Phoenix — We expect airports to shuttle travelers effortlessly from one point to another, like a conveyer belt that never shuts down.

Phoenix — We expect airports to shuttle travelers effortlessly from one point to another, like a conveyer belt that never shuts down.

Being stranded in Phoenix with my family for two days opened my eyes to the absurdity of this notion, as well as to our irrational attachment to a fast-paced, on-time world.

By the time we left my friend's house Sunday afternoon for Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, more than a foot of snow had fallen in Newark, where our Continental flight was scheduled to land. The blizzard wasn't half over, and our three-day airport odyssey had only begun.

We were fortunate to be waiting out such as storm in pleasant 60-degree Arizona weather, but most of my fellow would-be travelers reacted indignantly to the news of the airport closures in New York and New Jersey.

"I'm going to be behind at work," said a stylish young man from Manhattan on Monday, apparently unaware that many commuters to the city hadn't shown up for work, because train and bus lines had stopped running or been delayed.

"The airlines could have at least had more people answer the phones, so we wouldn't have to come all the way to the airport to find out what's going on," said a woman behind him wearing black leggings, a leather jacket and dark sunglasses on her head.

"This is exactly what's wrong with the airline industry, lack of attention to customer service," my wife said, as she scrolled her iPhone looking for updated flight information.

My family's anger stemmed partly from frustration over our ruined holiday. Instead of enjoying a Christmas break sightseeing and visiting with our friends and their kids, my wife and I ended up quarantined in a guest room of their house nursing our son, who caught pneumonia during the plane ride from Newark three days before.

In hindsight, the cancellation of our flights was a blessing. It gave our son an extra two days of rest needed to recover, and it made up for the lost time missed during Christmas with my friends and their two kids. And we weren't the only family who had grown to appreciate the long interruption to their lives.

At the airport, while waiting for their flights, I noticed couples who found the time to nuzzle, mothers who took long leisurely walks as they rocked their toddlers to sleep, and the parents of grumpy teens rekindling some old family joke they hadn't heard in some time.

A nor'easter doesn't always create such moments in people's lives; it can just as easily bring out the worst in us.

But if you're fortunate to spend the ordeal with people you care about, and wise enough to recognize the gift of time when it's given, then getting stranded far from home isn't always such a bad thing.