Thursday, August 16, 2012

Travel Challenge. Oh Screw That. Travel Nightmare.

When I ran long distances, people would frequently ask, "How do you do that?"

In a self-deprecating matter, I'd shrug my shoulders and say, "I just do it."  I was never intentionally quoting Nike which speaks to the genius of their 1970s marketers.

On the Saturdays when my training calendar said 20 Miles I didn't think about how I'd do it.  Thought would have kept me in bed, quivering under the covers.  Instead, I got out there and and muscled my way through it and at the end, was usually amazed.  Many times, I felt as if I'd levitated above my body and watched someone else take the reins, hence the, "I don't know, I just do it," response.

I spent most of Tuesday night and Wednesday morning levitating.

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After watching the movers cart our worldly possessions out the front door, after tearfully saying goodbye to our neighbors and the little boy who will not be my little boy's best friend, after boarding a direct flight to Dallas to finally be together as a family and start the new chapter, after buckling myself in for the short 90 minute flight, and after watching the boy fall asleep with a bottle during takeoff I thought, "Ahhhh.  This one is easy."

If you are flying with a small child never, ever, EVER think that.  EVER!  I don't care if you're a battered pro.  I don't care if your child has been on dozens of flights.  I don't care if it's a direct flight or a three segment haul.  If you dare to think it will be easy, the travel gods will come after you with avengeance.


"We'll have you on the ground in 20 minutes," the captain said.


"Successsssssssssssss!" I thought as I held the sleeping baby and closed my eyes to revel in my accomplishment.  Out of 70 minutes, he'd slept for 67.  I was certain this would be a stat I would quote.  Frequently.

 Hubris was my first mistake.

Thirty seconds after the announcement we hit some extra rough air.  Not enough to begin reciting Hail Marys, but enough to hold the baby tighter in case I was ejected from my seat.  Just as quickly as it began, it stopped.  I closed my eyes again and waited for touchdown.

"This is your captain again," I heard, "the storms in Dallas are too bad to land so we are heading to Austin to wait it out."  My blood turned to ice.  Diversions are airline code for, "Good luck fools!  You're on your own!"

"Well folks," the captain said once we were in Austin, "there are no flights to Dallas tonight, so call the 800 number and rebook for the morning."

I will admit, I almost panicked.  I was traveling with four bags, a stroller, a carseat, and a baby.  I had no more formula and was down to my final two diapers.  I've been to Austin a handful of times but don't know the city well.  The situation was not stacking up in my favor and I uncharacteristically called my husband near hysteria.  Surprised he did not appear before me in a chariot that would fly us back to Dallas if Delta could not, I levitated and watched as I began mechanically managing the situation minute-by-minute.


I interrupted my husband in the middle of an expression of sympathy.  "I have to get us to a hotel.  Re-book my flight, ok?"  I hung up and turned to the guy in front of me who said earlier he'd gone to college in Austin.

"Is there a CVS near the airport hotel?"

"No, why?"

"I need baby formula."

"You have to go downtown to find a drugstore, but all the hotels around the airport will be booked.  I'm staying downtown.  Do you want to share a cab?"

I weighed my six bags against the scenario from the movie "Taken."

"Yes, but we have to stop at CVS." 

At CVS, with a cab waiting outside and the baby in my arms I grabbed formula, diapers, and food and moved up one notch closer to the top of Maslow's hierarchy.  Shelter next.

At the hotel I dumped approximately 432 pounds of baggage onto the bellhop wheely thing.  "What is the last name?" the bellhop asked looking at my traveling partner.

"No, no, no," I sternly said, "we're separate. That's mine."  The bellhop, seeing I was not one to be messed with at this particular moment, fell in line behind me.

The room is a blur of formula, a pack 'n play, a happy slash sad slash confused baby, room service, a hot shower and a six am wake-up call.

Back at the airport, I turned into Hercules and lugged all of my baggage and the baby from the cab to the check-in stand.  I was tempted to throw it down at the Delta employee's feet and let out a roar ala a professional waitlifter but opted instead for a loud exhale of relief.

In the security line, I pushed a stroller with a diaper bag in it and held a baby who would not stay strapped in another baby-carrying device.  This was not the time for discipline.  A kind woman asked if I'd like her to push the stroller. "Nope, I got it," I told her, my eyes laser-focused on the other side of security.

