BrightSide and I took the kids on vacation recently. Traveling by air has both positive and negative aspects, but for this particular trip it wasn’t a choice. You wanna get there? You gotta fly.
A lot of the travel snags were typical ones, things I’m sure many of you have experienced: packing drama, flight delays, gate glitches and changes, watching the minutes tick by as you realize you’re getting closer and closer to missing your connection.
Now I’ll be the first to admit I’m not exactly a laid back traveler. Bear and T-man’s presence has helped greatly with that. I can’t exactly wig out if the 9-year-old is watching me to see how bad things are, but just because I’m acting all calm and collected as I say, “Honey, things are going to work out fine, don’t worry,” it doesn’t mean that my blood pressure isn’t sky rocketing while sweat gathers at the nape of my neck.
I’ve mentioned my food issues (mainly my less-than-stellar mental capabilities when my blood sugar drops too low), and you can multiply that by a thousand for Bear. Maybe it’s because she’s got those unpredictable hormonal surges right now. Who knows. What I do know is that you don’t want to be within earshot if she’s crashing, and being in charge of bringing that cyclone back under control? Yikes.
Well, the planets aligned so that our travel day was less than conducive for eating, a situation that can have serious repercussions in our family.
We arrived at the airport at 6:00am and thankfully found a Starbucks where we could get a coffee fix, OJ for the kids, and pastries for breakfast. (I use the term “pastries” loosely since the kids ate pound cake, but whatever…it was vacation.) We were looking at a four hour flight ahead of us, and since no one serves food anymore we had a plan of attack for the day.
The Starbucks and snacks I’d packed would carry us through our first flight. We had about a 90 minute layover, and I figured that would give us plenty of time to hit the bathrooms and pick up lunch to take onto the next (seven hour) flight. The perfect plan, right? That should have been my first clue right there…
The first flight ran eighteen minutes late. Bear gave me some panicky looks when she saw me conferring intently with BrightSide and the flight attendant, which is when I kicked into “You don’t need to worry about a thing, sweetie, it’s all going to be okay. If it wasn’t you’d see my freak-out face, and this isn’t my freak-out face, right? Right. So it’s going to be fine.” This finally managed to slow the trickle of tears running down her cheeks as she began to believe that vacation was still going to happen.
And then we landed. A little late, yes, but there. On the ground. All was good.
Except then we sat. And sat. And sat.
I looked at BrightSide with my best WTF?! look (because, you know, kids) and he’s all I have no idea when the captain tells us that the plane at our gate can’t push off due to technical difficulties. Ever the problem solver, I’m thinking “Fine, just push one of those staircase thingies up to our door and we’ll deplane that way” but apparently the powers-that-be decided waiting for the gate was the better option.
So we waited. And waited.
And now I started to feel my freak-out face appear, though I was careful to look away from Bear since I’ve found it can be contagious. Checking my watch every three minutes didn’t help since that only showed me that we were slowly chipping away at our layover and holy crap, are we going to miss our flight?! WHEN WE’RE SITTING RIGHT HERE AT THE AIRPORT?!
(p.s. – US Airways, you can’t really log a flight as “on time” when you won’t let the passengers off the plane. TripCase showed a great landing time for you, but I’m calling shenanigans since we weren’t in the actual terminal.)
Anyway, we sat on the tarmac for 45 minutes after landing before finally pulling up to a different gate. Why they didn’t just send us there after ten minutes I’ll never know, but whatever.
When we finally got off the plane I found myself leading a full-on sprint through the airport involving frantic speed walking, dodging slow travelers, and frequent checks behind me to make sure I hadn’t lost Bear. T-man followed her and BrightSide brought up the rear, making sure we didn’t lose a kid along the way.
So we were blitzing past bathrooms (except every damn women’s restroom had a line out the door) and food vendors (except there was no time to stop) and my calves locked up about 30 yards into the run BUT THERE WAS NO STOPPING because we were by-God going to make this connection.
