I am currently slathered in oil, sitting in the sun by a pool in Las Vegas. In this moment, I am at peace.
But 27 hours ago, peaceful was NOT how I was feeling. 27 hours ago, I was sitting in a traffic jam of epic proportions, having a mild panic attack, in danger of missing our flight.
I awoke at 7am, exhausted from the previous night’s school concert and all of the preparations I had made at the last minute to fly out of town for 5 days. I felt I was moving at an ok pace, considering I had yet to eat or drink any coffee. We had determined 830 was a reasonable time to leave for the airport. What I was unaware of, was that at 4am that morning a double trailer fed ex semi truck had jackknifed on I 5, burst into flames and was, at that very moment, blocking all lanes of the freeway. A post on facebook by a friend let me know what was going on. I turned on the radio. You know it’s bad when the traffic reporter says, ” I got nothin'” and simply offers condolences. We decided to leave 30 minutes earlier than we had planned, eliminating all possibilities of coffee and food. Later on, as we sat unmoving, the guys on the radio said, “Unless you left an hour to 90 minutes earlier than you normally do, you’re probably screwed.” Helpful.
We rushed to get out the door and soon realized we were indeed screwed. It took us over 40 minutes to actually get to the 405 freeway, and another 20 to merge onto it. It would normally take about 10-15. The merging of two onramps and a carpool lane into the mess that already existed on the freeway was a brutal endeavor. Let’s just say these circumstances didn’t highlight the best of humanity. As traffic crawled through the rain and time ticked away, my anxiety level rose higher and higher. What if we missed our flight? Our long-awaited vacation flashed before my eyes. No sunshine. No fruity drinks with the cherries and pineapple wedges by the pool. No fancy dinner and no relaxation. I couldn’t bear the thought.
But God answers prayers, even the selfish ones sometimes, and eventually traffic began to break. I high-fived Jeff and he said, “We aren’t there yet.” As our car began to speed up, my breathing began to slow. At the rate we were now going, we’d get to the airport parking lot, hop on the shuttle, breeze through check-in and security and have enough time left over for the much-needed coffee and muffin that awaited us just on the other side of the body scanners.
Alas, it was not meant to be. We arrived at the check-in counter at just after 10am. Our flight was scheduled for 1055, and were told to be at the gate by 1025. This is Southwest, and they aren’t kidding. Load ’em on, slap ’em in some seats, buckle up and take off. As we entered the security line, a morose TSA agent handed me a piece of paper that said “time study” and he had written 1007 on it. Jeff confidently estimated we would be through the line in 5-10 minutes. I could see starbucks like an oasis just on the other side. We shuffled along, winding through the queue with all the others who looked like they had probably just endured what we had to make it there, only to find themselves in security hell. The line was barely moving. The old woman on the other side of the rope from me nervously twisted and crushed her empty water bottle in her hands. It was like nails on a chalk board. When I finally made my way to the TSA agent checking boarding passes and ID, I handed her my stuff along with the time study paper. She wrote 1026 and tossed it in a bin below. Jeff was getting increasingly agitated. I was concerned his frustration would earn us a body cavity search. I’m a rule follower by nature, with a healthy fear of authority. The last thing I wanted to do was make a government official angry. I whispered, “I’d rather be safe.” When we finally got our bodies and our bags scanned and we were through 30 minutes after we had entered the security line, I heard Jeff mutter something about incompetence. As he stomped off ahead of me he said, ” I’d rather not be safe.”
We raced to our gate only to find our flight had already boarded. So much for paying extra for priority boarding. Jeff was ahead of me, getting on the plane. As I moved towards the gate a TSA agent jumped in front of me to ask to see my boarding pass and ID again. When I got to my seat I mentioned this to Jeff and he said, “Well, with your lack of caffeine and food this morning, you do have a bit of an unstable, dangerous look about you.”
