I went home for the last week to see my family and flew to Chile via Boston. Stuart stayed in Scotland with his family and flew to Chile via Glasgow. We had a plan: his flight landed about a half hour before mine, he would wait for me at the airport, we would get the shuttle to the hotel together, and that would be that.
It wasn’t that though. Stuart’s first flight ended up being cancelled, meaning he would miss his connection in London. He was rescheduled on a flight to Amsterdam which then ended up being delayed meaning that he missed his connection. After a night at a hotel in Amsterdam he got on a plane to fly to Sao Paulo, Brazil, and then onto Chile.
Do you remember how Stuart and I were going to get the shuttle and then go check into the hotel? Well, the hotel is in Stuart’s name. When Stuart is traveling for work if an overnight in a hotel is required then the company let’s him know which hotel and it is booked in his name. My name doesn’t appear anywhere on the reservation or information for the hotel as I am his plus one. Well, I landed in Chile at about 10:00am and Stuart didn’t land until about 1:10am the next morning.
There are sometimes that this Wife On Board life is fantastic. The fact that I’m able to spend this time with him and explore the world is really a tremendous perk of his job. Right now as I write this I am sitting in our cabin looking out our window at a container ship, a bird is flying overhead and aside from the fact that I haven’t unpacked any of our stuff yet, this cabin here really feels comfortable and a bit like home.
Days like yesterday it is so much less so. Not because I couldn’t check into the hotel – the hotel was great and emailed the company on my behalf, I went and had lunch. They hadn’t heard back from the company though and it was then that I was debating calling the “Travel Emergency” number that all crew are given for when travel plans go awry – and the whole time I am looking at it in my phone thinking “this isn’t actually an emergency. I am not a crew member, I am just a Wife On Board, I don’t want to be a bother. I don’t want to be an inconvenience”. Not long after this little mental dilemma the hotel got an email back from the company saying that I was in fact his wife, that Stuart was mid-flight and couldn’t contact them himself, and that it was okay for me to check into his hotel room. All is well then, isn’t it?
I kept thinking about that feeling though. Of looking at my phone with the number that could get this figured out right there and thinking that I didn’t want to call them because I am just a Wife On Board and I didn’t want to be an inconvenience. Any time that you think of yourself with using the word “just” is terrible. I am “just” a stay at home wife. I am “just” a waitress. I am “just” a farmer. It’s one of the worst words in the English language (when not used to determine if something is just – a very different connotation) that diminishes either what you are saying or what or who you are saying it about. A long time ago I heard on the radio someone mentioning how liberating it was when she decided to stop using the word “just” in emails. She no longer wrote “I am just writing with a quick question” and instead would simply ask the question or write “I’ve got a question” and then go into it. The question was important enough to email about, don’t toss the word “just” in there and act as if you are inconveniencing someone that you have a right to be contacting.
I adopted this concept with emails a long time ago. While sometimes my sense of self is doubted when I put it in writing I can usually catch myself from using overly belittling terms. Why then, when I already have this “I am here, I am important” mentality was it so hard yesterday for me to think of myself as anything but just a Wife On Board. I didn’t want to be a bother. I wasn’t a crew member. I was “just”.
That feeling came up again today as we are sitting on the shuttle bus to go to the ship. I am just Stuart’s wife, so the fact that the shuttle was too full – I should probably offer to sit on the floor so a crew member can have an actual seat? I should go have the uncomfortable seat because I am just a Wife On Board. Does that make me less of a human deserving of a seat? Does that mean that the fact that I might be stuck for 14 hours without being able to get in my hotel room not constitute some version of a travel situation, albeit I would still say not truly an emergency?
When I get onboard I feel it, too. I know that the passengers come first, and I know that crew should come before me. It all comes down to how you would want to be treated. If I was a crew member I would want to have a bit more priority in the eyes of the company than that random engineer’s wife does. And, if I was paying a bunch of money to be onboard as a passenger I would want a bit more priority than that random engineers’s wife does. And, if I was working at the Travel Emergency Line, I would probably be more worried about helping out a crew member whose flight was cancelled versus that engineers wife that can’t get into her hotel room.
How is it that me wanting to treat others how I would want to be treated in their role so often leaves me feeling like I am just this lesser entity, where others perceived increased importance takes precedence over my equal importance and value as a human?
Over time I have been getting better about it. I am more comfortable with being onboard in this weird side world that doesn’t truly fit anywhere. I am more comfortable with “taking up space” and simultaneously not letting others belittle me but also not belittling myself for just being a Wife On Board.
I know I bring value on board, both in terms of Stuart’s happiness, but also because I am a good steward of the ship. I constantly interact with guests and if a department needs an extra hand with something I am able to help with I always will. I help out at crew events, and while I enjoy them I get enjoyment out of helping the crew have a chance to unwind as they all treat me well while onboard. Often times I have to remind myself that it is important that I am onboard. And, that I am not just anything. The fact that onboard my role is defined as Wife On Board does not define my person as a Wife On Board, it’s just what is written on a piece of paper. I am not just anything. I am me.
Have you ever experienced a situation where you felt like you were just something? How did you propel yourself forward to know that you are more than just?