Too often travel, instead of broadening the mind, merely lengthens the conversation.”
Elizabeth Drew.

This quote struck me after I arrived in the office nearly 24-hours delayed. Getting up at 04:45am to allow me to leave France and return to the island of Madeira doesn’t sound as though it should be a difficult journey. Flight from Lyon to Lisbon, then from Lisbon to Funchal; but … this story started a week earlier.

On the way to Funchal airport a friend of mine (E) who was kindly taking me there commented on how the flights to the island sometimes are delayed during the winter season. At the time I thought it was a strange comment to make, and wondered the reason it was made now. I was looking forward to going to France as this was going to give me the opportunity to meet up with a friend (C) I hadn’t seen in 4 or maybe 5 years. Our meeting was arranged at the last minute, and I know from talking when we were together that neither of us appreciated the reason we were meeting now.

I boarded the flight in Funchal on time – arrived in Lisbon successfully and as I was walking through the terminal having just switched on my mobile I answered a call from TAP (my airline of choice for this trip). With announcements going on in the terminal building and the noise of the passengers around me I couldn’t really hear what I was being told, other than my return flight for next week, from Lisbon to the island had been changed. I asked them to email me the details and hurried on to catch my connecting flight to Lyon. I didn’t think about what was happening as I was focused on getting to France. I arrived successfully in Lyon, was collected by my friend (C).

After a few days of relaxing, resting, and doing what I was in France to do. Wednesday morning saw a 04:45 am start – I arrived back at Lyon airport early, after a sort-of sleepless night (I don’t really sleep the night before I fly). Checked-in successfully, although I was told that although I could check my case all the way through to Funchal, I had to check myself in at Lisbon – the check-in staff at Lyon were unable to give me the boarding pass. Strange I thought, as I got both my boarding passes at Funchal for both legs of that journey; but … just one of those quirks of travelling. Another challenge faced me when at Lyon I was told that my briefcase would need to be handed in at the aircraft and go into the hold. When I explained that my laptop and all my hard drives were in it, it didn’t seem to matter to the check-in staff! My suitcase was now in the hands of the airport and there was no way I could re-think how to pack the items in my brief-case. All I could do is go through security and see what happens!

As seems to be the case more and more these days, once we were called to board the flight we boarded a bus! Drove around the airport until we reached the plane. As I got off the plane the guy waiting to take my brief-case was unwilling to do so, until I let him know that I had my laptop in my hand and my hard-drives in my handbag. I had forgotten that most airlines use Executive Jet style planes for the cross Europe journeys, so duck and you can climb aboard! This particular flight only has 3 seats across the plane – 1 on one side and 2 on the other. As a passenger travelling on my own I was in the seat on my own – therefore no ‘overhead locker space’ and truly no ‘under the seat in front of you space’ either. On the journey from Lisbon to Lyon I had put my brief-case into the overhead locker next to my seat, but on the journey back … no brief-case to worry about. Although I have two laptops I had chosen to travel with the big one and not my notebook … so I put my laptop into the seat pocket of the seat in front of me and protected it with today’s copy of the Financial Times.

Arriving back at Lisbon fully dressed for 0°C for Lyon gave me the opportunity to have lunch outside in the sunshine and fresh air (something I hadn’t experienced too much of in France). Lisbon at this point was sunny and about 17°C. Wearing layers is a fabulous idea, until you realise that now you have to carry those items of clothing that you are taking off!

The original flight from Lisbon to Funchal gave me about 3 hours in Lisbon airport – the phone call a week ago confirmed a delay of over 2 hours. So now I had 5+ hours before my next flight was scheduled to take off. So after a leisurely lunch and a walk around the shops at Terminal 1, I hopped onto the bus and went across to Terminal 2. I was able to get my boarding pass early and go through into the Departure Lounge – this is not something I would recommend at Lisbon airport as there is not a lot to do or see in Terminal 2 Departure Lounge, but I had booked into the Airport Lounge – so that’s where I went. Relaxed with my laptop out and a cup of tea, I was able to catch up on emails. As I went into the Lounge the lady at the reception desk informed me that they did not make announcements and it was up to me to ensure I caught my flight – so with this in mind, I kept an eye on the departures board. A few minutes before departure time (17:55) the board indicated that we should go to the gate … so I packed up my brief-case and went to the gate. The conversations started about 15 minutes later, when the first (of what turned out to be many) announcements was made – the flight was delayed due to ‘the weather on the island’. Immediately I heard this E’s comment about delayed flights at this time of year came back to me and then I wondered about the reason for the change of flight … what had I intuitively missed last week in my delight and excitement of going to France?