Thankfully we were able to find two seats together. The girl sitting in our row looked about 15. Or 25. It was hard to tell. She had that wholesome look- no makeup, side braid. Put her in a gingham dress and she’d fit right in on the set of “Little House on the Prairie.” She had that “homeschooled” look about her. When I sat down, she was pouring over the inflight magazine, with her bag at her feet. Since we were in the last group to get on the plane, it was a very short time before the announcement came over the speaker that it was time to make sure our electronics were off, our trays and seats were up, and our bags were stowed under the seat in front of us. She made no move, just kept on reading. I considered pointing out to her that, in case she hadn’t heard, it was time to stow her bag. I decided to wait, sure that she was about to do it any minute. I was wrong. I waited, but still that bag sat at her feet. In fact, it caused her to have to slant her legs to the side, invading my foot space area. More and more agitated, I kept glancing at her bag. As the flight attendent walked by I tried using mental telepathy to get him to look my way so he could see my distress, and I could direct him with my eyes to the bag at her feet. Then, of course, he would remind her to stow her bag. No luck. His cursory check completely missed our row. He came back again. I willed him to look. I Begged in my mind. He glanced at the row across from us as he passed by.
From overhead again, a more insistant voice came on that said, “Everyone needs to be in their seats. We can’t push back from the gate until you get out of the bathroom!” All eyes were on the sheepish man as he made his way from the back of the plane to his seat. Soon, we began moving. As we backed away from the gates the voice overhead reminded us that for takeoff all devices must be turned off, all seats and trays in their upright and locked positions, and all carry ons stowed under the seat in front. He couldn’t have been more clear. Surely now she would nudge her bag the 12 inches forward. She did not. I struggled internally. Should I I tell her? Does she not understand? Doesn’t she know this isn’t ok??
I looked meaningfully at Jeff and then sharply down at her feet. He looked confused. I did it again. Still no comprehension. Finally I leaned towards him and whispered, “It’s driving me crazy!”
He said, “what is?”
I said, “Her BAG! Her bag is under her feet!”
He stared at me. “So?”
“So?! Her bag is supposed to be stowed under the seat in front of her! They’ve said it twice! Why won’t she put her bag under the seat?!”
He looked at me like I was unhinged and said, “It’s not a big deal.”
Not a big deal. Rules are in place for a reason. I am so worried that I don’t know how to completely shut down my laptop, and that this will cause the plane to crash, that I have removed the battery. As I sat and stewed, Jeff said, “It will all be better when you’ve had coffee and something to eat.”
After takeoff, which was surprisingly smooth so I didn’t leave quite as deep fingernail indentations in his arm as usual, the bell of relief (as I like to think of it) chimed to indicate we had successfully taken off without nosediving into the space needle. It also meant soon I would have the precious coffee in hand, along with a snack.
However, when the flight attendant came back on, she announced that there was a peanut allergy on board. Not only would they not be serving peanuts, they didn’t even want anyone opening anything they had brought on the plane that might contain peanuts. It was at this point that I actually felt myself begin to crack. There would be no snacks. I wasn’t sure if I was about to start laughing hysterically or sobbing. But soon- what was that I heard? Is that the rustling of snack bags? And then the flight attendant’s melodious call, “Delightful snacks! Yummy snacks! Tasty snacks!”
There were snacks! There were snacks after all! I wondered what it could be! Cookies? Some sort of exotic nut free trail mix? The possibilities were exciting. It had to be better than peanuts! It had to be! As she moved closer, the rustle grew louder and my anticipation grew stronger. She made it to our row!
“Delicious tasty snacks?”
She threw down the bag. Cheese Nips. I stared at them. Jeff chuckled. Wholesome girl barely looked up. She sucked her apple juice through a straw.
The first half of the flight she had spent feverishly writing in her journal with her bright fuchsia pen. I tried to subtly peek at what she was writing so earnestly, but the glare from the ink made it impossible. Now she was intently staring at the seat pocket information pamphlet. She called back to the woman in the seat behind her, “Mom, where is Portland?”
A voice from behind us said, “Oregon. Didn’t you know that Portland is the capital of Oregon?”
Please God, for her sake, don’t let her be home-schooled.
After we had landed I found myself musing that such a wholesome girl was being raised in Sin City, as I had heard her father mention something to another passenger about heading home. As we filed off the plane, i heard him say, “Just a few more hours and we’ll be back home in Salt Lake.”
So, we made it. It wasn’t pretty getting here. It took a few hours for us to begin to decompress from all the stress of the getting here. But we made it. Tomorrow we celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary. In a lot of ways, that crazy journey isn’t all that much unlike our crazy journey to get to our vacation: A rocky beginning where we weren’t sure we were gonna make it. Some interesting characters. A bit of neuroses. A patient husband who keeps me laughing at myself. And yet still we push on, because of the reward that awaits.