Last Friday two friends flew down from Brisbane to spend the long weekend in Sydney. One of those women had recently lost her partner to cancer and there was a group of old friends preparing to lift her spirits when she arrived. Accompanying her for the flight was a close friend of some 36 years who took a leave pass from her husband and two children. The weekend had been planned for months and we were grateful that she was able to be there for our friend who has done it tough in recent times.
As they flew out of Brisbane the harsh weather rolling down the coast was devastating parts of their home state. On Friday evening over dinner we joked about them not being able to make it home. Unfortunately that was a reality by Monday. Their 5pm flight to Brisbane was cancelled.
Both women were due back at work today. Like hundreds of stranded flyers heading to and from Brisbane yesterday, they spent the entire evening in queues, hoping to grab an empty seat on a flight, any flight, home. Hopes were raised when they were assigned seats on the 9pm flight, then dashed when that too was cancelled. Then they were on the 11.30pm flight, only to learn a short time later there would be no further flights to Brisbane last night. Most employers will understand their impossible situation.
But the accompanying friend's predicament was more distressing than a missed day of work and any potential negative response from an employer. Her son is starting high school today and she won't be there for the morning ritual of that important milestone in his young life.
She said he will be fine. He will organize himself and her husband will get him to his new school. But that's not really the point. As a mother she wanted to be there for him, to read his emotions and send him off to a confident start.
He will undoubtedly be fine, but will his mum? There have been many occasions - far too many - when I have made it to one of my sons' school events with only minutes to spare. The variable factor almost every time was flight delay. I fly to Melbourne at least fortnightly and have experienced flight cancellations or delays more times than not. The impact is greater when there is somewhere you really need to be for your child at the end of the flight. I experience heightened stress when I can't be there for one of my sons.
Natural disasters like the Queensland floods have a knock-on effect. Around the country the absentee list in workplaces will be higher than usual for a Tuesday following a long weekend. But it's the parents who haven't been able to reconnect with their children that I can't stop thinking about today.
Have you or your workplace been impacted by the recent spate of natural disasters?