When I was 18 I returned from Amsterdam only to be greeted with all my luggage searched and a strip search (thankfully no cavity search). Ever since then, transitioning through airports has taken on a new heightened anxiety-riddled dance. Try as I may, I know my heart rate is elevated and I always seem to be breathing as if the room is depleted with oxygen. Of course, I try not to let anyone know how I’m feeling so I’m also trying to stuff it all down. Keep this in mind as you read this blog post…
We arrived at Victoria airport, and find out our plane is 35 mins delayed leaving. Alaska Airlines says, no worries for the connection. You’ll just have to go through customs but you’re golden. Then the call over the PA system for me. Up to the front we go and we find out that in actual fact we might not make it. We will be rerouted through Dallas and then on to Philly with an arrival time of 12:50am. AFTER MIDNIGHT.
This essentially means that we will miss picking up the rental car to drive to New York and we will have to find a hotel. Since this is the air traffic controls issues in Seattle, the airline isn’t responsible so we’re on the hook to pay it all.
Welcome aboard, your journey starts now.
Luc and I start to talk about options about what we could do if the latter issue happens… but there isn’t really much we can do until we find out how it’s going to go down.
We arrive in Seattle. Touch down: we have 50 mins before our next plane backs out of the gate.
We’re ferried onto a bus. Then through a maze of walkways, into customs. There Luc goes one way (he’s not Canadian so he has to go somewhere else) and this causes me a ton of anxiety. Jaedyn, me and Vivi head to the check-in terminals. I’m literally shaking wondering what is about to happen.
We get our paperwork, and off to the first person we see. We have big X’s on our slips so we have to head down the yellow line… why? Cuz we’re a family. Phewf ok. Then to the customs person named Howard (how do I even know this?). I can barely breath and he asks “Final destination?” New York. Well Philly first. “Reason for travel?” I sputter “to visit” Vivi fills in “It’s a holiday” yes yes it’s a holiday that’s what I wanted to say. Stamp stamp stamp. Carry on.
I’m frantically looking for Luc; he is already down at the carousel collecting our bags. Together again – thank god. We grab all our bags (forgetting the booster seat – damn) and head off to the next stop which is another person who asks us more questions (I think). Then to another place to recheck the baggage. I have a ton of judgement about this process of collecting bags and the rechecking them again. Stupid stupid stupid.
“Wait”, I say to the guy there, “what if we don’t have enough time to get to our flight? What happens to our luggage”? He asks “What time does your flight leave?” 11:55. “What time is it now?” 11:25. Plenty of time he says. And off our luggage goes down the conveyor belt. This is now becoming and exercise in trust and “it will all work out”.
We leave there and next stop is the second security check of the day. This time the shoes come off, it’s hot, pandemonium and this guy asks to see our boarding passes. We show him and he says “precheck boarding is upstairs”. What the heck does that mean? So I say, “what does that mean?” He says it again. Luc asks this time “Are we supposed to go upstairs? What does that mean?” he says “If you don’t know what that means, then it doesn’t matter” HUH? “So we stay here?” No answer. Ok, we’re going to stay here.
As we get closer and closer to the screening, the four of us are spread across 12 different trays/backpacks… I’m beginning to wonder what we’re about to forget. Then I’m ushered into the device that encircles you with your hands up. Jaedyn has the same fate. Luc and Vivi get off much easier. Is it the red hair? Why us? No time to think about that, we need to get our shoes on, pack up our 50 items and truck along to Gate D.
Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you, when we rechecked out baggage that guy told us it was two trains to get to gate D. Jesus. Time is ticking. Onto the first train. Off. Onto the second train. Off. Luc starts running for gate D. I have no idea how far away it is. Me and the girls start jogging. Clearly we’re going in the opposite direction as everyone else #swimmingupstream… then I see a guy driving a people mover…. I start to speed up until I’ve caught up with him and ask him if we can jump on and he can take us to gate D. “Sure!” he says. We get on, catch our breath and I yell out “excuse us!!” as people get in the way of the people mover.
We make it to gate D (American Airlines), thank the nice man and run up to the woman waiting there. It’s 11:44. Luc is there dealing with the fact that he has to get a boarding pass (so many problems if you don’t have a Canadian passport). We hand over our boarding passes. The woman says, “You’re going to need to check your backpack. And her backpack. And his carry on.” Say WHAT?!?
