I waved goodbye to my friend Annabel at the New Zealand airport in August, 2016. I grabbed my folded-up and taped-in-half ski bag and headed inside. I had booked this trip to New Zealand all by myself and was proud I found the flight on Fiji Airways for $150 cheaper than I could find a flight on Air New Zealand.
You might not think being able to book a flight independently was a big deal for a twenty-three year old professional skier, but a year prior I couldn’t even drive the car to my grocery store in Park City, UT by myself, so booking a trip to New Zealand independently was a big deal. Why was being independant a big deal? Well, on April 11th, 2015 I crashed at World Tour Finals in Whistler, Canada and went into a coma, paralyzed. I ended up completely recovering and here I was, one year later, flying home from a ski trip across the world. I was flying home with my ski bag duct taped in half so it wouldn’t be counted as a ski bag - just as a regular bag. I had discovered on my trip down that Fiji Airways charges $100 each way for a ski bag. I had broken my skis, so I didn’t want to pay an unnecessary fee.
I'm on a boat (I'm on a boat) I'm on a boat (I'm on a boat) Everybody look at me 'Cause I'm sailing on a boat (sailing on a boat)
As a professional skier, the most important and unique part of your equipment are your ski boots. Your ski boots have custom-designed liners that fit your feet. No other ski boots are the same. So professional skiers ALWAYS bring their boots onboard, draped across their carry-on backpack.
Well, this trip, the attendants were a little bit disgruntled that I had folded over my ski bag so I wouldn’t have to pay an extra $100, so they decided to weigh my carry-on AND my ski boots as ONE item! Usually your ski boots are counted as the personal item, but this time they were part of my carry-on bag weight! The attendant said my boots and backpack were too heavy together, so I had to check my boots in their own personal bag for….. surprise, surprise, one hundred dollars!
I wasn't there to compete against the others, I was there to ski goodbye
I am a very little person. I am five feet tall and weigh 110 pounds. The different airlines always weigh our bags, but they never take into account the size of the person traveling with the bag. When the attendants said my ski boots made my carry on bag too heavy, and the ski boots didn’t fit in the folded ski bag, I decided to take off my shoes and put ski boots on my feet. With my ski boots on my feet I weighed a whopping total of 130 pounds. Plus, if the boots were on my feet, no one else would have to deal with moving the boots to fit their carry-on in the compartments; so I was actually helping everyone on the airplane with my solution!
I put my ski boots on my feet, jammed my walking sneakers into the ski bag, checked the ski bag, put on my backpack and walked away from the check-in counter. I clunked through the airport in my ski boots. I gathered some attention from wearing ski boots and told everyone the story about how I was saving $100 by traveling in my ski boots. I was posing for a few pictures (because a small girl walking around the airport in ski boots is a story you want to remember) when I heard my name being called to the front through the speakers.
I walked up to the gate where the passengers board the plane, and I was met by the front desk attendant and the pilot. “Are you wearing ski boots to Fiji?” said the pilot.
“Yes, sir” I said.
“Do you think it will be cold in Fiji?”
“Well, why are you wearing the ski boots then?”
“Well, I am such a little person I won’t weigh more than your average passenger with the ski boots on, so it is an idea that doesn’t cause problems for anyone on the plane.”
“Why don’t you just check your ski boots?”
“Well, I already have a bag checked.”
“So you are wearing your ski boots to save money?”
“Well, yes sir.”
Now you might think the pilot would think this was funny. He didn’t. “I don’t think a rich girl like you from the US needs to save any money,” he said. “I think wearing your ski boots makes you certifiably insane! Actually, I am not going to allow you to board this plane until you have checked your ski boots. The reasoning you can’t board? I am writing down we have a certifiably insane passenger who is not allowed on the plane.”
I took a deep breath. That was a bit overwhelming. The whole time I thought this experience of walking through the airport with ski boots on was funny. Now I am a bit confused. Exactly one year ago I was leaving the hospital recovering after a critical ski crash. Now I felt overwhelmed. I had been cleared by the doctor with no brain damage, but was I crazy? I had been so proud of myself that I had been savvy and figured out how to book the flight by myself and save money. Was I wacky? Usually in times of trouble I always call my mother, but I hadn’t bought service in New Zealand so I couldn’t get her help! I was a bit flustered after the pilot said I was insane, but I knew I couldn’t miss my flight.
I took off my ski boots and checked them for $100. When I took my ski boots off, I mentioned to the pilot I no longer had any shoes because I had checked them. “Well, fly barefoot,” the pilot said. Wasn’t that insane to fly around the world without shoes on?
Yoga? I'm down dog
. Mom and puppy
In Fiji, I had a seven-hour layover. I did some yoga and talked to a new friend. Then, a little girl from Fiji who didn’t speak English gave me some chicken nuggets. “Good luck must always follow you!” said my new friend. I had told my new friend the story about how my first responders had written up my fatality report a year ago. How I went back to Canada last Spring for my one year anniversary and met my neurologists, went to the ICU in Vancouver and met my first responders at Whistler mountain. I told my new friend about how the head neurologist told me he thought I had a 1% chance of returning to being an independent, functional adult when I was flown into the hospital. How Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) had used a new procedure from Cambridge, England, and how it had allowed me to return to life! (Now this procedure has been used on many other patients; I was the first, and VGH’s success rate has more than doubled!) I told my new friend I had even returned to college at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah earlier that summer! “Wow! Good luck just seems to follow you!” she said. “Yep! I am so lucky!” I agreed, munching on my chicken nuggets.
Plane over mountains
I boarded the plane and flew from Fiji to Los Angeles, and as soon as I landed I called my mom and told her the story of my ski boots. She laughed a lot, but when I got to the fact I was given chicken nuggets in Fiji because good luck always followed me, my mom said: “Oh honey, that little girl in Fiji thought you were homeless because you had no shoes!” I thought about it for a second, and agreed with my mom. That little girl probably thought I was homeless.
create your life
Through this journey, I learned that you can look at every experience in two ways. You can look at it through a glass half full and believe you are lucky, or you can view it through a glass half empty and be embarrassed you have no shoes at the airport and have a little girl think you’re homeless. The “truth” of every experience in your life is overshadowed by the lense through which you look at the experience. You have the choice to make. Are you lucky? Luck will follow those who believe in luck. You make the choice on how you view your life. Choose wisely.
Jamie "MoCrazy" Crane-Mauzy
Talk Show Host- Life Gets MoCrazy on the Brain Injury Radio Network
Full-time student at Westminster College, SLC, Utah