Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

I was grateful for my general attitude towards life on Saturday night, as it crept towards Sunday morning. I found myself in a long line, behind about 400 other harried travellers, all sunburnt and windswept, under flourescent lights in a windowless box somewhere in the middle of the Charlotte, North Carolina airport. We were waiting to clear customs, and the line snaked at a snail's pace around the vinyl barricades as the bored looking agents examined passports and fingerprints and doled out their rote questions and waited for the rote answers to follow. We stood in the line, Fiona snoozing in the sling, Aoife fast asleep in a full-sized car seat stuffed into a little infant snap-and-go stroller, and 6 year old Liam maxxing out the Ergo carrier on Greg's back. We didn't have a watch, but it was almost completely obvious that we would miss our connection. Almost.
There were so many people in that line, and Charlotte being a hub, (isn't it weird for me to be talking about Charlotte and be referring to a city and an airport?) almost everyone in the line was about to miss a plane to somewhere. The tension around us could have cut through the polar ice cap, but we just stood in line, almost patiently. The kids were all asleep, or almost. The line snaked. People wondered what to do, where would they go, why wouldn't they let them cut the line, why was their connection so short when this was so long. But this was out of our hands, so we just waited.
We made it through the agent, and the upside of the long wait was that our baggage was ready and waiting on the roundabout when we emerged from the flourescent-lit box. We grabbed the bags, woke Liam up to help us with one of the wheelie bags, and began to run. We ran until we cleared immigration and re-checked the bags, which I did with great hesitation, knowing how likely it was that we would need them that night.
Then we ran, ran, ran, until we hit the long security line. We stood in line, got through, and the flight was about 3 minutes from its departure time. What if, though, what if? Maybe it was running behind, and the door wasn't shut...
We ran, and ran, and a nice young woman driving a cart saw the baby bobbing around in the sling as I ran and offered me a ride to the gate.
We arrived, and the gate was deserted, and the plane was gone.
So we re-routed to special services, and it only took 45 minutes for us to be re-booked on a flight three days later, the earliest available.
We took a deep breath, and went to a hotel. The beds were huge and comfortable, with amazing turquoise bedspreads and an enormous television. It was 1 AM. We scheduled the wake up call for 5, and when it rang, we slung the kids onto our backs and fronts again and headed out in the dark.
We waited standby for the 7:15 flight to Hartford, which was 9 passengers overbooked. It was when they were offering the contingency plan for those willing to give up their seats that we hatched our own. We would fly to Newark, the only flight that day with seats available. There we could rent a car, and drive up the eastern seaboard until we reached home.

In the airport, another family in the same situation waited for the Newark flight, where they planned to rent a car and drive to Boston.
"Isn't this a nightmare?" the woman said, wringing her hands. "This is just a nightmare."

I smiled to myself, as I boarded the flight to Newark. No, this wasn't a nightmare. This was a manageable crisis, something that we could find a solution to, and indeed we had. Through the whole ordeal I didn't get ruffled once. Because I know what a nightmare can be, and a missed plane does not qualify to me anymore.

The Chevy Malibu we rented worked just fine, and although our car wouldn't start when we arrived back at the airport in Hartford we worked that out, too, and by 5 PM we were home.

Suntanned and windswept, 14 hours later than we'd expected, happy and smiling, three hundred dollars poorer, and glad to be home.


Shannon said...

I'm glad you made it home safely even if you had to do it in such a round about way.

kris said...

I close my eyes and see you on that line in Charlotte (oh, the irony)--it's quite a sight! Glad you are home. I've missed you.

Hope's Mama said...

So very true that this was not a nightmare. Annoying yes, but not a nightmare! Loved the pics I saw today. Liam really did fill out the Ergo!!

ezra'smommy said...

Absolutely, and we dbms know from nightmares!

Meg said...

Such perspective. Refreshing. Glad you made it home safely.