Saturday, October 22, 2011


We took 10 days vacation at the beginning of October and flew to California to see my parents.  I love spending time with my family and I love getting to be back in the West.  I feel the right size out there, where the horizon is so far away and the mountains are enormous and the sky is open and breezy and light.  I know Appalachians love the comfort of their mountains, but I usually end up feeling like a sweater that's been crammed in the bottom dresser drawer all summer.  When I get out West, I feel like I can finally take a deep breath. 

In order to take vacation, we had to work like crazy the week before and the week after.  And getting there and back was almost heart-attack inducing.  Actually, getting there was a dream.  Little A is 18 months old, so the airlines say she can fly for free.  Flying for free means you don't pay for a seat, which means you don't get one.  On the way out, we had an extra seat in our row, so she had a seat to herself and had a great time.  She slept and I gripped about not bringing my knitting.  I didn't think I would have a free hand to myself, let alone two, and I didn't want to chance my needles through airport security for nothing.

The way back, however ... different story.  Our connecting flight to LAX was delayed by 3 hours, so we missed our connecting flight to Pittsburgh.  They rerouted us on a different airline, which left us with a 35 minute layover in LAX.  Did you know Terminal 5 at LAX is under major construction?  It looked like a perfect backdrop for a Halloween thriller about someone getting murdered at an abandoned airport, except that it was absolutely crammed with people.  We didn't have boarding passes for the flight, just a tiny itinerary that said our plane was in Terminal 6. 

Someone in the temporary signs department at LAX has had a tragic life, where humor can only be found in sending hapless strangers running all over the place in a panic.  We ran the length of the terminal twice looking for passage to Terminal 6 before someone told us we had to go to Gate 62B or whatever to take a shuttle.  The sign for the shuttle was huge.  The words that told you that the shuttle went to Terminal 6 were half an inch tall.  They wouldn't let us on the shuttle with our stroller, so they told us to get on the elevator, walk through the tunnel, run into the wall at platform 9 3/4 and then get on another elevator to Terminal 6. 

The right elevator was hidden behind some kind of forcefield that kept it indestinguishable to the mortal eye.  We did, however, find a wrong elevator that took us from the bottom of a broken escalator to the top of the broken escalator.  We were totally alone, way back in some terminal warp zone, and no one was even pretending to pardon the mess.  Chains were hanging from the ceiling and tools were laying around and I would not have been surprised to see a bloody body strewn across the escalator.  Maybe I've been watching too many episodes of Castle.

Once we found the right elevator, it dumped us into an eternally long hallway with solitary light bulbs every thirty feet.  I found the breath to shout to C, "Are we in a mental institution horror movie?" as we ran with all we had.  At this point, I remembered that we were parents of a small child, and checked to make sure she was still in her stroller.  She was.  Then we passed a sign that said something like, "If you hear a siren, evacuate the tunnel.  The gate will close and the tunnel will fill with carbon monoxide."  We held our breath as we ran under a guillotine-like gate. 

We came up the elevator on the other side into a glorious terminal.  It was the Taj-Mahal of terminals.  It was the holy land of Terminal 6 for those who had spent forty years wandering through the wilderness of Terminal 5.  We felt victorious as we approached plasma flat-screen panels ... which told us that our flight was boarding from a gate in Terminal 5. 

Half a second and many expletives later, we were forcing our way onto the shuttle, stroller and all.  Now we're outside, riding across the tarmac we just ran under, and it's 90 degrees.  We're wearing sweaters and coats because, after all, it's October.  We make it back to the first level of hell, aka Terminal 5, and I take off, leaving C with the stroller.  I manage to eek out, "Detroit!" as I pass out on the gate counter, and the woman behind it, who apparently has had such a blessed career that she's never had to deal with any one missing boarding call, says, "Why are you so late?" 

They shove us onto the fully boarded plane without boarding passes, and when I tell the flight attendant I don't have a seat assignment, she says, "That's not my job.  You'll have to talk to a ticket agent."  The ticket agent has followed us onto the plane and tells us to sit wherever we can find a seat.  I find a seat between two women who thought they had scored a little extra room on a four hour flight.  They didn't seem eager to welcome two very sweaty people to their tiny neighborhood.  C got the last seat.  In an emergency exit row.  Which meant little A was all mine. 

Our last flight from Detroit to Pittsburgh was boarding when we arrived, but it was only 3 gates down.  So we made it.  And when it comes to flying across the country, any trip that ends with "we made it" is a good trip.  And it's better than taking covered wagon across the prairie for four months.  And we got to spend a lot of time with my family.  So I'd run through Terminal 5 again if I had to. 

Another great thing about being on vacation, in addition to losing 2 pounds on the LAX cardio workout, is getting in a ton of knitting.  I have heaps of FOs to show you.  Next time! 

1 comment:

  1. LOVE the saga, LOVE having a week with you, C and a!
    Our turn next time!