Dealing with Sand

Dealing with Sand by Dr. Robert Gerwig

Photo by Author

An unexpected spring snowstorm  brought the Frankfurt airport to a screeching halt. Over 700 flights were cancelled, thousands of passengers left sleeping on the floor of the airport as the hotels were full, and long lines full of angry people trying to get their flights rebooked. Ugh! … If you’ve done much traveling, you know what a nightmare a major snowstorm like this can be.

The first day of the trip was relatively uneventful. A 4-hour flight to Seoul, a long layover, and an 11-hour flight to Frankfurt. Then the fun began. We spent an hour trying to get off the plane once we were at the gate. The equipment had malfunctioned due to the weather and we sat within a couple feet of the jetway unable to get off the plane.

My next flight was cancelled and it went downhill from there for the next 24 hours. And yes, I spend the night on the floor of the airport (although I did manage to find a chair about 1am). The lines to speak with a customer service agent were LONG! One airport employee estimated if I got into the line right away, I might get to front in 4-5 hours!

I won’t go into all the details, but it was quite an adventure. An adventure potentially filled with anger, stress, and any variety of negative emotions. All around me, people were losing their cool, to no avail I might add. So, how did I do? What did I learn? And what tips helped me cope?

There are a handful of tools or mechanisms that can help deal with the sand that life throws our way. These tips help me cope, survive and even thrive in a sandy environment. Walking with sand in our shoes may not pleasant but if we lose sight of our goals and focus on the sand, we’re in trouble.

This is what works for me:

  1. Positive attitude. Don’t become angry. This won’t help. Believe that things will work out and keep your chin up. Usually, the sand does not have long-term implications. It’s an annoyance. Keep this in perspective.
  2. Mobile access. In this day, having mobile access really helps. Being able to call, text or access the Internet is a huge help. Sometimes it can be a bit tricky, especially if you’re traveling, but if possible, stay connected. And carry an extra battery. Lines for the outlets at the airport were 20-50 people long.
  3. Experience. Having experience helps. Knowing what to do and having confidence that you’ll make it through brings a sense of peace. The more times you successfully deal with sand, the more confidence you’ll have going forward.
  4. Initiative. Sometimes you have to take initiative to understand what is going on because communication from others isn’t always frequent or clear. Don’t be bashful (or pushy), but be assertive and take action.
  5. Questions. Ask the right questions. Don’t make assumptions. Clarify. Ask for help. Ask if an exception can be made. Calmly explain your situation. Smile. Get the information you need.
  6. Rest. Make sure that, to the extent possible, you get rest. Being tired results in many bad things (like poor decision-making).
  7. Food/water. Stay hydrated. Eat. Carry an extra bottle of water and some snacks. Being hungry, thirsty or tired will not help you deal with sand.
  8. Communication. If you stay connected and have mobile access, you can communicate with other key members of your support team (family, friends, work colleagues). I emailed, texted, and called people in Asia, Europe, and North America during my stay in the airport while dealing with sand. I was able to get assistance from several people because I had mobile access, I asked for help, and I stayed connected. Don’t go it alone and don’t keep quiet. Reach out and communicate with others in your network.

Now, I realize that several of these tools may sound to be applicable when dealing with travel sand. Yes, there are. But they are also applicable when dealing with other types of sand.

How about you? How do you deal with sand? What tips or tools can you share with other readers that would benefit them?

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]

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