I left last Wednesday night for Buffalo, New York to speak at the University of Buffalo, then on to teach at a national yoga conference in Toronto on Friday. Did you know that the University of Buffalo has over 28,000 students - I had no idea it was so big.
I was greeted by quite a delay getting off the plane in Buffalo. The gateway had broken so all the other passengers had walked down one flight of stairs and up a second to deplane. I waited. The airport authorities wanted to carry me down the stairs, up another, and then set me in my wheelchair at the gate. The airline crew refused, citing liability concerns, and insisted that the gateway be fixed. The airline authorities called the only mechanic who knew how to fix these often-breaking gateways...surprise, surprise he was not at home at 10:30 on a Wednesday night. The airline then went to their last resort (as it cost quite a bit of extra money). They restarted the engines, backed the plane up, and went to another gate. Nearly 90 minutes after touch-down, I got off the plane. Surprisingly, the time went quickly. I was busy talking to an aspiring singer who happened to be one of the flight attendants. The airline representatives were very apologetic, grateful for my patience, and gave me a voucher for $150 off my next flight.
I had a busy day working at the University of Buffalo with one wonderful surprise. I was being filmed for a promotional documentary that the University was doing on the benefits of Universal Yoga. The filming was being done in a quiet corner of their library - the rare book room. As we were leaving, a man pulled me aside and showed me something. We were in a hurry to get to my next gig, but the man was the curator of their rare book collection. On the table sat sheets of laminated pages from a manuscript - obviously quite old. Like a proud father showing off his child, the curator told me that before my eyes were pages from the initial galley of James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake. The author's scribbled notes and edits were everywhere. I tried to decipher even one of the author's notes while the curator was speaking, but eventually resigned myself to just laying my hands on the history of those pages. Did you know that the University of Buffalo has one of the largest Joyce collections in the world? The curator also told me that he had extensively studied Joyce's edits and never once had he seen Joyce reduce content - the author only expanded. In fact, Joyce added 200 pages to Ulysses between the galley and the final version. I left the library so grateful that I had not only paused to listen to the impassioned curator but that I had taken the time to actually engage.
After the day's events had finished at the University of Buffalo, I headed for the Canadian border and my weekend of teaching in Toronto. To my great surprise, I got denied entry into Canada. After a two hour ordeal, most of which took place in a back room with an armed Immigration officer, I was headed back to the United States. Apparently, I did not have the right "paperwork" to work and get paid in Canada. The conference planners had equipped me with a letter applying for an exemption from having a work permit. Their letter was denied for technical shortcomings. The main concern - I was told - that drives Immigration restrictions is whether I could be taking a job from a Canadian worker who could have delivered the same services. I never fully realized the extent to which Immigration works to protect the labor market.
There I was, 10:30 at night, no place to stay, and a return flight back to MN that left on Sunday from Toronto - a country that I could not get into. Of course, things have a way of working out. I found a place to stay with a handicapped accessible room and started making calls. I found a one-way flight home, and, after a cancelled flight and a six hour layover, I got home the next day. Quite frankly the whole experience felt surreal.
When I think back on this trip, I could easily believe that it was a bust. The day I spent at the University of Buffalo was an add-on to the Toronto trip. I started out with one purpose and ended with another. This trip was a wonderful reminder to always enjoy the ride - to notice the glint in the singer/flight attendant's eyes, to feel the history of Joyce's edited manuscript, to watch Immigration in action and what motivates them, and most of all to feel grateful to return home. We all have busy lives, but if we forget to pause and take-in what life gives us around the edges, then we miss one of the secrets to living well.