July 16, 2019

GUEST HOUSE REVISITED: Hinge Moments and Other Stories

Hinge Moments are the amazing moments that occur when one is happily minding one's own business and is then suddenly interrupted by life. When this interruption is also one of our triggers the resulting response can be very unhelpful.  Catching hinge moments is a game that has an enormous pay-off when one succeeds and echoes Victor Frankl's statement  "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom".

In my last Rumi Guest House story (November 2018) I told of a series of missed Hinge Moments at an airport.

July 2019 saw me at another airport and a sense of deja vu - what is it with airports and hinge moments and me??

I'd finished a week's teaching in the beautiful and peaceful Kripalu Yoga Centre in the Berkshires outside Boston and was treating myself to some down time in Cape Cod before heading back to Cape Town via Amman where I was to spend some time with my son and his family.

I spent the night at the Hilton at Boston Logan International Airport and went to the car rental at 9.30 in the hope of making a reasonably early start for the drive to Cape Cod. I joined a long queue where I was 16th in line at 10am. There were two people serving at the desk and by 10.15 I was still 16th in line!

Hinge 1: My maths background clicks in and I do the calculation - at this rate I am here for infinity!! I remember Kripalu and breath deeply and find my grounded presence...

Just then an official comes and says we should try to use the nearby machines – although he warns that some of them don’t seem to be working. The machines are closer to back on the queue so the immediate rush to the machines sees them all full and I’m still number 16 in line - just with less people behind me! I watch for 5 minutes and it seems as if some people are having success. I've now moved to number 15 in line!

Hinge 2: What shall I do? Is it worth seeing if I can use the machine? My odds of getting the car today by waiting in line have dramatically increased in the last 5 minutes.

Go on, give it a go and step into the adventure...

I ask someone to keep my place and move to the machines. All goes well and I enter all details such as credit card and driving licence numbers, date of birth etc. I’m flying through and my heartbeat starts racing as I am nearly there! I go to the last step – and my credit card payment is declined! The onscreen message says, ‘please use another credit card or else speak to an agent’. I don't have any card!

Hinge 3: I breathe deeply and re-join the queue.

A lady who has been hovering around behind the service desks suddenly shudders into action and becomes a third agent and the queue starts moving! I finally get to talk to a live agent. We start the whole process again right from the beginning – Ground Hog Day has started. We get to the final step and...

... she frowns and then tells me my credit card payment has been declined! Definitely Ground Hog Day!

Hinge 4. I know I used the credit card earlier that morning so there is no problem with it. I also know there are no problems with spending limits. She tries again with the same rejection message.

Hinge 5. I breathe deeply and suddenly realise that I can pay the outstanding amount with cash so tell the agent that the problem is easily solvable.

"No cash allowed", she says.

Hinge 6!!!

I breathe again (thanks goodness for the Kripalu Yoga Centre and Dave's morning meditation practices!) and then she looks up to tell me that payment has been accepted and I can go upstairs to get my car...

And upstairs there is another queue with a lone harassed-looking agent rushing from person to person trying to appease the tangible impatience.

She gets to me and I look at her and I can feel her dispersion and recognise a kindred spirit who has been having a similar morning to mine.

"Take a deep breath", I say, "and pretend to be talking seriously to me for the next minute". We do this and she relaxes and smiles and says that is just what she needed. And then she says she’ll make sure I get a nice car. And sure enough – when my car comes it is a brand new never-been-driven Cadillac XTS 3.6. (I booked a cheap compact car!)

The engine is powerful and a pleasure to drive as I head down to Cape Cod. I’m thinking how useful it was that I spent the previous week in a Yoga centre so that I caught the hinge moments this time and stayed adult (no pompous 'I am a university professor' this time). I feel really good and tell myself a story how my compassion for the frantic agent was so wonderfully rewarded with this very special brand new car upgrade!! I start thinking about the pay-it-forward concept and how I was quickly rewarded for my compassion.

And I have a beautiful time in Cape Cod and then on Nantucket Island the following day and then start packing for the journey home. I find the rental documentation and discover that when the rental agent had asked me whether I wanted a separate GPS system or would rather prefer a car with a built in system, my preference for the latter had the unexplained consequence that I had just asked for and subsequently paid for an upgrade on the car! (And this is what triggered the credit card crisis...)

So my story of excessive generosity from the harassed lass was probably just a figment of my own imagination and I laughed and let go of most of it. However, I’m sticking to my story that the brand-new car was proof that she made the effort to respond to my peaceful support. I like that story and it feels as if there should be more good news stories like this even if they are (partly) dreamed up. It certainly added to the pleasure of my slow traffic-filled drive down to Cape Cod.

And my sudden change into a more expert Hinge Moment catcher than in my previous story? Maybe I should hang out at another Yoga Centre? Thanks, Kripalu!