Did the universe perform a random act of kindness for me?

Ezine #9—When I sat in my seat on Flight 1126 very early last week, I thought, ‘What just happened? How did I possibly make this flight?’

But something made it possible. It’s been a week since the ordeal, and I’m still not sure.

I feel a little like the disbelieving Dad in a sitcom who rents a house with his family, and the kids come running into his bedroom on the first night screaming.

“A ghost is throwing books on the floor and opening the drawers!”

“Come on, kids. There’s got to be a rational explanation.”

One part of me thinks there is a concrete explanation for the amazing stroke of luck bestowed upon me on the morning of May 8, but another part of me believes the universe did me a big honking favour. Or something did. Or someone did.

Here’s the story:

I was in Orlando, Florida for leadership training with the ManKind Project for the weekend of May 5-7. I stayed overnight Sunday at a friend’s house to fly out early Monday. I booked a ride with Uber on Sunday night to pick me up at 5 a.m.

By 5:05 the next morning, the driver hadn’t shown. At 5:10, I received an Uber notification on my phone asking me to rate my ride and showing a trip that I didn’t take.

Yipes! Someone else took my ride.

(And I received a receipt for the $20.26 ride I didn’t take, but that’s another story.)

I immediately called a cab. He promised to be there in 20 minutes.

It occurred to me that I’d probably miss my flight; the next flight was around noon—if there were seats available—and it could cost me $400 or $500 more. I wasn’t sure. I’d never missed a flight before.

Something surprising also occurred to me; I was not freaking out. In similar situations in the past, I’ve gone squirrely, buzzing, heart racing, electricity surging through my veins, catastrophizing about costs, work I wouldn’t get done, and on and on.

Not this time. In fact, I was lying on the driveway of my friend’s house with my backpack as a pillow while I looked at the stars. Damn light pollution.

Thirty minutes later, the cab showed up—an orange, 90s era boat whose rear passenger door didn’t open. We arrived at 6:15 a.m. at Orlando International, but the cabbie dropped me at the wrong terminal (B).

After a five-minute speed walk to Terminal A, I approached the screening area; a mass of humanity was moving glacially through the cattle corridors. There may have been 200 (300!) people in front of me, which, from past experience in the Orlando airport would mean about a 20-minute slog. Or longer.

Around this point, I accepted that I’d miss the flight. Nonetheless, I would just go through the process and see what happens. I was not angry or anxious—if anything, maybe kind of zoned out.

The security woman at the inspection entrance scanned the boarding pass on my phone. She said, “Mr. O’Connor, you’ve been picked at random for a TSA PreCheck.”

I didn’t know what this meant, but I had a feeling it might be good. She directed me to a line on the far side of the shuffling herd. I hurried over to the PreCheck entrance and was immediately welcomed in.

I was shocked. In front of me as a barren prairie of industrial grey carpet leading to an empty inspection conveyer belt and x-ray machine. A sign said I didn’t even have to take off my shoes. Or belt. (Dad, is this heaven?)

Ten seconds later, I was through.

Oh my God. There’s a chance.

I ran about half a mile—so it seemed—through the departure gate terminal with my wheelie carry-on bag spinning out behind me. Of course, Gate 17 was at the farthest end. When I finally saw the electronic 17, I knew—I made it. The door to the gateway was open and the agent was dealing with a couple of people.

I took my seat and the plane door closed a couple minutes later. While the plane taxied, I was in a state of bewilderment. ‘What just happened?’

Whatever happened, I mouthed the words, ‘Thank you.’

When I got home, I was still mystified. Like the doubting Dad in the sitcom example, I looked for a rational explanation. I fired off an email to WestJet asking if they ask security at airports to send late passengers to expedited screening. It was a stupid question. No wonder I didn’t get a response.

Searching online, I learned that the PreCheck program is marketed to “low-risk travellers.” I’m assuming the TSA randomly picks folks like me—white, older guys with no criminal record—to market its $85 “expedited screening” program.

Nonetheless, how did I manage to be randomly picked for the privilege of bypassing the great unwashed at the only time in my 40 years of air travel when I needed it? Did Somebody—some Something—decide to do me a big favour?

The next day, I told three friends about my experience, and their responses were all a variation on the same theme: the benevolent universe did you a favour.

Sure. Maybe.

However, I have been noticing that when I roll with things, accept and stay cool, good things tend to happen. Not always, but more often.

Throughout my life, I’ve sweated the small stuff and felt a knot of fear in stomach about being late, money, my golf game, you name it.

Now, I’m consciously reminding myself that when I’m faced with adversity, fear of the unknown, I can surrender. Let what happens happen.

It could be from deepening my meditation practice. Being mindful. Or it could just be maturity—I turned 60 in April. But I believe there’s something to surrendering and letting things happen. And things usually work out.

Perhaps it was just dumb luck that I made my flight or the law of probability. Whatever happened, thanks universe.

About Tim O'Connor

Tim O'Connor is a performance coach, an award-winning writer, Head Coach of the University of Guelph golf team and Mental Performance Coach at the ClubLink Academy at Glen Abbey. He is co-host of the Swing Thoughts podcast with Howard Glassman, and a leader in training in the ManKind Project. He gets all excited when he helps people tap into their brilliance.

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