Silver Lining Appears Before Clouds

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Woody Woodburn

400 Roosevelt Court

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Silver Lining Appears Before Flying Into Clouds

First in a four-column series chronicling my recent father-son road trip to the FDR Presidential Library & Museum in Hyde Park, NY, and more.


“People don’t take trips,” John Steinbeck observed in “Travels with Charley: In Search of America”– “trips take people.”

My previous visit to see my son in New York City was less than 24 hours underway when the trip took me to urgent care for 16 stitches after a subway door mugged my right index finger.

My most recent trip to Manhattan, last week, took even less time to get off track. Again it was transportation related – my shuttle to LAX got caught in late-morning traffic that was worse than usual, meaning it was horrific.

Fortunately, I am of the ilk that likes to get to the departure gate two hours early. This has served me well in books read and never missing a flight.

Unfortunately, this time I had brain freeze doing the simple math of subtracting four hours – two hours for the shuttle ride, one hour to get my boarding pass and pass through security, and a safety cushion to read “Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders – from my flight’s boarding time.1scarequote

I did not realize my muddleheaded error until Sky Way nearing LAX became a virtual parking lot. The slower the shuttle crept, the faster my heart raced.

Adding to my panic, I was flying out of distant Terminal 7.

“I could run faster than this shuttle is moving,” I thought as we crawled to Terminals 1, 3, Tom Bradley International, and 4.

And so that is what I did. Even pulling a rolling suitcase and weaving between pedestrians, I left the shuttle in my rearview mirror, so to speak, as I raced to Terminal 7.

Reaching my airline, the long line inside brought to mind this famous line from Dante’s Inferno: “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”

Directly ahead of me was a family of four, plus two dogs and luggage enough for the Queen of England. I asked when their flight left and the father answered, “Three o’clock.” This was more than two hours hence, so I desperately explained mine began boarding in ten minutes, adding: “Can I please cut ahead of you?”

“No. Can’t you see we have two dogs?” came the unsympathetic, and nonsensical, reply.

My FastPass forward, one family by one couple by one lone traveler at a time, was thwarted before it began.

Ten minutes passed and the line advanced only two spots while the number of agents working diminished by one. I texted my son telling him I was going to miss my flight.

No sooner had I hit “Send” when I received a bolt of inspiration out of the ether in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt: “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Asking strangers for special privileges, especially because the fix I found myself in was of my own making and dull-headedness, is a dozen ZIP Codes outside my comfort zone.

No matter. The introvert in me swallowed hard, stood up tall, and announced bravely but politely: “I’m going to miss my flight to see my son – would any of you mind if I took cuts in front of you?”

The family directly in front of me notwithstanding, everyone else said “Yes!” or “Sure!” or “Of course!” or raised an affirmative waving hand. Words fail to describe the surge of warmth their kindness gave me.

With my boarding pass in hand and my suitcase out of my hands, I apologized once more to my traveling altruists and offered another sincere “Thank you,” only to receive more kindness.

“Good luck!” one told me.

“Hurry!” said another.

“Have a great time with your son!” shouted a third.

Good luck was unexpectedly having TSA Precheck and sailing through security.

Hurry I did, running through the terminal to my gate and onto the plane as the final passenger to board.

Have a great time with your son – thanks to friendly strangers, and an assist from Eleanor Roosevelt, doing so began at the original ETA.

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Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at

Wooden & Me Kickstarter Front PhotoCheck out my memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece” and my essay collection “Strawberries in Wintertime: Essays on Life, Love, and Laughter” …