November 9, 2014
Not long ago I was at the San Diego airport, again, waiting for a flight. This is not a new experience for me, though this time was actually somewhat different. Normally, in order to accumulate miles and elite status, I fly United Airlines or one of its partners. But on this particular trip, flying to Reno, Nevada, United was much more expensive, with much less preferable flight schedules. So, I wound up, for the first time in a long time, on Southwest Airlines.
Just the thought of Southwest Airlines makes some people nervous – no seat assignment? Will I have to fight for my place? Somehow the opening of the Hunger Games comes to mind – with everyone fighting over his or her share of the cornucopia…
Being the somewhat privileged traveler that I am, I took advantage of paying an extra $12 to get bumped up closer to the front of the line – not the front, but at least not the back. Since I was only to be gone a few days, all I had was a carry on rolling suitcase – of the small, able to fit in the overhead style – and a purse. Actually, that’s what I fly with almost always. When I fly United I know that I will have room for my roller bag as my status gives me privilege in boarding the plane. But this time I was on Southwest and I could feel myself getting a bit nervous as the boarding time neared.
That was when I noticed it – or, rather them. A number of signs spaced evenly, with numbers on them. 1-40, 41-60, etc. I looked on my boarding card and saw the number A 39. Oh, I get it – that is how we line up. We don’t have seats, but we line up according to our numbers. Soon I saw people getting in line, so I did too, just ahead of the pole that marked ’40.’
That was when I began to notice something – in myself, but also in the other passengers. Or, rather, notice the lack of something. There was none of that sense of frenzy that accompanies boarding a United flight. None of that sense of heightened anxiety that I normally feel as the time to board approaches. Even though I know I have a spot toward the front of the line, somehow I feel the need to jockey for position. As do, it seems, the rest of the passengers, who often don’t let the families with children or those needing assistance to pass through, so closely are they guarding their spot.
Being me, I posted something about this to facebook, so fascinated was I with the vastly different vibe that was present as we began to board that Southwest flight.
Is it the fact that I have a number, a place in line, that makes it different? I wondered out loud. Is it that we all know our place and can’t really do anything to change it that makes this boarding process so much calmer than they normally are? It seemed counter-intuitive that boarding without a seat might be more peaceful than boarding with one. So, knowing you have a place in line is more important than knowing you have a place on the plane? That somehow didn’t seem to make sense.
And that was when it hit me – the difference. It wasn’t about having a place in line, or about having a place on the plane – those both are virtually guaranteed.
It was about stuff. Namely, luggage.
You see, the other difference with Southwest is that they do not charge for checking a suitcase. Most other airlines do. Not only do they not charge for bringing a suitcase, but you can check two bags on Southwest, completely free. What was different about that Southwest flight was that those who were waiting to board were not, in their positioning, trying to get on board before everyone else so as to have a spot in the limited overhead space.
It felt like a sort of epiphany to me. There was no fear. No sense of scarcity. What there was, instead, was a sense of ‘enough’ – a sense that I did not have to jockey for position to ensure my space, but that there was abundant room for all.
It made me wonder how much of our lives we spend like those United passengers, struggling to get our place to ensure that we have space for our stuff, that our stuff is secure, taken care of, vs. Those Southwest passengers who seemed content, trusting that there would be room for all.
Our theme this month is ‘cornucopia’ – I have to admit, I did not pick it. When I first heard it I thought, huh? So I asked for some more clarification from the person who suggested it.
You know, abundance, plenty, enough – as opposed to greed or hoarding or scarcity.
Wow, I thought. Now there’s a theme.
Of course we are near Thanksgiving and cornucopia’s are a well known symbol of that holiday – as is the feeling of needing to loosen ones trousers and lay down on the couch after eating too much turkey.
It got me wondering – do we live our lives out of abundance? Or do we live our lives out of a scarcity mentality? Do we trust the ‘enoughness of life? Or do we let fear lead us to hoard, to control, to worry that I won’t get my fair share? If you get more, does that mean I get less? If you win, does that mean I lose? And, is it easy to trust abundance when life is good? What about when life is challenging? What about when we are brought to the very edge? What then? Is abundance possible?
I’m an only child – let’s just say, sharing can be challenging for me. I actually act more like a child in a family of ten, worried when food to be shared is placed on the table that I won’t get my fair share. I’ve never gone hungry – this is not a fear based on any actual reality.
And, moreover, is it easy to talk of things such as abundance when we feel that all is going in our favor? Can we find abundance, a mentality of enough, of trust, even in the midst of the challenging times in life?