Saturday, July 7, 2012

Yearning to Fly

Sunday was Adam's first time flying on an actual airplane (he's done the "Super Adam" flight with Daddy many times - and has crashed only a few).  That meant it was our first time flying as a family of four.  We were heading to Tampa, Florida, to see Jennifer's grandmother and introduce her to her great-grandson.  Naturally we were a bit anxious.  There were bags to pack!  We needed flight, hotel and car reservations!  We needed books, toys, and a portable DVD player for the noisy flight!  We also needed directions to the nearest liquor store for after the flight.

Yes, traveling with two young kids, ages four and one, is not an easy task by any means.  Most times we drive, but driving to Florida didn't seem to make sense, considering Jennifer didn't have enough vacation time for the hours on the road and the necessary lobotomy to cure our headaches after the trip.  So this Sunday morning, we put our diaper bag, 50-pound suitcase, carry-on suitcase, carry-on duffel bag, toy bag, snack bag and stroller into the car and took off for the airport.  A few minutes later we returned home to pick up the kids.  We arrived at the airport before 9:00, and were in the ticketing line a short time later for our 10:45 a.m. flight.  We thought we had given ourselves enough time, but we were flying United Airlines out of Newark Liberty International Airport, whose motto is "Where do you think YOU'RE goin'?  Ha!  Not today, pal."

The crowds at ticketing and baggage drop-off were larger than those for a rock concert.  United's employees, to their credit, moved us towards a shorter line because we have two young children, but even so we waited about 45 minutes before we could touch a computer screen and drop off our bags.  The computers weren't working properly, either, and a fast-moving employee kept racing back and forth from one computer to another, helping customers through the problems.  After that, we walked to security and waited another half-hour in line as security guards let people in wheelchairs in ahead of us.  Don't get me wrong: I have no problem with that.  But every person in a wheelchair seemed to have ten family members with him or her, and all of them were let through, too.  So we waited and waited, and nobody helped rush us through the line, even though the boarding of our plane had begun.  Then, during the security check, some of our stuff was pulled aside to be scanned, including Adam's bottle.  Turns out our baby closely resembles one of the FBI's most wanted and the security guards wanted to be sure he wasn't a threat.

Then came the sprint.  Because our gate was the farthest one away from security, we had to race around the winding hallways, trampling over those who were enjoying the moving sidewalks as if they're an amusement park ride.  Kyle was amazing, reaching near-Olympic speeds.  We darted past other gates, which I'm certain are not real but are just placeholders so that people like us don't get to sit and enjoy the airport (out of fear that we might be able to smell Newark).  When we arrived at the end of the hall, technically in Pennsylvania, we realized that our gate was DOWNSTAIRS.  Using my newfound adrenaline, I flung the suitcases down, then Jennifer, then the children, and then slid down the banister to our gate.  It was 10:40, five minutes before departure.  We had made it!

"Sorry - the gate's closed," said the woman at the podium.  That's when I lost it. 

"WHAT DO YOU MEAN THE GATE'S CLOSED?!?" I shouted.  Everyone looked at me.  "IT CAN'T BE CLOSED!  WE HAVE TO GET ON THAT FLIGHT!!  WE HAVE TWO CHILDREN!!!!"  The children were doing their best to not be seen... they were a little surprised by their dad's reaction.

"Sorry, we gave away your seats.  You can talk with customer service," said the woman, who then gave a sinister laugh.  I hollered again about the children, as if that would suddenly make them realize we had two kids and, out of sympathy or fear that they'd be stuck with all the screaming and crying, would let us on the plane.  No such luck.  The woman again directed me to United Airlines' customer service and, giving up, I darted there.  It's a good thing I ran, too, because a line of about 200 people formed after I arrived.  Apparently this sort of thing happens often with United Airlines.  The two people at the customer service desk were outnumbered five-to-one by empty chairs.  After waiting about 20 minutes, one United representative very kindly told me that the rest of the flights to Tampa that day were completely booked.  I was devastated.  But then, by some miracle, the rep discovered there was an early afternoon flight to Orlando with three empty seats.  I took those, and an hour and a half later were were finally on a plane to Florida.

Adam cried and screamed through much of his first flight.  Fortunately for us, this was a flight to Orlando, so many of the passengers were sympathetic parents.  Nobody tried to kick us off the plane, which is a good thing, since they would have had to use the jaws of life to get me out of that seat.  Relief settled in once we landed and began the hour-and-a-half trek to Tampa.  As we started our journey, I was also relieved that our kids are ages four and one, and unaware that Orlando is the home of He Who Must Not Be Named.  It is also home to Harry Potter and Voldemort, and I'm glad the kids don't know them, either.  We arrived at Tampa at 8:30 p.m., about 12 hours after leaving our home.  It might have been faster to drive down.

The trip was certainly worth the hassle, and we had a wonderful time with Jennifer's grandmother and at our hotel in Tampa.  Kyle would have been happy just staying in the pool all day, and we came close to doing that.  The return home was less eventful, too.  We flew United back from friendly Tampa International Airport, whose motto is, "Did you miss your flight?  Don't worry honey - I'll call the pilot and he'll come back to pick you up."  Adam also slept through the flight.  That was exactly what we needed.  We certainly have more plans to travel this year, but none involve flying, especially not from Newark.  I'm very grateful for that.