As a flight attendant for more than 34 years, I’ve packed a few suitcases both for work and pleasure. Most people’s vacations and travel experiences are well-planned, precisely orchestrated events. We all pour over brochures, browse web sites and solicit seasoned advice from family and friends who may have traveled this road before us, but usually our most memorable moments come from the unexpected.
Dame Helen Mirren, the famed British actress, is opening a new play, “The Audience,” in London’s West End in March and for a limited time tickets to rehearsal performances are available. Seeing her on stage has long been on my Bucket List, so on my layover this week I’d planned to rush out to the theatre when I arrived and buy a ticket. However, the lure of a down comforter and pillow after an all-night flight changed my sense of urgency. Even when my alarm sounded after a few hours of sleep, I had difficulty convincing myself to get up. Then as I sorted through my clothes, I discovered that I hadn’t packed a pair of slacks. Decision time…wear my uniform or crawl back into bed?
Luckily, Carpe Diem took over! I threw an outfit together and navigated the Tube to Shaftsbury Avenue only to be greeted by the placard sign in front of the theatre announcing “House Full.” I’d waited too long! As I was about to find an alternative entertainment option, I noticed three people queuing on the side of the building. They were the eternal optimists waiting for return tickets 2 1/2 hours before the curtain went up. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I joined their ranks. It turned out one woman is a paralegal from Philadelphia whose firm works closely with one of our Pittsburgh groups and the other a teacher from Great Barrington, MA, who shops at my friend Marsha’s store in the neighboring town of Lee. Of course our chatter made the time pass quickly and before long the attendant ushered us in to the lobby to award us our prize. We even had time to tuck around the corner to Wardour Street and enjoy a bowl of won ton noodle soup from the famous (and very reasonable) Wong Kei restaurant in Chinatown.
Upon entering the theatre we were directed to the Stalls and seated together eight rows from the stage. We felt as if the actors were in our living room. Ms. Mirren and her supporting cast’s performance could not have been more stellar if it were opening night and the Queen herself was in attendance. When the curtain finally went down after two raucous ovations, the three of us sat fixed in our places in total awe and delight.
Sometimes we have to push ourselves out of our current comfort zone, but on reflection of each new experience, it is always worth the effort.