My heart is racing, I’m HOT, adrenalin is coursing through my body, and now I have to figure out what I’m taking out of my backpack to get on the 5 hour plane with. Out comes the laptop, the Euros, the American cash, the pens for Vivi to colour with. Luc grabs the iPads, the journal and activity books for Vivi.
The woman starts yelling at us, “you have to go or they will lock the gate. If you don’t make it there on time, they will cancel the flight.” Ok, now you’ve pushed me too far. I lash out “I’ve been moving for the last 45 mins trying to get to this gate. Do not pressure me into getting to the door of the plane. You can clearly see I’m trying here.”
Onto the plane… I don’t even know what seat I’m sitting in. Vivi and Jaedyn I assume are ahead. When I get close to our seats I see the girls in tears. I’m also close to tears. “What’s going on?” Jaedyn explains that the woman was also yelling at her “go go go! If you don’t hurry they will cancel the entire flight!” Jaedyn was trying to tell her that she didn’t want to be separated from me and Luc and the woman wouldn’t have anything to do with it.
That pushes me over the limit and I start sobbing… I mutter “horrible horrible”. I’m overcome with emotion from all the adrenaline, stress, pushing, lack of control and seeing my girls upset. Not being able to manage the unknown. I’ve literally been running and pushed for the last 45 mins trying to figure out my way through multiple gates.
One of the flight attendants comes by and asks me if I’m ok. “no I’m not” I say. He asks what he can get me. “Water please”. Thank you for showing me some compassion. It means a lot. Luc and Vivi are sitting beside me and hold my hand and fanning me. Vivi says “we made it. Just breath, Mama” and then she takes a deep breath like I do for her when she is upset.
She is wise beyond her years.
We made it.
I wonder if our luggage will be so lucky.
The journey has definitely begun.
After conversing with Luc, he says he didn’t experience the same thing. For him he says it was more like “it is what it is.” I feel like I have heard that one before.
LUGGAGE DID NOT MAKE IT.
After collecting our bags that were checked at the door (thank god those made it), we waited and watched the spinning conveyor belt spin until there was no one left and it stopped spinning…
We walked to the baggage area where we spent the next 1.5 hours trying to locate and get the bags shipped to New York. We were starving and still needed to get to the car rental and then to New York (2 hours away).
I started to cry. Again. Overwhelmed by the day and knowing what was in front of me still.
We walked outside at 10:30pm East Coast time. We waited for the shuttle to pick us up to go to the car rental for about 30 mins. FOREVER.
We get to the car rental and they have a car for us. And a car seat. Hallelujah. I ask “Anywhere to eat near here?” the guys says “At this time? Doubt it.” It’s 11pm. So we take off for McDonalds. I can barely believe I ate there this morning – I think I was delusional.
I wanted to stay in a motel in Philly so that my night stopped and I could regroup. But Luc and Jaedyn assured me that they were wide awake and they would be capable to drive and co-pilot so off we went.
Stopped in at a store to go pee before our 2 hour drive to New York and one of the stalls had a hypodermic needle on the floor, one stall was flooded and thankfully one stall remained mostly untouched.
2 hours later and much of my heightened anxiety in the back seat, (yes I was your classic back seat driver) we arrive. Find the Airbnb, go inside, brush teeth and off to la la land we go.
What did I learn about today:
- I probably need to do some completion around what happened to me in the airport when I was 18 years old.
- Managing the unknown is exhausting.
- It’s ok to cry and release on an airplane filled with people.
- It’s ok to say that I’m not ok. I will get help.
- My kids are more resilient than me. Damnit!
- I need to practice letting go more.
- The bigger the breakdown, the bigger the breakthrough
- That this probably won’t happen again while we’re travelling.
- That we have $500/person if we have delayed baggage to buy stuff with. World Nomads is our insurance provider.
- Water and food are important and I definitely didn’t have enough of that yesterday (it was next to impossible TBH).
- There are quite a few ways to look at what happened yesterday and I get to choose how I look at it:
- It is what it is
Next time I will practice choosing differently.