Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

Road Warrior

Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey, USA

June 10, 2011

This essay, Road Warrior, is the companion piece to the quadrilogy September 11, 2001:
  1. September 11, 2001
  2. September 11, 2001 - One Year After
  3. September 11, 2001 - Five Years After
  4. September 11, 2001 - Ten Years After
in that order.

It is also the companion piece to Being Upset: This Side Of A Breakthrough.

This essay, Road Warrior, isn't about the road warrior. It only seems to be that way - at first. Secondarily it's about quality of Life. Primarily it's about quality of Life entirely as a function of my speaking.

If you travel frequently especially on business, you've had your share of flight delays, being stranded on runways for hours ("held captive"  as some call it), canceled flights and other inconveniences. When a flight is canceled, hopefully there's an available later flight on which to re-book. If there's no later flight on which to re-book, you'll have an unexpected overnight stay and fly the next day. It goes with the territory. With regards to travel and to air travel in particular, there's a veritable chasm  between quality of Life the way it is and quality of Life the way it should  be.

I've been on the road  for a few miles. I have more then two million miles on American Airlines, nearly half a million miles on United Airlines, and between one hundred thousand and one hundred fifty thousand miles on each of three or four other airlines. I've experienced flight delays often. Who hasn't? My flights have been stranded on runways for hours. Who's haven't? But in thirty five years of business travel my flight has been canceled only twice. On both occasions there were no later flights on which to re-book. Both resulted in unexpected overnight stays. Two cancellations in thirty five years isn't significant. Both occasions were useful opportunities to observe my thrown reaction to the inconvenience (which is to say the perceived  inconvenience), then to see if I can choose to stand in quality of Life regardless of the circumstances. I can.

The first cancellation occurred following the September 11, 2001 incident in New York City. September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday. I arrived around 8:40am local time to lead the second day of a five day seminar in Wichita Kansas. I could see there was some kind of commotion at the guard station but I couldn't tell what it was. As I got closer I saw it was a crowd of people gathered around the guard's television set watching the drama unfolding on CNN  ie Cable News Network. The FAA  ie Federal Aviation Administration canceled all flights throughout the United States for the next three days through the Thursday of that week, during which time I couldn't have flown home to Napa Valley even if I wanted to. However I was scheduled to lead the seminar in Wichita through the Friday anyway so the FAA canceling all flights through the Thursday didn't affect my travel plans. After the seminar completed on the Friday I drove to the airport intending my flight leave on time. By then the FAA had changed releasing all flights, to warning it may stage  releases, not guarantee releases. I then knew there was a likelihood all  flights scheduled to leave Wichita could be canceled.

Indeed, all flights due to leave Wichita that day were  canceled - all flights except one: mine. The FAA cancels all flights? That's just a story  - a story with a lot  of agreement, mind you. I intend my flight leaves on time. It does. But more pertinent is it's the only  flight to leave Wichita at all.

It wasn't a direct flight home. I had to change planes in Phoenix Arizona. That flight was also released to fly by the FAA - as I intended. The pilot of that flight was stuck driving in traffic and unable to reach the airport on time. So that flight was canceled (the pilot's delay caused the departure window to be exceeded). There were no available later flights on which to re‑book. I spent the night unexpectedly in a Phoenix hotel. It was the first of two flights in my thirty five years of business travel to be canceled. It was during the week of September 11, 2001 when the FAA canceled all flights throughout the United States. But my flight wasn't canceled by the FAA as a precaution in response to the September 11, 2001 incident. It was canceled because its pilot was stuck driving in traffic on the way to the airport.

I've had one other flight cancellation. I was flying home after leading a three day seminar in Warren New Jersey. The aircraft pulled back from the gate on time ... just as a storm closed in. Blinding rain and fog made visibility all but impossible. We sat on the runway for three hours waiting for the weather to clear. Could we have taxied back to the gate and waited in the relative comfort of the terminal lounge? Yes. Did we? No. Could we have waited in the relative comfort of the terminal lounge for the storm to pass before  boarding the aircraft and pulling back from the gate? Yes. Did we? No.

We sat there until the storm passed and were cleared for take off. That's when the pilot announced because of the three hour delay, he had exceeded his daily allowable flying time, apologized saying he couldn't fly us, and left the airplane. No other pilot was available. The flight was canceled. There were no available later flights on which to re-book. I spent the night unexpectedly in a Newark hotel.

Epicenter Of Choice

These are the times in the life of the road warrior (in everyone's lives actually) before which everything is fine, OK, working well, going smoothly. And then ... something happens  ... after which things are no longer fine, they're not  OK, and they stop working. Or at least they stop working the way I want them to work. Instead they work the way they  work. There's a moment of choice in the epicenter of each of these times when I can permit the upset  with things not working the way I want them to work ... OR  ... I can permit them to work the way they work.

It's a pivotal moment. It's a moment of critical  choice. My power of choice in the matter of quality of Life before  a flight I'm on is canceled, is exactly  the same power of choice in the matter of quality of Life after  a flight I'm on is canceled. What's interesting is after the flights I was on were canceled, there was an impetus (a reason  if you will) to choose quality of Life over circumstance. But before a flight is canceled, before the upset of a canceled flight, I may not be ongoingly choosing quality of Life at all. Quality of Life may simply be there by default. There's no power in that.

How do you want to be? Never upset, yet not responsible for quality of Life either? ... OR  ... having the presence, the intention  if you will during an unexpected upset, to choose quality of Life over circumstance?


"Never  upset", to be rigorous about this, as a choice is simply unavailable. You are a machine. You'll be upset by one thing or another from time to time until you die. But to juxtapose "Never upset" with "having the presence, the intention if you will during an unexpected upset, to choose quality of Life over circumstance" to make a point, is good enough for jazz.

Notice an upset is always  unexpected. Yet it's inevitable  from time to time given you are a machine. The way to meet  an upset (so to speak) is with power and intention distinguishing the upset's components. This is the conversation in the essay Being Upset: This Side Of A Breakthrough which recreates ideas originated by Werner Erhard.


Quality Of Life Over Circumstance

So ... I'm unexpectedly stranded at an airport - twice - with no way of getting home until the next day. What to do? Find the best hotel nearest the airport at the best price. Get to the hotel. Have a nice conversation with a friendly taxi driver on the way there at 2:00am. Ask him if he's ever heard of The Landmark Forum. Be delighted when he says he's a graduate. Catch up writing Conversations For Transformation while enjoying room service at 3:00am. Sleep in a bit later than usual. Watch an extra movie. Shower and change into clean clothes.

Get back to the airport at a less frenzied time of day rested and more refreshed than I would have been for the canceled flight. Have the airline upgrade me to Economy Plus  or to First Class  at no additional cost to me as compensation for my "inconvenience" (note to self: what  inconvenience?). Board the flight which isn't as crowded as the flight I was originally booked on. Look out the window from 34,000 feet all the way home marveling at the miracle it is to fly. Really.

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