Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Crazy Trip Home

Note: This blog entry happened chronologically before I actually started blogging. Prior to regular blogging, I would occasionally post musings and stories in the form of a Facebook Note. While I have, several years later, converted my Facebook notes into blog entries, I've decided to keep the chronology true to the original posting, regardless of platform.

It wasn’t fair. We arrived at the airport way in advance of the required ninety minutes before our flight was scheduled to leave. We made sure all our carry-on items met airport regulations. We booked the entire trip over two months ago. We did our job in making sure everything would go smoothly, and so far, everything had. So when we checked in at the gate to get our boarding passes for the flight back home, it didn’t even cross my mind that one of us wouldn’t get one.

I got my boarding pass; Vince didn’t. Are you kidding me? I’m thinking. I had to jump through about five hundred hoops just to make sure Vince was on the same flights as me when we booked the trip in the first place; there was not supposed to be any additional hassle.

“We’ve oversold our flight. Seat assignment is based on check-in times,” the rep* explained. But Vince and I checked in at the same time! I explain that we need to fly together. The rep says if we want, we can give up both our spots and wait for the next flight, with the added “perk” of a free round trip anywhere in the main 48 states… to be taken within one year, and non-transferable. Great. A perk we can’t even use. Talk about adding insult to injury. Perks aside, this is not an option; we need to connect in Seattle if we plan on getting home.

“Well, we’ll be asking people to volunteer up their seats. If no one volunteers, though, guess what—you just did.”

That was the crossed line, right there. No one tells me when to play Good Samaritan. If you’ve never seen me shut down emotionally, well, you missed another opportunity in that airport. I went into lockdown like the castle doors in the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban movie. Don’t touch me; don’t cheer me up; just put my boyfriend on the same plane.

I sat; I stewed; I ate yogurt. I asked a couple more questions without answers, I watched the clock, and I watched the TV screen with the list of cleared names and stand-by names. I couldn’t tell if things were getting better or worse.

“It’ll all work out,” Vince says calmly. He has patience to the same degree that I don’t.

“I know that,” I state. And I do. It always does, even if it’s not quite how I want it to. “But it shouldn’t have to ‘work out’ in the first place. We should both have seats.”

Eventually, it does work out. Vince gets called for a boarding pass as they are boarding their first-class passengers; his seat is in the row in front of me. And once we get on the plane (I did not greet the stewardess when she said ‘hi’), the lady next to him is willing to trade spots with me. What a hassle. But I am able to relax enough to take in the in-flight movie and read through my new magazine.

Landing in Seattle, we brace ourselves to have to hoof-it through the airport to go through the process all over again. Three monorail rides between terminals gets us to the gate we need to be at. At the gate is a rather cheery lady named Lori. I explain what’s been going on and how we’d really love less stress on the next flight. She looks at our itineraries, our passports, and gets us seats right next to each other. No hassle, no questions.

“You’re a lot nicer than the other guy already,” I tell her. She smiles and gives us our boarding passes. I decide that anybody named Lori(e) must be a good person.

It is definitely a calmer wait and a calmer ride home; one Vince and I enjoy. Upon landing in Calgary, we move through the airport swiftly and right up to the customs booths, as it is midnight, and there aren’t many people to compete with.

The customs representative I approach is a very formal-looking First Nations man. Definitely looks like someone you don’t want to mess with, but doesn’t look rude or gruff, either. Thank goodness.

“Where did you come from?” he asks.

“Chicago and Davenport.”

“What were you doing there?”

“Visiting friends.”

At this point, customs usually stamps the paperwork and sends me on my way. Apparently not tonight.

“And what about the guy behind me? Who’s he?” I glance up and see Vince, already through customs, waiting for me behind the booths. Does this guy have a mirror?! He never even turned around!

“He’s my boyfriend,” I explain, caught off-guard.

“What’s he doing there?”

“Umm… waiting for me?” It’s more of a question than a statement.


Is this for real? I shrug my shoulders. “I dunno… cuz he cares about me?” I have a nervous smile on my face. Please just let me go!

Customs man stamps my form and hands it back with my passport. As he does, I think I catch the faintest hint of a smile on his face, but I’m not quite sure, and I’m not about to joke around with customs. I move past the booth and quickly grab Vince’s hand.

Our baggage is already circling when we arrive at baggage claim; thank goodness. We head to the exits to wait for Vince’s mom to pick us up. As we watch for her out the windows, a guy waiting near us moves to look out the window as well and bumps his head on the metal trim (I swear, the trim jumped out of no where). Vince and I each discreetly try to hide a laugh.

But given the day’s events, it’s good to be able to finish it off with a smile.

* As a Public Service Announcement, this was a US Airways flight operating under United Airlines. I have never chosen them when flying to/through the USA ever since this incident.