Friday, May 27, 2011

Late For the Plane

If you have been reading this blog for less than five years, you missed one of the most popular posts ever, "Late for the Train".

This week, it was like déjà vu all over again, with a twist.

I'm in sunny San Francisco. Well, it had been sunny, but the moment I'm trying to leave it starts to rain. Remember what Mark Twain allegedly said (but didn't really), "The coldest winter I ever had was a summer in San Francisco"?

Not that bad really, it isn't cold, just raining.

But what's to worry? I have two hours before my flight, and what does it take to get to the Oakland airport, 30 maybe 45 minutes? Not checking bags, already checked in, yada yada yada.

My hostess puts me in the cab with breakfast, I have my cell phone, looking forward to an easy day of travel.

San Francisco is picturesque in the rain. It's a treat to be a passenger for a change.

Soon my attention gets diverted from the scenery to my breakfast and my phone. After awhile I look up and discover to my great chagrin that we are in bumper-to-bumper stand-still traffic on the 880 highway.

This is not good.

My watch says that we still have 75 minutes before the flight.

"What's going on?" I ask the driver.



The Bay Area has a very important service, you dial 511 and can check traffic conditions, updated every 10 minutes or so.

I remember when they launched the service, the voice recognition wasn't so sharp, and I had to shout a lot into the phone. Now it's a lot smoother, almost feels natural.

The report: an accident on the 880, just before the High Street exit.


I report the news to the driver. "How many exits is that ahead of us?"

"Just two more exits."

"Maybe we should get off now and go through the streets."

"Streets no move faster than this."

Well, he's the professional driver. What do I know? It is moving, but about 5 miles an hour.

Question for your table: What would be a "spiritual" reaction at this point?

So here's what happens.

The clock keeps ticking relentlessly forward, second by second.

1 hour before the flight.

50 minutes before the flight.

40 minutes until the flight.

OK, this is not looking great for my travel plans.

Question #2 for your table - Does your response to question #1 change at this point?

Then it dawns on me - I forgot to say "Tefilat Ha-derech"!

Tefilat (or Tefilas) Ha-derech is sometimes translated as "The Wayfarer's Prayer" or "The Traveler's Prayer." It is customary to say towards the beginning of a journey, just after getting outside of town. As soon as you cross the Bay Bridge, you're now "out of town" - and that's just about where the backup started!

Fortunately, there are lot's of copies of THD floating around. Many organizations print it up on wallet-sized cards. There have been PDA and smart-phone versions ever since the advent of PDAs and smart-phones.

I rummage through the "travel stuff" pocket of my bag, and sure enough, there among the ear plugs, metro cards, stain remover (why doesn't that cap stay on?), band-aids etc., I find a THD card.

It doesn't take long to say, about 40 seconds.

When I finish, I look up. That exact moment, the traffic suddenly starts to move.... 15 MPH...30 MPH...45..... and finally to highway speed!

"Did we pass the accident?"

"No, it just started to move!"

We arrive at the airport 18 minutes before the flight.

I could make this all dramatic and tell you every agonizing detail of the security and the dash, but picture this - I arrive at the gate clutching my carry-on in one hand and my belt and shoes in the other only to find they haven't started boarding yet. Seems there was some unexplained delay, even though the boards all read "on time".

Question 3 to ask at your table - What do you think - "just a coincidence"??

Wishing you safe and on-time journeys of your own and a

Shabbat Shalom.

PS - Amazon carries a laminated THD here.

PPS - with the Middle East so dominant in the news, you may enjoy this site.

PPPS - Live in American and looking for a meaningful Memorial Day Activity?

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