Let's Not Say "It Is What It Is"
Air travel is often a test of our ability to accept circumstances beyond our control. I flew from New Jersey to Maine last Monday which is a little over an hour flight under normal circumstances. My flight was scheduled to arrive in Maine at 2:00 PM. Through a cavalcade of mishaps, I arrived at 6:00 PM. This isn’t a story about an epic travel delay. Instead, it’s my commentary on a figure of speech that I believe gives away our power when used. Saying “It Is What It Is” implies we are giving up our ability to shape our experience. I think we mean we should “Accept What Is” when we say this.
I planned to arrive at the airport by 11:00 for a 12:40 departure. It took longer than usual to get to the airport so when I presented my luggage at the check in counter, I was told I was too late to check my bag. Accept what is. I was nervous I would miss the flight as I still had to get through security and get to the gate which is challenging because I have a mobility impairment. Accept what is.
My mobility assistant pushing the wheelchair to the gate kept telling me my time was too short. He made a valiant effort to get me to the gate on time.
I am TSA pre checked so I don’t have to take off my shoes at security because I know this usually delays things. My assistant put my belongings on the conveyor for screening. I walked through the body scanner. I always set off an alarm due to my medical device attached to my leg that lifts my drop foot when I walk. Sure enough, when I came out the other side of the scanner, I was pulled aside for a pat down. I had to wait for them to find a female agent for this. I was told to take off my shoes because they had sounded some kind of alert on the machine. I told the agent that I don’t take off my shoes. She told me I had to because of the alarm even though I am TSA pre check. Accept what is.
The suitcase that I planned to check had products in it with liquids greater than 3 ounces. I’m aware of the regulation against carrying liquids on planes, but I packed some hair gel and sunscreen because I was planning to check the bag. Now the TSA was searching my suitcase and pulling out my products. The agent told me I couldn’t take them on the plane. I calmly told her I was unable to carry the bag on the plane and it would be checked at the gate. She said I would need to go back out to the ticket counter if I wanted to check the bag. She threw out my products because I was accepting her refusal to allow me to bring the bag to the gate. Accept what is.
I was slowly realizing that I would never get to the gate on time. My assistant next informed me that we had to take a bus to another terminal. Accept what is. There was screaming, yelling and swearing at my assistant by other agents at the bus stop about where he needed to be in order to get me and the wheelchair on the bus.
We arrived at the correct terminal with no time to spare. When we got to the gate boarding was closed for my flight. Accept what is. My assistant took me to the customer service counter to inquire about the next flight where I overheard another passenger yelling at the agent because he couldn’t accept what is. His flight was delayed by a few hours and he hadn’t been notified or given a reason for the delay. He was livid that this could happen in the middle of the day on a Monday.
The next flight to Maine was scheduled to depart at 2:30. They couldn’t check my bag at this counter so I was told I would need to check it at the gate as I had told the TSA screener I would do anyway.
I sat at the gate waiting for departure with a suitcase that I couldn’t leave unattended to go to the bathroom or to get something to eat. Due to my mobility impairment it was a struggle to drag the bag around for these purposes. Accept what is.
The 2:30 flight was twice delayed and ended up departing at 4:10. My friend in Portland is unable to drive and had hired a driver to pick me up at the airport at 2:00. They had been tracking my flight and had seen 2 delays where they expected me to arrive earlier. They made 4 trips to the airport to get me since they had picked up another friend earlier and had left with her to get food before coming to get me. She finally saw me sitting at the curb in Portland airport at 6:00 PM. I suppose she had a day of accepting what is, as well.
We can decide in one second whether we have any control over what is happening. If we don’t, we can take another second to decide whether to accept it calmly or not. At the end of that day of travel adventures, I appreciated the fact that I could stay cool through it all. The final challenge was accepting that I might have frizzy hair throughout my vacation because the TSA had thrown out my hair products.