diamond in the roughIf  you spend enough time with folks you can get to know them pretty well, make it a stressful scenario and it happens a sight quicker. We get to find out who the chunks of coal are and who’s gonna end up the sparkling diamond in the rough.

My wife and I wanted to beat the rush hour in the California metropolis, so we got an early 5:30 am head start. The traffic was indeed ugly, and that’s being generous and an understatement… or lacking prose…

Even after being pushed through the screening and baggage X-ray machines like cattle being led to slaughter, we were still an hour and forty-five minutes early for our 10:40 flight back to the desert. The gate was a ghost town, I guess you gotta show up that early to sit in the cushy oversized seats with their own plug-ins in the face off the big oversized arms on the leather chairs.

Slowly but surely, time, which usually sails by at the speed of light, passed like filling a barrel of water with one drop of water from a leaky faucet that’s not quite ready to be repaired yet. The other passengers trickled in like the annoying drops.

A girl in her late teens with a cough you could almost see the germs scatter from talked non-stop on her cell phone, alternating between giving her mom and boyfriend minute by minute updates between her hack attacks from the chair next to me.

A tall couple, probably late thirties, early forties, were casually dressed but couldn’t hide their urban professional reserved demeanor.

A mom, daughter, and granddaughter sat across from us. I couldn’t understand them but that didn’t keep the two-year-old from wiping her grimy little paws all over my water bottle that was lying horizontally across the top of my suitcase, lodged in place by the handle. The mom talked in a language that wasn’t remotely familiar to me, trying to control the whirlwind of a child, but to no avail.

Another mom pushing her daughter in a stroller packed in and brought the max amount of humans, bags, and  buggies that could be fit into our already crowded aisle. The little girl in the stroller had a video game designed to keep her entertained. It worked. the Disney song played as she played, chorus only, over and over and over…

After the third flight delay and three hours later, the Disney tune was beginning to make my right eye twitch… All the elements were in place and began to overwhelm me, and that’s when the coal started to show through my calm and cool facade.

“They’re lying!” I said to my wife with clear agitation in my voice, and not caring who around me heard it.

I know from past experience that this particular airline cancels flights when they have two scheduled close to one another with the same destination and are able to fit most of the passengers on just one of them.

As soon as I spoke in my coal covered voice something special happened in the process. The little girl quit playing her video game and started talking to me. The tall yuppie husband made pretend glasses out of some wire, then transformed them into a hat to entertain the little girl. We all began to genuinely take an interest in one another. My wife offered to get food or water for the elderly lady parked at the end of our aisle in her wheelchair.

By the time the five hours and a couple more delays passed we were chatting like long lost friends, and when the mad, mad, mad, mad, dash to the other gate was announced, my wife wheeled the lady in the wheelchair at warp speed, inadvertently running over a few toes in the process. “Keep your arms in!” my wife ordered as the elderly lady’s gray locks blew in the breeze.

I wonder why it is we dread things beyond our control, knowing they usually turn out for the best?

I checked the mirror in the restroom when we finally got to Phoenix… Not a twinkle in sight…