Ok, I admit it. I’m a bit o’ a perfectionist. I’m a list-maker, an i-dotter, and a planner extraordinaire. I also like to travel, so, as you can imagine, when I am planning a trip, I make sure the entire thing is plotted to the smallest detail. Don’t get me started on my trip to Italy in 2007. That thing was choreographed like Swan Lake. (Aside: If you’re going to Rome and need a tip to get past the impossibly long lines at the Vatican, email me. Seriously.)
But it’s not my trip to Italy that taught me one of the most valuable lessons of my life. No, in fact, it was a trip that was meant to be a bit more leisurely. It was My 2005 trip to Maui, Hawaii. There were four of us on that journey and I soon became the self-appointed planner, laying out a plethora of hotel and restaurant choices in a grid-like map. My sister (one of the other trip goers) and I spent hours on the phone weighing the pros and cons of the weather patterns across the island. How else were we to decide if we should stay up in the north where it rains more frequently or in the south where the skies were sunnier? (We picked sunny, by the way.)
And what first time trip to the Hawaiian islands would be complete without the obligatory luau? Oh, we were going to a luau, dang it. And it was going to be the best dang luau experience EVER!
I extensively researched every single luau venue available including prices, food, entertainment, and location. I settled on one that came highly recommended. It was not, however, cheap. Far from it. But how often do you fly all the way to Hawaii? My travel companions and I all agreed to splurge.
I soon learned that the luau was seated on a “first come, first serve” basis in order of how the reservations were received. What? I needed to call ASAP. I wanted the best seats in the house! Our trip was months away, but I dialed up immediately.
“You’re the first reservation for that date and time,” the helpful luau reservationist informed me.
I hung up with a smile on my face. First reservation obviously meant best seats! Yay!
Flash forward months later to our big night. We arrived ahead of time and waited patiently to be allowed inside the venue. They put us in a line based on the order of our reservations, and just as expected, my little party was first. My traveling companions complemented me on my reservation prowess.
“I called months ago,” I informed them with a nod.
Moments later, we proudly marched into the luau venue along the gorgeous beachfront. Many small finely appointed tables lined the space with candles twinkling and lovely vases of flowers resting quietly atop them.
The employees pointed to the first table.
This is yours,” they informed us.
I stopped in my tracks. “What!?” The table they’d pointed to was right in front of the band, underneath a palm tree, on the side of the stage. I’d expected to be front and center.
“There must be some mistake,” I told them. “I called first. Can’t we seat over there?” I pointed hopefully toward the front middle of the stage.
Mr. Luau shook his head. “No, this is how we seat people,” he replied firmly. “No switching.”
No. No. No. I couldn’t let my dream of the perfect seat slip away so easily. While my semi-embarrassed friends sat at the table they’d given us, I marched up to “speak with the manager.”
“But I called first,” I explained. “Months ago.”
The manager gave me a shrug leaving me with the distinct impression that this was not the first time he’d dealt with a pushy mainlander wanting another seat at his carefully choreographed luau. The seats are already assigned,” he repeated. “No switching.”
Grrr. Why wouldn’t that contrary man let me switch our seats? I huffed back to my table where my friends proceeded to calm me down. “It’s fine,” they said. “Have a drink. It’s not that bad here. We’re still in the front row.”
“But I called months ago.” I repeated softly, sadly even as I sucked down my first pina colada. “I spent so much time planning all of this to be perfect.”
Not being generally petulant, I soon got over my snit and when the courses arrived and the performance began, I was captivated by the lovely dancing, music, and artistry that is a Hawaiian luau.
Then something completely unexpected happened. The luau was about halfway through when the skies darkened and rain began pouring over the entire beachfront. The waiters began busily handing out plastic ponchos to all of the dinner guests who quickly tugged them on over their heads.
The rain spared no one.
No one, that is, except me and my three friends who just happened to be sitting at the only table that was shielded from the rain by a set of palm trees. The employees handed us ponchos too, but we didn’t even need to use them. And while everyone else had huge raindrops plopping into their poi, we enjoyed a perfectly lovely dry table.
I like to imagine that I looked over at the manager and he nodded at me. He’s probably experienced this gratifying moment time and again with the pushiest early caller at every one of his luaus. No doubt it makes his evening. Turns out it rains nearly every night at the luau. I, like a fool, had seen clear skies and assumed we got the one night that would be perfect. : )
That night taught me a lesson in serendipity that I will never forget. The perfection of a moment isn’t always readily apparent until much, much later. Don’t stress out over details you cannot control. Sometimes you need to just sit in the seat under the palm trees and expect rain.
I’m a great believer in serendipity. My debut Regency romance novel, SECRETS OF A WEDDING NIGHT, is the story of a widow who writes a scandalous pamphlet and her ex-flame, a man who challenges her to write a retraction or prepare to be seduced. There’s a hint of serendipity that reunites my hero and heroine after five long years.
So, tell me, do you believe in serendipity? Have you had a serendipitous moment like my luau epiphany? Do tell. I’ll be giving away a copy of Secrets of a Wedding Night to one commenter. The Lady Scribes and our guests love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a relevant comment and your email address to be entered into the drawing for Valerie's wonderful book.