We arrived at the airport in Florence at 8:30 am for our flight home at 10am that morning. As we stood in the check in line I suddenly sensed chaos at the counter. It wasn't long before an attendant was walking down the line asking everyone where they were headed. When she got to us and we replied Seattle, she said, "not today you're not". Air France just went on strike. She then went on to tell us that the strike would probably last at least 4 days. My first thought was, "well how bad can this be, having to spend 4 more days in Italy". There was still a lot of Florence we wanted to see. And it gave me one more opportunity to eat, you guessed it, gelato! I got busy designing new plans in my mind when I find her standing in front of us again, asking if we would mind being re-routed on our way home. If not, we could possibly still head home that day. So we headed to the next counter and quickly found ourselves holding new tickets to Munich, Germany. (with a layover) From there we would fly to London (with another layover) and then on home. That sounded perfect to both of us and interesting. It was a clear day as we flew over Germany and I felt gifted with an aerial tour of this beautiful country where rows of houses were graced with red tile roofs surrounded by lush gardens and I caught a glimpse of the snow covered Swiss Alps. I traveled between Munich and London with my nose pressed against the window as our plane silently carried us through the air. I'm sure at times the stewardess thought I might have been trying to escape the plane through that little window.
We arrived in London and found ourselves in the middle of the most amazing shopping mall. Nothing around me resembled any airport terminal I had ever been in. The first store I saw was Mohamed Fayad's (Dodi Al Fayad's father) chain of exclusive Harrods stores. I don't know, but I think there was probably a cover charge just to get in. Well, probably not a cover charge. I just didn't want to take the chance of falling in love with something that I couldn't even remotely afford, so I headed to McDonalds for a Big Mac. The first American food I'd eaten in 3 weeks.
We boarded our plane for home late in the day and I was ready to enjoy a little dinner (someone was serving me, so I wasn't complaining), settle in and enjoy the view as we flew over the English countryside, and then turn off my light and hopefully sleep most of the 10 hour flight home. I was hoping for a quiet seatmate that didn't want to visit. The plane was quickly filling up when this beautiful young lady sat down in the seat next to me. We smiled at each other and she immediately curled up and closed her eyes until dinner was served. Somewhere between the salad and the entrée we introduced ourselves and spent the next 4 hours exchanging stories and becoming friends. She was a TV producer from Lebanon coming to visit the U.S. for the first time. Somewhere out over the ocean in the middle of the night she looked at me and said, " it doesn't make any difference what color our skin is or where we're from, as women, in our hearts we're all the same. I think at that moment something in our hearts connected. The next week we met in Seattle for lunch and on Thanksgiving she called from Texas. The day she flew back to Lebanon she called from the airport and said "let's keep in touch". Today we connect through email. What if. . . Air France had not gone on strike and circumstances had not changed our plans. I would have missed this incredible encounter. What I have learned in life is that most things happen for a reason, and that it's just easier to go with the flow. . .and see what surprises life might have in store. Webster says "serendipity is a discovery almost by chance".