was one flight leaving Winnipeg at 8:30 pm. Without hesitation I asked her to book it. She asked if I was sure I could make it in time. Having no clue exactly how long it would take to drive from Fargo to Winnipeg, I simply said, “Yes.”
She booked it.
The time was approximately 4:45 pm. And I guess, for whatever reason, I had somehow convinced myself it was a 2.5 – 3 hour drive to Winnipeg.
Feeling completely smug, I debated walking back over to DUA to tell her that not only did I HAVE options, but I was exercising my options, and would be home by midnight.
Instead I decided to focus on the task at hand and headed back to the car rental counter where I was greeted far more cheerfully than had been my experience with the wretched DUA.
Hey, remember that SUV I just returned? I need it back!, I exclaimed excitedly.
Young, cheerful Alamo agent (henceforth known as YCA): Oh, you’re staying for a few more days?
Me: God no! I’m getting the hell out of Dodge. But I need a car. Stupid DUA told me I have no option. But I DO have options. I am going to drive your SUV to Winnipeg and then fly home from there.
YCA: That’s so great ma’am. Let me get that car for you right away.
He began clicking away on the computer…then his smile disappeared. And my heart sank to my stomach.
YCA: Oh no ma’am, unfortunately we can’t let you do a one-way drop off to another country.
Me: No. God no! PLEASE???
YCA went to the back to fetch his manager, all the while muttering how sorry he was.
The Manager joined YCA in expressing his sorrow that I could not take one of their cars across the border.
I suddenly remembered that I was the proud owner of a a non-refundable airline ticket leaving from Winnipeg in less than 4 hours. And I had no way of getting there.
I implored the manager, to please, please, please help me out. I told him I would get fired for the wasted ticket. I told him how nice he and YCA were for helping me. I begged them to let me drive any vehicle (tractor, covered wagon, anything they had) up to Winnipeg.
Suddenly a light bulb went on in the Manager’s head. He asked YCA, “Hey, do we still have that Camry with the Alberta plates on it? YCA responded, yes! I did a happy dance, tears of joy streamed down my cheeks.
As the manager prepared the paperwork, I asked YCA if he would print out directions to the Winnipeg airport. This was 2007, and I had no GPS and no smart phone.
15 minutes later I found myself behind the wheel of one Camry with Alberta plates, and a set of printed directions.
When I glanced down to get the first set of turns, I noticed the length of the trip at the top of the page: Estimated 3 hr, 40 mins driving time. Again my heart sank. How could I possibly make the flight? The time was now 5:10 pm.
I decided that nothing ventured, nothing gained was an adage to live by. So I started driving. And I drove fast.
It was December 20th, it was pitch black out, I was on a 2 lane highway with no overhead lights and the very real possibility I could hit a patch of black ice. Or a moose. Or both.
Did I mention my night vision is… a tad iffy?
If you’d call not being able to see anything, a tad iffy.
The headlights of oncoming cars rendered me legally blind, I think.
For just under two hours I was lucky to have a car driving ahead of me, so I needed only to concentrate on following his tail lights. This car was like a light house for me. A beacon of hope that I wasn’t driving into a ditch.
I knew I was driving fast, but not being familiar with MPH speeds (as it’s KPH at home in Canada), I couldn’t tell exactly how fast. And since I was following the pace car, I felt safe.
But then I watched as my partner turned off the highway around Grand Forks, ND, taking with him my only source of light. I was left in the cold, dark, desolate wasteland known as Hwy 29 in northern North Dakota.
I tried calling my husband to let him know what I was doing. I got voicemail. He was out Christmas shopping.
My blood boiled.
I tried to chill out. I tried not to think of how close I was cutting it to make the flight. I tried not to do the mental math.
Eventually he called me back, and after giving him the quick and dirty on what I was up to, I casually asked him how fast 85 MPH was. His response, “Too fast. SLOW DOWN NANCY.” in a firm, don’t-fuck-with-me tone.
I eased off the gas pedal.
We hung up and I started to think more realistically about what my options would be if I missed my flight. Look, worst case scenario, I’ll be in Canada, I told myself, I can grab a flight first thing Friday morning, and still be home way sooner than the one and one option DUA had offered up. Bitch.
My border crossing was the fastest ever. I prattled out my whole saga, and the border agent just waved me through, saying, “Drive safe and good luck!”. More good luck and good Karma for me!
I estimated that I had another 15-20 minutes before I’d arrive at the airport, so I looked at the dashboard clock. Defeated. My heart sank as I realized my flight was already in the process of boarding.
Okay, this is not the end of the world, I told myself. I can just hold onto the rental car, find a nice hotel near the airport, and then order room service, a big fat bottle of wine and chill for the night. Silver linings.
I dialed Air Canada to get myself booked on the first available flight in the morning.
When the rep answered I launched into my diatribe, but she stopped me mid sentence, “Whoa…what flight are you on ma’am?” I gave her the flight number, and she said, “Ma’am that flight was delayed 3.5 hours. It’s presently scheduled to depart at 12:47 am, arriving in Toronto at 5:32 am.
I may or may not have told her I love her.
And then, with every fiber of my being, I wanted so desperately to figure out a way to find DUA so I could gloat. I did not. It was enough to bask in the knowledge that on this day I was a total baller.
A baller with options.
The next time someone tells you that you are of out options, I will be the first to cheer you on when you prove them wrong.