Christmas Chronicles II: The Travel

The first harbinger of travel doom arrived in the form of an email from my mom. ‘You might want to pack some extra snacks,’ she suggested, ‘just in case you get delayed in Chicago.’

That was the day before we left.

I stopped at Wal-mart and loaded up on Teddy Grahams, Kashi crackers and granola bars, candy, chocolate and gum. In an effort to be prepared. But the fact is, when you’re stuck in an airport, or anywhere, you get pretty sick of eating snack foods. You just want a meal. And you just want to BE at your destination.

As we headed into the security area at the Calgary airport, there was a family of three staying behind. Apparently they’d planned to go to Seattle. But the Seattle Airport decided they were going to stay in Calgary. At least for the foreseeable future. I didn’t feel too badly for them. When we left them, the dad was talking on his cell phone with his snazzy laptop on his lap. Their adorable blonde boy, nearly the same age as the Hen, calmly sat in between his mom and dad. Wearing cute orange shoes and munching on some carrot sticks. He was not trying to wrest the laptop away from his dad. He was not pounding with slimy fingers on the keys. He was not using dirty fingers to touch the screen. And he was NOT climbing onto the carefully corralled wheelchairs while looking at his mother vigorously shaking her head ‘no’. The wunderkind just sat there. Eating his carrots.

So I didn’t feel like this particular family needed much of a break. Clearly they had their act together. Little did I know it was foreshadowing…what my evening would entail.

The flight from Calgary to Chicago was relatively uneventful. There were moments – mere moments, mind you – when I thought: ‘this isn’t too bad.’ The Hen was sitting on the floor by his dad and brother, playing with the little animals I’d brought along for the flight. G was busily ‘sewing’ these cardboard construction shapes, lacing the colored string through the myriad of holes along the perimeter. I was nearing the point where I considered removing the 2009 issue of the Economist from the carry-on suitcase and possibly reading an article.

And just like that, things changed. In an instant, a happy child turned into an unhappy, tired child. Boys sitting companionably near each other, suddenly started to push and pull one another. And our youngest, who really needed a nap, screamed for forty-five minutes in order to fall asleep….only to awaken forty minutes later after I’d imperceptibly adjusted my arm and feet in an effort to minimize the tingling feeling pervading my body.

My favourite parts of the flight, and the entire journey, were the messages from our flight attendant.

Justino (our male flight attendant) announced, mere minutes after we touched down at O’Hare: ‘Unfortunately our assigned gate is currently being used by another plane…..so we’ll just have to wait here until the plane departs.’ Which took more than thirty minutes. Still, no complaints from me, since we did eventually move towards the gate. Except, then we weren’t. Twenty feet away from ‘the gate’ the plane stopped again. ‘Apparently there is a shortage of ‘rampers’ so we have to wait here until one is free.’ Which easily took another twenty minutes or more. There is nothing quite as cruel as being twenty feet away from your gate….and not being able to get off the freaking plane.

I was not consoled when Justino’s voice boomed through the plane once more, after announcing the departure gates for connecting flights. ‘Don’t worry about this delay causing you to miss your connecting flight. Pretty much all of the connecting flights have been delayed.’

Excellent. It was 6pm by the time we entered the terminal, which was well over an hour past the time it would have been had we not sat parked on the tarmac..twice. Our original flight was scheduled to depart at 6.45pm. But, when we looked at our boarding passes, the time had already been changed to 7.55pm. By the time we got to the gate, the time had been changed to 8.40pm. And then 9.15pm. Then the flight was switched to another concourse altogether. And the departure time pushed back to 9.40pm. And then 10.15pm. And then 10.05pm?!

All’s I know’ as some fellow Hoosiers might have said….is that we were supposed to arrive in Indianapolis at 8.47pm. And it was midnight by the time we did. When all was said and done, we pulled into my in-laws’ driveway at 2.30am. ‘Luckily’…..we live in a different time zone, so it only felt like 12.30am. And luckily the kids were fairly excellent throughout (save that forty five minute screaming fit on the first flight. And the hour the Hen spent crying on the way to his grandparents’ house, because he was tired and soaking wet.)

Negatives aside, I highly recommend taking a flight with a nearly five year old, because everything is exciting. Moving sidewalks! Airplane models in airport terminals! Looking out the window in an airplane! Getting to watch Monster’s Inc on daddy’s laptop on the floor of the terminal! A strange woman handing you a piece of ‘magic string’ (crochet yarn)! Drinking a whole bottle of apple juice!

And the Hen had his own adventures. He walked up to a complete stranger and insisted she pick him up. And when she did, he put his head on her shoulder. Which was perplexing, and sweet, and also made us wonder if he was tired of his ‘original’ family. He also doled out toys and blankets to various adult travellers, who regarded his blatant violations of personal space with a mixture of bemusement and wariness.

As we prepared for takeoff to Indianapolis, the flight attendant went around telling everyone that it was a twenty-six minute flight ‘wheels up to wheels down.’

But honestly, it felt like two hours.

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