Shoeless, waiting by the x-ray machine, a warm, wet feeling creeped down my shirt.  "Are you doing this?" I asked the boy, "how is this even possible?"  In a family restroom, I stripped him down and clothed him in a dry outfit.  I remained soaked.  I didn't care.  Dallas was so close I could practically taste the concrete.

On the very full plane, we sat next to a man in a wool sweater.  The baby was fascinated and got very grabby.  Had the wool-wearer been friendly I would have asked if he was continuing on to Calgary, the plane's final destination, since there is no good reason to sport a wool sweater in Texas in August.  The man looked straight ahead and put in earplugs.  Point taken.  I stayed quiet.

Once we'd landed, I bent down to grab my diaper bag with the baby still in hand.  "Owwww!" the woman in front of us screamed, "Shit! That hurts!" 

When I popped back up, the little boy had a big grin on his face and several pieces of her hair in his hand.  "Sorry," I said, trying to stifle a laugh and starting the descent back to my body.

Once myself again, I noticed I was limping.  Don't ask me when or how, but at some point during my arduous journey I injured my left knee.  I still can't put weight on it.  Thanks Delta.

My husband had never been so happy to see us nor I to see him.  "I can't believe this happened!" he said exuding both shock and pity.  "How did you even do this?  Why are you limping?"

"I don't know," I said back, looking and feeling eerily similar to the way I did at the end of the 97 degree Chicago marathon "I just did it."

We walked out, all of my luggage in my husband's hands.

"Remember the other day when you asked me if I wanted to fly home this year for the holidays?"

"Yeah," my husband replied.

"The answer is no.  No, no, no, no, no, no!  I am never leaving Dallas again."

17 comments:

  1. Wow. I can't believe all that really happened to you! Well, at least you're there and living in the same state as your husband now. I've never understood quite how you managed it with all his traveling.

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    1. I couldn't believe it was happening, either. Not a fabulous welcome to our new city, but we made it!

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  2. That's amazing! You handled it like a pro. I think I'd have been too busy raging to actually do anything constructive. And YAY for finally being reunited with the husband. Good luck settling in to your new place.

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    1. Maybe I should become a professional "travel helper." I think I've encountered every single obstacle one can when traveling with a baby!

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  3. You did a great job! Way to take charge and get things sorted.

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    1. Thank you! Like childbirth, I've already forgotten the worst parts.

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  4. Wow, that is positively crazy! At least you made it. Welcome home to Dallas!

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    1. Thank you! I may very seriously never leave.

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  5. This makes me dread flying in a month, you have been a trooper with all this traveling!

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    1. Bring extra formula, diapers, and several extra outfits. Toys that haven't been opened yet are fabulous distractors. Put off giving her a bottle until you are speeding down the runway and takeoff is imminent. Also, be forewarned that not every plane has a changing table. Be mentally prepared to close the toilet seat and change her right on it. Yes, I'm serious.

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  6. That was some adventure! Not one you were prepared for or would ever want to go through again, but it's a darn good story. I am glad you made it safely back and in relatively one piece. Congrats on your super human abilities!

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  7. Ack. That sounds crazy. I hate when flights are cancelled or delayed. I'm glad you made it safely!

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  8. Wow does that ever sound like a nightmare. It makes me insanely happy that I never fly anywhere, especially with a baby.

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  9. Oh man. I can't even imagine. This is the type of story we laugh about after the fact, but want to die while it's happening! You're brave! Thanks for stopping by http://likeordinarylife.com !

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  10. Wow, I am incredibly impressed. I can't believe you went through all of this and lived to tell about it!! I'm flying with my infant in a few weeks - I can't imagine what I would do if I end up in your shoes. I guess I'll have to do some more planning!

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  11. I am so glad...SO SO glad that I read this AFTER my latest trip home. It requires a plane change at DIA that is notorious for missing connections, and thank goodness it all went smoothly. If I had read about this experience first, I would have been way more freaked out about doing the trip with out my husband! You handled it like a superstar!!

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  12. Ahhh you go girl! When the going gets tough, moms get going! :)

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