The Unexpected Lesson from Six Legs on Southwest

So last week was a Southwest Airlines extravaganza. We began the first of six legs at the start of the week, flying up to northern California for work, then back home to San Diego. Two days later, a presentation brought us to Providence, RI and back (plus a layover each way).

Let me say now that I LOVE Southwest. Such friendly people and such good snacks and that white-wine-in-a-plastic-cup that they somehow make taste so delicious.

And yet, as with any airline, there were a few – shall we say – hiccups throughout the legs.

  • Leg #1: As we settled into our flight with ambitious plans of accomplishing all kinds of work at 30,000 feet, the internet we paid for…didn’t work. And there was much grumbling.
  • Leg #3: A flight delay and a subsequent attempt to get to the airport early and fly standby got tricky when our cab driver made it clear he was in noooooo kind of hurry. And there was much grumbling.
  • Leg #6: When we got in line to board the flight, a few rogue passengers from the B-section (unsuccessfully) attempted to cut into the line among us loyal, A-section people. (If you are unfamiliar with this airline, just know that cutting the line is a near cardinal sin in the Southwest line-up world.)

…And there was much, much grumbling.

We all know that traveling can be frustrating. So can everyday life.

Many of these frustrations lead to what I call stub-the-toe-rage…the kind of lightning-bolt anger that comes from something pretty small but feels HUGE, then passes pretty quickly.

And boy, do they make us grumble.

Yet, in these instances and no matter what we tell ourselves, grumbling does nothing for us. There is no need to vent to feel better. Sure, we might feel upset, but grumbling – inside our minds or outside our mouths – isn’t required.

In fact, it just makes things worse. It prolongs our anger unnecessarily, making us behave in ways we’re not proud of later. It creates negative outbursts that impact the people around us. It creates ick in our stomachs and it makes us frowny.

Alas, I have an answer to the grumbling problem…which I began using right around that cab ride on leg three. As I looked at my watch and sighed and knew we’d be running to the gate, the following thought popped into my mind…

“In a few hours, this won’t matter to me at all.”

This, my dear reader, is the answer to grumbling and all the ick feelings and behaviors that come with it. Recognizing that in a short amount of time – likely that day, and potentially mere minutes from now – whatever we’re grumbling about won’t mean anything. At all.

I found that this little phrase didn’t just get me through the trip, but has also come in handy in the week since I first found it. Some examples:

  • “In 30 seconds, the fact that this driver just cut me off won’t matter to me”
  • “In five minutes, the fact that this stranger just saw me trip on the curb won’t matter to me”
  • “In one hour, the fact that I ran out of my super-favorite yogurt and so need to find a different breakfast won’t matter to me”
  • “In a few days, the fact that my beloved Jeep needed yet another repair won’t matter to me”

It turns out that this phrase is a real winner for grumbling issues. The kinds of frustrations that, super soon (and usually sooner than we think), just won’t matter…or, at least, won’t matter nearly as much as much as we think they will when they first occur. It has a way of snapping them into perspective, softens that sharp and immediate anger that pops up.

(To be clear…this is NOT, however, the right strategy for more serious/hurtful issues, which must be dealt with directly. That’s a different strategy for a different post.)

Seriously…try out this handy phrase the next time you find yourself grumbling about a frustrating situation. Remind yourself that in just a few minutes or hours or maybe a day or two, this won’t matter. Not even a little bit.

And give Southwest a break. They really are great. And sometimes that pesky internet has a way of going out all by itself.

Plus, when it does, there’s always that white-wine-in-a-plastic-cup to make it all better.




7 responses to “The Unexpected Lesson from Six Legs on Southwest”

  1. David Oates Avatar
    David Oates

    Brilliant! And yes, in a few hours, this white-wine-in-a-plastic-cup-hangover won’t matter at all. Well done as always!

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar

      Ha! You know me so well, David…thanks so much for giving this a read!

  2. Patty Costa Avatar
    Patty Costa

    Thank you Deirdre for the wise attitude. I believe attitude is the key in all of these situations. Acceptance as you suggest really works.

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar

      Attitude really is so much of this, Patty! Thanks for your great comment!

  3. John T Capps Avatar
    John T Capps

    Attitude makes the difference. GET IT!

  4. Samantha Goldstein Avatar
    Samantha Goldstein

    Love it! As always. Picture of you with wine: Priceless. Also I think this post has some connection to a phrase I learned in “Fearless Living” a few years back: “Treat everyone as if they were innocent,” and that goes for strangers and sisters and everyone in between. It helps me with some of the grumbling opportunities. To not take them, I mean. Love your take on it. xoxo

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar

      I LOVE that, Sam? So much of our grumbling has to do with thinking the worst of others in the moment. And i also love that living this way is seen as fearless…which it totally is. Thanks so much for the great comment!