The title of my blog today is “It’s a Five Star Day”. I will periodically be writing about various experiences related to all three of my life themes as I happen to be blessed with a “five star day”. All this really means is that this was one of those days where everything falls into place in a unique and remarkable way. Sometimes they are big things…sometime small. Sometimes we have “five star days” but we’re so busy rushing around here and there that we don’t even recognize it. So with these little stories of unexpected blessings, I hope you will start to look for your own “five star days”.
My first documented five star day happened just a few weeks ago. I had decided back around Christmas that instead of buying my parents an obligatory trinket that they didn’t have room for as a Christmas gift, I would instead just plan a trip to visit them in January. Kind-of like giving myself for Christmas, which they agreed was really what they wanted and needed. So January approached and the day arrived for me to make the journey from Portland, Oregon to Phoenix, Arizona where they live during the cold Pacific Northwest winter months.
As typical in our family, my husband does all the booking of flights, etc. He travels all the time for work and he has the whole system down with Expedia and United. His Platinum status makes planning, booking and flying a breeze. The airfare for this trip was actually flight miles so the cost for the trip was extremely minimal. My first star for the day actually happened on the night before I was to leave when he checked me in on-line and printed my boarding passes.
“Good news!” he says to me. “You got TSA Pre-Check” on your boarding pass.
I wasn’t sure what that all meant. He explained that when I arrived at the TSA checking station at the airport, I would just by-pass the long lines and go over to the “Pre-check” line at the far left and pretty much walk on through. Hmmm, I thought. That’s nice. I was excited to try it. While I’m all for National Security and safe flights, I do hate that “cattle shoot” line that snakes its way back and forth at the TSA flight check stations.
The day of travel dawned. Actually it wasn’t really dawn since we had to get up at 2:30 a.m. (or o’dark thirty as my husband refers to it) to drive over an hour to the Portland Airport, park the car, get on the parking/terminal bus and then arrive at the airport in time to check in, etc, etc. We had worked very hard to coordinate our travels and my husband was actually flying out at the same time heading towards Atlanta for work while I went south to Phoenix. We parted ways at the front doors and agreed we would meet up again on Friday at 9:00 p.m. when both our return flights would be arriving back in Portland.
Star One: He was right. TSA Pre-Check rocks. I followed his instructions. Went to the line at the far left. Handed the agent my ID and boarding pass. Put my purse/bag on the x-ray conveyor. Then walked through the little scanner. I said “good morning” to the agents and picked my bag up on the other side. It took me maybe 3 minutes at the most and I was on my way. Pretty cool. My step was light and the day was fresh and new as I leisurely walked down concourse C to my gate.
Star Two: The next star came along when I boarded the plane. Hubby had selected row D on this US Air flight so that I was behind the bulkhead and had more leg room. I like the window seat and that’s where I sat down after putting my bag overhead. I hate the part of the flight where you anxiously await the boarding of the passengers to see what manner of person you will be crammed into the little seats with for hours upon hours. I settled myself, put on my seat belt, looked out the window and waited. I watched while more and more people shuffled past me. Some paused and put items overhead but then kept on moving. Pretty soon they announced that we were ready to close the cabin and would be taxiing to the runway. Please shut off your electric devices. What?? There wasn’t anyone in my row of seats?? I held my breath as a few more people hurried by. The fight attendants were making their check for seat belts and bags….and then we were moving away from the gate. I could not believe it! I had the whole row to my self! I was now two stars into my five star day.
Star Three: The early morning departure time and the knowledge that my folks would have a full day planned once I arrived in Phoenix, urged me to try to get some sleep on the flight. I loosened my seat belt, put my seat back and slept. Without anyone else in the row to disturb me I quickly fell asleep and ignored the typical hustle and bustle of the flight attendants as they moved back and forth up and down the aisle. No, I didn’t want anything to drink, I just wanted to sleep. It was a fairly short flight and after a little nap, I awoke and opened my window shade. I looked down and saw that we were flying over the Grand Canyon. There was a light dusting of snow highlighted by the glow of the morning sun spilling across rocky points and deep jagged crevices. Everything was bathed in a soft pink and gold light. It was breathtaking and I immediately recognized that this was a gift. A blessing to behold. It was star number three! I was awake now and retrieved my bag (without having to climb over two other people to do it) and settled down to read a bit before we began our descent. Mom and Dad…here I come and it’s a great day!