‘The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.’ Albert Einstein This quote brought a smile to my face as I realised that if I had been listening to my intuition rather than ‘doing the practical’ or as Albert Einstein says using my rational mind, I might have heard the message I was so obviously missing. Announcements were promised, which weren’t forthcoming. Eventually 3 hours later the gate opened and we were taken out to the bus, around the airport trip and onto the plane. It was interesting – the easyJet flight had been rescheduled for the morning and the passengers already taken to a hotel, the Sata flight had just taken off … so of the delayed flights, we were last to leave. During this period I had been in text conversation with E and sent her that text message that I always love sending … ‘Boarded – see you in 1½ hours’! By 21:20 we had left Lisbon and climbed out over the Atlantic – I was on my way back to the island after a long day. A snack arrived with a cup of tea and once it was cleared, having been away for 16 or 17 hours I went to sleep. I woke at 23:15 and being disoriented I wondered why we hadn’t landed. Thankfully my mobile phone has the flight safe mode as I was able to check what time I had sent my last text message and found that we were very overdue for landing in Funchal, or even being diverted to Porto Santa (the usual diversion destination for Funchal). About 20 minutes later that captain came over the tannoy and explained that within ½ hour we would be landing back in Lisbon!

As he finished making this announcement in Portuguese and then in English, the level of conversation rose in the cabin. The stewardess’s were being questioned and as is normal in a situation like that no-one was really listening to their answers – they knew exactly the same as we did. The captain hadn’t felt it safe to land in Funchal due to the weather so had returned to Lisbon. We landed safely at 12:15am – now Thursday morning. Very quickly were we put onto the bus and taken to Terminal 1 where we were met by a stewardess. She explained that we were being taken to a bus and onto a hotel – no our luggage was not coming with us, it was staying at the airport in safe storage. We would be collected at 06:15 and returned to the airport. No luggage meant no toothpaste, tooth-brush and all the other little things that I and the other passengers without their luggage were thinking about. After being questioned about this decision many times, the stewardess confirmed one last time that this was being done to speed up the transfer to the hotel.

I boarded the bus and got off at the hotel to be given my room key fairly quickly. Thankfully it was not a full flight, so the delay in getting to the rooms wasn’t that long. Shower and bed for just 4 hours! My alarm rang at 05:15 and my phone rang at 05:30! They were making sure that we would not miss the bus or the flight. Thursday morning – back to Lisbon Terminal 2, where we were handed another boarding pass. This one said that we were boarding at 07:35 … over an hour to wait! Neither the hotel, nor the airline had thought to provide us with the little items we might need or a drink between landing last night and getting back into the Departure Lounge at Terminal 2. The coffee shop queue was a long one and I recognised most of the passengers from my flight in it … I joined it and got a drink. No-where in this Terminal were we able to buy a toothbrush or toothpaste …! 07:40 came and we were called to board the bus! Another ‘Boarded – see you in 1½ hours’ text message sent to E as I sat in my seat on the aircraft – this time a full plane. TAP had put us onto an early morning flight and I’m sure that the other passengers didn’t really understand the reason that the majority of the people on this plane were grumpy, unkempt, and tired!

Landing in Funchal at 11am was such a delight! A feeling of relief when my suitcase arrived (I hadn’t seen this since handing it in at Lyon yesterday morning). In the car coming back from the airport, E and I discussed what might have been the outcome if I had just listened to my intuition … We also talked about what the reason was that I had been through this experience. Friday confirmed it! I had been sitting next to a Dutch lady who was coming out to the island for a 2-day EU conference … she accepted my invitation to see the island on Saturday. What a fabulous business connection that I would not have had the opportunity to meet if I had listened to my intuition and changed my trip, and if we had not been delayed! Although we don’t always see it or understand it at the time, the Universe does work in wonderful ways!

© 2010 Barbara J. Cormack
First published under Cormack’s Capers in Magna Intuitum