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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dread: What is it Good For? (Absolutely Nothing)

Me at Pipeline. Note the windblown hair.
Julie Owsik Ackerman

I often think that I know how something will turn out – and that it will be awful. Several times this summer, as I snorkeled through the reefs off Maui, or watched the sunset in Waikiki, or tucked into a fresh pineapple, I caught myself dreading the trip home. Luckily, I had enough awareness of my dread problem to tell myself that maybe it would be okay, and refocus on the moment. This example stands out for me because of how amazing our flight home turned out to be.

The last day of our trip, we toured the North Shore of Oahu. Like good surf pilgrims, we visited Waimea Bay, picked up shells at Sunset, stood at Pipeline. A rare tropical storm was set to hit Hawaii that day. Though this increased my worry and dread, I realized there was nothing I could do to control the weather, and for the most part, enjoyed our day.

Our trip home began at 6 PM, when we checked in for our flight from Honolulu to Maui. From Maui we would fly six hours to Phoenix, and from there five more hours to Philadelphia. Having left our hotel at noon, then driven around Oahu all day, I knew how long, uncomfortable and tiring the trip would be, possibly undoing all the benefit of 10 days of bliss. But improbably, our first flight took off almost on time, and though we had a bumpy ten minutes flying through the storm, we landed safely on Maui.

Though Oahu showed little sign of the storm, the Maui airport was in chaos. Almost all departing flights had been cancelled. The staff looked like they’d been working for three days straight, and passengers had the defeated look of those who know they’re not getting home that day. Here's where the nightmare begins, I thought. But I was wrong.

Because our plane had been on the island before the storm hit, our flight was one of the only flights leaving that night. The flight was overbooked, so they asked for volunteers to stay one more night, in a resort on Maui, who would each receive a $650 voucher for their trouble. We immediately volunteered, adjusting to the idea of more more day in Hawaii rather easily. The flight boarded, the airport emptied out. The poor exhausted staff filled out the paperwork for our vouchers and were about to put us in a cab when a distraught stewardess walked through the gate and reported that the plane had an open seat. Apparently this was bad.

A heated discussion ensued among the staff. The woman filling out our paperwork looked at us and said, “Do you want to take these vouchers and get on this flight?” Carl had the decency to ask about the passenger who would be taken off the flight to make room for us. “He works for the airline, sir. I need this flight to be full,” she said. I snatched the vouchers from her hand, and headed toward the plane, unable to believe we had received $1300 in vouchers, and still boarded our original flight. The cherry on top of this travel sundae was that I miraculously slept soundly on both flights, waking up in Philadelphia feeling rested and refreshed. I had to look at the vouchers to make sure I hadn’t dreamed them up.

Now, when I find myself dreading some future outcome, I remind myself of these flights, which turned out better than anything I could have imagined. Maybe like our trip home from Maui, what I’m dreading will actually turn out to be not only endurable, but wonderful.


  1. Great story! Often, after I have found myself dreading some event, some party that I wish I hadn't said yes, I have found that I end up having a great time! Funny how that works!

  2. Julie, as you know, I also have an over-developed sense of worry/ dread. One of my favorite readings reminds me there are often outcomes I can't foresee. Remembering that often helps me talk myself back from the ledge. Glad your outcome was so much better than your expectations

  3. Julie, What a great travel memory for you. I try not to go through life thinking about the bad things that can happen, but try to find joy in the moment. Air travel may be the exception, though, as it seems like there are so many more possibilities for things to go south. Your story made me smile.

  4. All of my favorite topics: faith, surprises, HAWAII!!! One of the great advantages of getting older is having a trunkload of such experiences to remind me that life is really full of surprises. I often find myself looking for the miracle amid the mayhem. Looking forward to that next trip to Maui, Julie?