Rolling (and Running) With Unexpected Surprises

“Right now, gate C12 in the Minneapolis/ St. Paul Airport is my ticket home to surprise my Dad.”

The minute I wrote that line at about 9:45pm on Thursday, July 19, 2011, I looked up at the monitor and it said, “DELAYED”.  I inquire for further details.  It turns out that although the plane for my short flight from Minneapolis to Sioux Falls, South Dakota is at the gate, our crew is en route from a city on the East Coast.  And it’s unknown what time they will arrive.

OH NO!  Now suddenly, I’M the one surprised.

Have you ever had an unexpected surprise when you were the one planning to do all the surprising?

This simple delay gets complicated because my Mom and I had planned an elaborate story that would allow her to be at the Sioux Falls airport as 11:30 pm.  Now it doesn’t appear that my plane will leave until at least midnight, if then…

When you have something planned out perfectly, this is the kind of uncertainty that you least want.  At times like this, LIFE IS SUPPOSED TO GO PRECISELY AS PLANNED WITH NO DEVIATIONS.

And now I had a MAJOR DEVIATION on my hands.

What to do next?  Be frustrated?  Think, “Why me?” Or get angry?  Get Angry over the unfairness of it all? 

These are approaches that I have often used the past.  Luckily, this time I realized immediately that getting frustrated and angry would take me further away from my intent of creating a joyful surprise for my dad.

So instead, I hatched a plan.  I would rent a car, drive the four hours to my parent’s house, and surprise my Dad when he woke-up.

I checked with the gate agent who said I could get a refund for the unused portion of my trip.  Then, I sent my Mom a text.  She replied that the new idea was fine with her.

I thought, “Wow, that didn’t take long to solve that problem.  I’m getting good!”

Yes! I had stayed calm and hatched a new brilliant plan within a few minutes.  I felt so proud of myself.


As I quickly found out at the rental car desk, agencies don’t typically rent cars for one-way travel to towns four hours away.  In fact, only one place agreed to and this agent said the price would be at least$350 dollars.  My new plan suddenly got really expensive really fast and much less appealing.

Another Surprise!

Luckily, the airline gate agent had told me that I could still use my ticket for the flight if things didn’t work out for a car rental places.

So on the spot, I created a new simple and straightforward plan – go back through security, reclaim my ticket and fly home.  Not quite what I wanted, but still fairly easy.


1.      The security gate near the rental gate is closed for the night.  Surprise! 

2.      A maintenance worker tells me I have to walk downstairs and then take a tram to another part of the airport to find an open security gate.  Surprise! 

3.      When I get to this part of the airport all the security gates look closed.  Surprise!

4.      I finally see a security gate that says it is open for Staff OnlySurprise!

Luckily the security guy lets me through anyway.  So I get through security and run back to Gate C12, which is a long trip (the Minneapolis/ St. Paul Airport is Massive!).  I run because it’s getting towards midnight and I have some concern that the crew arrived while I was on my rental car adventure, that they had filled the plane really fast and were already gone, which would be Quite the Surprise.

Luckily, I get down to the gate and get rechecked in.  No problem!

AND the gate agent still doesn’t know when the crew will arrive.  Which is “Not the Best” as my Dad likes to say.  Our plane is still sitting faithfully right outside as if everything was going as planned, EXCEPT WE STILL HAVE NO CREW! 

Sometimes half a plan seems to work perfectly and the other half just doesn’t, AT ALL.

AND now I’m hungry but everything in the C terminal is closed for the night.  Surprise! 

However, there are vending machines, BUT I have no change and the smallest bill I have is a ten. Surprise!

(Who is supposed to be surprised here?  I thought it was my Dad.)

So I ask some construction workers where the closest open restaurant is.  And, it turns out that at this hour, there is only one 24-hour Subway open, In Another Terminal.  Our crew still hasn’t come so I set off running again.  (Who knew that waiting in an airport could be such an aerobic work out.)

1.      Half way through the C terminal (which by now I know very well), I think “Wow I’m running very fast,” then shortly there after I think,  “Oh NO! I don’t have my carry-on suitcase.”  Surprise!

2.      How does one lose a whole suitcase? Surprise!

3.      I run back to look around the gate, and see no sign of my bag.  I ask the agent for help.  She calls the security gate I went through and doesn’t get an answer. Surprise!

3.  So she gives me a 1-800 number to call the next day from Sioux Falls, which

seems like a very bad sign.  Surprise!

4.  Finally over the intercom, there is an announcement that my bag is at security     checkpoint.  Finally, A Nice Surprise!

 But now the crew has at last arrived and the plane is about to board!  Surprise!

 1. So I make a mad dash to checkpoint 3.   And then a lady happens to be right there with a courtesy cart.  Great Surprise!

2. She agrees to take me immediately to back to my gate.  Amazing Surprise.

3. She drives fast.  Fun Surprise!

4. I arrive back in time to board.  Best Surprise!

5. I arrive safely in Sioux Falls, suitcase in hand.  My Mom picks me up.  And when we get home my Dad is Really Surprised. 

(But I don’t think quite as surprised as I had been by the night).

Game of the Day

How do you deal with surprise?

Jason Freeman is a professional writer, and a one-of-a-kind public speaker.  He is the founder and CEO of Heroic Yes! Productions. Jason has an MFA in Poetry from the University of Nebraska.  He knows the pain of perceiving one’s life through a lens of limitation and also the thrill of moving beyond that mindset.  For more information on Jason’s powerful message, or to book him to present to your organization, go to