Lesson Learned from a Storm Named Patricia

I am a man who is guilty of living an overly calculated life in a sense. Everything I do is from a standpoint of time: from the time I wake up, to the time I need to get ready for work… even to the few minutes I need to pick-up my dry cleaning, or swing by my parents’ house for an hour-long visit. I plan everything based on a timeline. I control everything –at least I think I do.

I sit here typing this introspective from a hotel room packed with 9 other people – people I only met today. You see, the past 24-hours have been a whirlwind for all of us. Just yesterday I was out lounging by the pool awaiting the “showers” that seemed to have been showing up on my weather app for the last few days. Well, little did I know that the “showers” were an indication of something much bigger than expected. Who knew that a tropical storm was headed up the western coast of Mexico, and had developed in intensity to a category 5 storm in the matter of 24 hours? The tele in my guestroom had been fixated on American channels –NYC’s NBC network channel, to be exact. So initially, I hadn’t heard much of Patricia. But when I finally searched online I nearly freaked out.

After putting a timeline on the storm, I called my airline to reschedule my flight – hoping I could take off a day earlier and spend another day with friends in L.A. No worry, no foul. But in the middle of the night, I got word that my new flight had been cancelled. I learned further that the local airport had closed in preparation for the storm (hence the cancellation), but thankfully I was put back on my original flight the next day. To be on the safe side, and per the government’s direction, our hotel had all guests moved to a smaller hotel just a block away in case of any surges that the original hotel would bear the brunt of being on the waterfront.

Being a person who commands that sense of control, I knew that there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t pay my way out of here with a flight as there were no flights to pay for. I didn’t know anyone who might be willing to drive me 5-hours inland (to Guadalajara perhaps?) to hopefully figure out a plan from there. So I let the local people lead me. And as painful as it was, I just knew that it was what I had to do. Prideful me –not in control… but my life depended on it.

Thankfully, the hotel staff was great at keeping everyone calm, which I appreciated as a corporate “family” member. They carefully led us just a block away where we were divided into groups of 10 into guestrooms to wait out the storm. My group in particular –a family from Kansas City (who were in town for the destination wedding of their son –who was born in Ft. Belvoir, no less), two friends from Australia (taking advantage of their country’s sabbatical trips), and a couple from Ottawa (who are Diamond HHonors members) – throw me in there, and we were a group of strangers who soon became fast friends. What was the best experience in all this was that being together with this group of people really reminded me of how powerful the human spirit is. From the time we were all ushered into our room, we shared our bottles of water, cans of beer and soda, and snacks – to pool together all we had. We said that we were “all in this together,” and at that point I was at peace with whatever happened.

As we all contemplated the idea of staying close together for an extended period of time, we began to share stories –stories about our families, our careers, our travels, and our random experiences. Maybe it was because we were forced into this situation that we were able to just open up and share. Whatever the case may be, we let our guards down, hoping we would all come out of this unscathed.

As I type this, the eye of the storm has made landfall south of where we are. It’s a blessing for us and for the tourism industry of Puerto Vallarta, but it’s tough for those who are in the path of the eye. Looking out the window, the rain is falling lightly, the wind is super light, but above all that, hope is high that we will get to go back to our hotel tonight. Just the same, I hope that my flight tomorrow leaves without a hitch. I’m ready to come home.

I feel that at times God shows me a lesson every now and then –lessons that I HAVE to learn. This time, it was a lesson in patience, a lesson in sometimes having to let go, and a lesson in faith in the human spirit. Thank God that it’s still alive.

(At the time of this posting, I had made it back to my hotel room safe and sound, as did my co-guests. ¡Muchísimas gracias, México!)

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