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Sometimes, it's all a blessing in disguise

July 10, 2013

Do you ever go through some days that make you wonder who had conspired with who to drive you insane? Well, that's the kind of day I had on Friday 5th July, 2013. To start with, I woke up to realize that none of my phones were working; sim cards weren't registering to their respective networks. Why all the lines? I'm still trying to figure that out but just in case you get an answer before I do please let me know.

As if that was not enough, I was waiting for a very important phone-call which was to determine how my day would play out, or rather how my to-do list would look like. Needless to say, I missed the call and with it a very important meeting. The rest of the day was no better and by 6pm, I was almost pulling my hair out (ok... my weave). The last straw was when my ATM card was swallowed by some "malnutritioned" ATM. I didn't have a single shilling in my pocket at that time and worse still, I was told I couldn't pick up my card until the following Monday.

At the end of the day when I looked back I just couldn't understand why all those bad things had happened to me. Who had I wronged so much that I had to go through all that? As those questions were running through my mind I remembered the 9-11 bombing of the Twin Towers in the USA. I know you are wondering why my frustrating experiences would remind me of such a somber time. Well, actually what I remembered is the various stories that were shared by people who narrowly escaped death on that day...

One person had driven to his summer home the previous day and experienced car trouble that lasted through the morning of 9/11 and then corrected itself. Creepy, right?

Another person had chosen that moment to get a cup of coffee and left the 80th floor of one of the buildings. What makes her story unusual is the fact that prior to that day, she had not had a cup of coffee for over a decade (she's opposed to the heavy pesticide use coffee bean workers are exposed to). When asked why she had wanted a cup of coffee, she said she didn't know.

Another person's son vomited on his suit before he could leave home. This prevented him from making his carpool and having to take a later train. He arrived in the City just around the same time the first plane crashed; he would have been another death statistic if his son hadn't vomited on him, since he was going right into that building.

But there's one story that really got me thinking; a lady who was literally saved by a clumsy keystroke

United Airlines flight attendant Elise O'Kane had wanted to work her usual trip from Boston to Los Angeles that month. But in August, when scheduling her flights for September on the airline's computer system, she accidentally inverted two code numbers and wound up with the wrong schedule. She managed to trade flights with other attendants for all her trips -- except for Flight 175 on 9/11. So the night before, she logged into the computer system again and tried to request that flight. The system froze. By the time it finally processed her request, it was one minute past the airline's deadline for such changes. Her request for Flight 175 was denied. She would have to fly to Denver instead of Los Angeles.

"I was not happy that I was not on that flight," O'Kane said. "I was driving to work steamed." On the shuttle ride from the employee parking lot to Logan International Airport Tuesday morning, she sat near a cheerful reserve flight attendant, Robert Fangman. The 33-year-old was gushing about being called into the California flight and having a Bloody Mary at a Los Angeles beach spot. "I'm just so excited," he said. "This is a great trip."

"I can't believe you got it," she replied. "I tried to trade into that last night."

Seeing his youthful exuberance, some of her anger faded as she told herself, "Just humble yourself and let him enjoy the trip." They chatted briefly before each was called to their respective flight.

A scheduling error kept Elise O'Kane from getting on Flight 175, which crashed into the World Trade Centre. I don't need to tell you what happened to Robert Fangman. May his soul and those of others who perished on that day rest in peace.

Stories like this make me wonder how close we come to death on a daily basis, if we had done something just slightly differently. I remember a story told by a friend where he was on a 2 lane highway with his friend driving back from a hardware store. About 1/4 km up the road (or less), a dumptruck swerved into their lane, then corrected its mistake and got back in its own lane. If my friend had left the store 10 seconds sooner, they might have been hit and killed.

Well, though Friday was one of the most messed up days I have had to go through in the recent past, recalling the stories I just shared somehow made me realize just how crazy situations could get. Maybe I was being shielded from something that could have impacted my life negatively for a while. Or maybe I was being protected from some shady deal I was going to get into without knowing. Whatever the case, I have chosen to look at the positive side of things and assume that all the crazy stuff that happened on Friday were all meant to act as a preventive mechanism against something that would have had a worse off impact. I believe it was a blessing in disguise.

The next time you experience some crazy things, remember the words of Jodi Picoult: “It is possible that a miracle is not something that happened to you, but rather something that didn’t."

I wish you all a miracle-filled week!

PS: Article published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 7th July, 2013, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words"



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