It had started smoothly enough – the journey back to the land of the frozen tundra. We’d left Jason’s parents’ home on time. Arrived at the airport two hours before our flight, and even had time for a quick lunch.
The single piece of checked luggage we’d brought from Calgary had (thanks to Christmas gifts and a shopping excursion) turned into three large bags, one of which was 16lbs over the weight limit. We’d already paid $45 just for the privilege of checking the bags, when the guy said it’d be another $50 for the overweight bag. I’m not sure if it was the looks on our faces, or because it was the end of his shift, but he slapped an orange tag (HEAVY!) on the bag and wished us a happy New Year, waiving the $50 charge.
An auspicious start, I thought.
We went through security where the agent fixated upon the kids’ Sigg flasks, each containing a few ounces of water, and my hard plastic bottle which had about 3 ounces of water. [I had tried to abide by the 3 or 4oz liquid rule.] ”These are for the kids, right – so they’re okay. But I’ll have to test them to make sure. This (my bottle) will either have to be discarded or you can go back into the terminal and give it to the person who brought you to the airport,’ the agent explained.
‘Can I just drink the water, quickly?’ I asked, loathe to just throw something away. ‘No, not at this point,’ he replied, kindly enough. I was in no mood to walk back into the terminal to give Jason’s parents my bottle, so I relented and told him he could just throw it away.
He spent several minutes carefully checking the contents of the kids’ flasks with a little strip of paper and distilled something or other. Not surprisingly, the contents were deemed acceptable. Then, in a surprising gesture of goodwill, the agent handed me my blue flask and said I could keep it. After telling me not to bring water through security (EVER) again. I gulped down the 3 ounces and put the bottle away.
Auspicious, I thought.
When we landed in Chicago, I gazed upon the sunshine and snow-free runways, relishing the thought of a delay-free flight back to Calgary. We were due in Cowtown at 7pm, which – assuming our car hadn’t frozen over – meant we stood a chance of a decent night’s sleep.
As we prepared to board the flight to Calgary, the gate agent suddenly made an announcement. ‘A pressure valve needs to be replaced….it shouldn’t take too long – maybe forty-five minutes- but we’ll delay boarding until that has been taken care of.’
On the one hand, I was most grateful that I didn’t have to sit on a non-moving plane with two moving children. But the thought of another round of flight delays filled me with dread. The original 3.35pm departure time was moved to 4.20pm. And the 4.20pm time was moved to 4.55pm. The 4.55pm time was moved to 5.55pm, at which point I was livid.
Our youngest cannot be corralled or contained, which means Jason and I spend layovers in airports taking turns following him around as he climbs onto strangers’ laps and moving sidewalks, steals drinks out of the coolers in snack stands, rolls around on the floor and licks the chairs. It’s a process that can best be described as ‘tiring.’ And when we have to do it for longer than expected, we get cranky.
On a side note, I’ve modified my original hypothesis that the Hen has a ‘thing’ for Indian women. He has a ‘thing’ for women of all colors as long as they have long, straight, black hair. He walked right up to a young woman with long black locks trying to get to her gate. Stood in front of her and stretched out his arms: ‘pick me up’ he seemed to say. She didn’t know what to do. She tried to bend down towards him, cooing over ‘how cute’ he is, but she didn’t have a free hand. Next he found a young woman with similar hair who was listening to her ipod. ‘Hello gorgeous’ she called to him, which was all the invitation he needed. He walked over and sat on her lap – twice. Once with a book he wanted her to read, and the second with a little game. I stood by awkwardly, not knowing what to do with myself. He also went up to a little girl and tried to pilfer her stuffed tiger. Her mom took pity on him – and gave him a toy – a stuffed ‘Alex’ from Madagascar.
As I was pacing the concourse, waiting to hear an update on the flight status, the Hen fell asleep in my arms. I sat down by the gate with the cherub on my lap. Suddenly the agent announced that we could board, as the mechanical problem appeared to have been corrected. It was just after 5pm. Relieved, we boarded the plane.
Around 5.25pm, the lights were dimmed in preparation for departure. Suddenly the pilot made another announcement, and the lights were turned on again. Bad sign. Apparently, the ‘powers that be’ had failed to realize that (1) the flight was full and (2) they’d need additional fuel due to the subzero weather conditions in Calgary.
Which means six adults had to get off the plane before it could leave. A customer service rep was summoned to entice ‘volunteers’ to delay their journey by at least 3, most likely 12, hours. Twenty-five minutes later, six adults had left the plane and the cabin lights were dimmed again.
The family who’d given the Hen a stuffed toy, sat in front of us. Their school-aged son halfheartedly played with our youngest at his mom’s suggestion. He held an Iron Man action figure in front of the Hen’s face, which the little man grabbed and refused to relinquish for any amount of money. When ‘Kendrick’ wrested the figure from his hands, the Hen put up such a fuss that Kendrick had no choice but to put it back in his greedy little hands. He tried offering a decoy toy – a stuffed Pluto – but the Hen was having none of it. He clutched that red plastic doll in his hands like it was his most prized possession.
Eventually we were able to distract him and young Kendrick regained custody of Iron Man. He looked over and saw ‘Alex’ sitting on the Hen’s lap.
‘I used to have a toy like that,’ he remarked sadly.
Like, a few hours ago?