Bear was near tears when we screeched up to the gate and got on board. Despite the fact that we were in the very back of a thus-far uncrowded plane, we still had to push her to visit the restroom before takeoff. Once we finally got everyone settled into their seats I began pulling out the emergency snacks I’d stashed in my backpack and assessed our situation.
It wasn’t good.
We were looking at a seven hour flight and were traveling backward through time zones, so we’d already been awake for about 12 hours with drinks, a muffin, pound cake, and trail mix in our stomachs. (You’ll notice I haven’t brought up BrightSide. He has this uncanny camel-like ability to survive on little to no nourishment, which certainly comes in handy at times like these.)
Adding insult to injury, this flight then sat on the tarmac for a 20 minute delay while they waited on a mechanical check. Oh my word.
After a quick consult, BrightSide and I decided to suck it up and pay the exorbitant price for crappy airline sandwiches since they were basically holding us hostage. Except we were seated in row 33, so by the time they got to us they were all out of sandwiches. Bear and T-man got snack boxes instead but on principle I refused to pay another $9 when I had snacks in my backpack. This meant I’d be traveling about 19 hours on next to nothing, but I was just gonna have to dig down and make it.
We were about 45 minutes into the flight when they ran a trailer for a movie, and I flicked my eyes over at BrightSide questioningly. It was for “The Longest Ride,” a movie based on the Nicholas Sparks novel. I hadn’t seen it before, but the preview made it pretty clear this was an adult film. (Not “adult” as in “bow-chicka-bow-wow,” but adult enough that I figured I must have misunderstood and that they’d be playing something appropriate for a wider audience during the flight.)
The movie began mid-flight and indeed it was the Nicholas Sparks movie which, if you’ve seen any Nicholas Sparks movie ever, means it was going to be a love story. This one interweaves the story of a modern day couple (bull rider and college student) with flashbacks to an elderly man’s love story with his wife. Oh, have I mentioned that it’s rated PG-13?
Bear never really cared about watching the movie at all. T-man lost interest pretty quickly as it began in a typically lovey-dovey fashion, but his head sure snapped up quickly when the first kissing scene popped on the screen. He looked at me, eyebrows raised practically to his hairline, and I just shrugged my shoulders like “Hey, I’M not the one who picked it.” I then looked at BrightSide a bit panicked but again, the whole hostage thing. Not a lot you can do when you’re strapped into a plane seat.
About 3/4 of the way through I passed BrightSide my phone with a note: First order of business when we get home. Write letter of complaint to US Airways/American about showing a movie that has at least three sex scenes, three scenes with partial nudity implying sex just occurred, and whatever else is yet to come.”
Did they think young kids on the plane weren’t going to notice the steamy kissing or partly naked people on the TV screens right above their heads? Well, Mr. and Ms. Airline Executive, I’d like to thank you for a highly uncomfortable two hours next to my 11-year-old son who I can assure you noticed each and every one of those scenes.
I would know, because every single time he’d look over at me like “WHY ARE THEY MAKING ME WATCH THIS?” I don’t know, son.
I. Don’t. Know.
I remember a time (long ago) when air travel was an exciting event, and you were made to feel important. Nowadays it is far too often an aggravation and a hassle, yet a necessary evil if you want to see the world. I’m glad to hear the vacation was a success! Best, Karen
Thanks, Karen. You’re right – flying has DEFINITELY changed over the years, and now that USAir & American merged they offer a lot of the flights going out of our area. The direct ones, anyway. But I’ve always dreamed of traveling and we want our kids to see a lot more than just our own backyard, so I’ll just have to learn to breathe my way through it. 🙂
I feel for you guys! I’m so sorry. I’ve gotten to the point that I won’t fly USAir– unless it’s my ONLY choice. Hope you had fun once you got to your destination! 🙂
We did (and it was worth it). But you can bet we’re putting in a request to boycott USAir as much as humanly possible!!
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