As I stood alongside 100 other standby passengers, rushing from gate to gate, hoping, even praying, the gate agent will call my name and I will rush to desk and receive what amounts to a golden ticket, many emotions rushed over me. I was anxious about getting home, hungry because there is no time to eat, tired because I hadn't slept, in pain from charging around the airport carrying 40 pounds of luggage. As all of us standby passengers stood in a group, we chatted, laughing early in the day, less so as the day wore on. Knowing I was flying on the lowest priority, I didn't have much of a chance of getting on. More delayed flights meant less spots, planes being sent off with empty seats were points of frustration. Once I even battled back tears of exhaustion. I got a few nods of sympathy when I divulged my priority. One woman even passed me a blanket and pillow she had received the night before from a sympathetic airport worker, as she and her husband lay down on the benches to spend the night and hope for a ticket the next day.
But amid it all, I was grateful. Most people might not think I could be under the circumstances, but I truly was. Because the day I found out my grandfather was ill, I was able to get on the next flight out, stay for a few days, and then fly home, all without spending our life savings to do it. Most people would not have that option. So even though the process can sometimes be nerve-wracking and tiring, I am still grateful. The night that I flew back home, my grandfather got much worse and had to be admitted to the hospital. Had I not been able to fly out immediately, I would likely have missed the chance to sit with my grandfather, help him finish his memoirs, hear him tell some stories, and just sit beside him. Truly, I am filled with gratitude.