Star Four: We landed. The first class travelers got off. I was right behind them. I made my way to the baggage claim. I didn’t hurry as I knew that it would take time for the crew to get the bags around the terminals and into the claim area. I called my mom to tell her I had landed. She already knew. We were trying something new with this flight. My folks were waiting in the cell phone area watching the big flight monitor screen where it had just posted my flight status as “landed”. I told her I would call again once I got my bag and we would connect for them to pick me up. A quick stop at the ladies facilities and I arrived at the baggage area. I waited. This is the part that always makes me nervous. I have been known to lose bags frequently when I fly and I hate that feeling of seeing all the bags go around and around….waiting….watching….hoping that my bag is there. Seeing other people get their bags and still waiting. I found a good spot with a view of the conveyor. The alarm went off. The announcer confirmed I was at the correct claim location. The conveyor started to move. Here they come! Wait….is that my bag? As the cluster of luggage turned and twisted around the conveyor, I saw my bag. It was the very first bag. Leading the other bags like a victorious commander in the platoon of black suitcases. As I reached for the handle and checked the tag to be sure it was mine, I really could not believe it! When had I ever had a chance to see my bag come first off the baggage carousel? How about never! By this point, I was four stars into my five star day. Something as simple as picking up my bag just added to the blessings already recognized. I said a quick “thank you Lord,” and headed for the exit doors to meet my parents.
Star Five: As my special star day began to draw to an end, the last star came at dinner time. My doctor had recently put me on a very restricted diet with low carbs, high protein and minimal calories. With the flight and travel of the day, I had only had a chance to grab a “doctor” approved snack bar and some water. So when it came close to dinner time I was very hungry and we started talking about where we should go out to eat. After discussing a few options, I told my parents that I just needed a nice big well prepared steak and some veggies and salad. They quickly said, “Claim Jumpers.” I had never been to a Claim Jumpers since we don’t have those types of chain restaurants in our small town in the Columbia Gorge. I quickly checked my phone app to be sure they had something on the menu that would fit my criteria. They did. How about prime rib. I love prime rib. Perfect end to a perfect day. We piled in the car and headed out across Phoenix. When we got there, I have to admit, that I was pleasantly surprised. The décor was inviting and homey, while not being western tacky. We settled into our booth and I asked the waiter about the Prime Rib. He politely informed me that they no longer have prime rib except on special days. This kind of threw me off for a bit since I had factored in the calories and protein for prime rib on my phone app. I wasn’t sure what to order now?? I turned to our waiter Jaron and explained my dietary needs. He listened carefully, took some notes and then told me he would check with the chef in the kitchen to see what they would recommend that best fit my needs. I was suitably impressed. He came back and gave me two options that the chef thought might meet my needs. I ordered a nice steak, broccoli and a side salad. We casually chatted while we awaited our food. We talked about our schedule for the next few days and where we would go and what we might do. I just love my folks and always enjoy visiting them whether it’s in Arizona or in Talent, Oregon where they live in the summer months. Our food quickly arrived and Jaron set before me the most beautiful plate of healthy food I had seen for a while. The steak portion and doneness was exactly as I had requested. The broccoli was actually tasty (not my favorite veggie), and the salad was fresh and crisp. It was a delightful meal, served by an extremely helpful waiter in a restaurant that obviously prides itself on quality and service. A truly remarkable five star day!
I hope you have enjoyed this little “five star day” journey from Portland to Phoenix. In the world of travel, there are so many opportunities beyond our control to have things go wrong. Delayed flights. Poor seating. Lost luggage. Rude people. I want to encourage you to overlook the bad and look instead for those little stars. The gems of the day that can make you smile and cause you to say….”now that was a five star day!” Happy travels!