We had our first flight under our belts with only Anika’s upset stomach as a set back. We were now making our way to our gate for our last stretch of flight back home.
It was now 9:15 pm and our flight was scheduled to leave at 10:00 p.m. Duane still hadn’t eaten (bet he was willing to eat a frozen turkey sandwich now!), Ethan was fit to be tied, was not eating his meals that Duane was now eying up, and it was long past bed time. Once at our gate, we noticed that it was packed, and we learned that the previous flight had been cancelled. Great, we had an over-booked plane. The gate clerks were chiming desperately over the intercom… pleading for five people to forsake their boarding pass… “was anyone willing to skip this flight and be compensated with a $600 voucher PLUS meals PLUS accommodations?”
Hmmm, 600 times 6 = $3,600. WOW!! But are we that brave?
I looked at Duane whose eyes got bigger as it dawned on him that I was entertaining this notion. “But we’re so close to home!” is what screamed to me from his eyes. But think about it… we even had Ethan’s extra frozen soups… it COULD be done! HOWEVER, we had originally booked Thursday flights home because we wanted to come back a day early to ensure there would be no issues picking up Isabel at our scheduled switch time on Friday after school. This gave us a good fifteen hours of wiggle room should anything go wrong. So to risk not being back in time was not worth it. It would not have been fair to James, his fiancée nor to Isabel.
Sigh… farewell beautiful compensating opportunity!
It was now time to board the plane. The flight was delayed by thirty minutes as they kept trying to get more volunteers to pass up their seats. By this time, Sivana had been screaming a blood-curdling scream for the last forty minutes and Ethan was beginning to have his own meltdowns. Sivana also decided to poop yet again (seriously child!) and I had the pleasure of changing her in what appeared to be a tiny linen closet with a toilet! Hmmm, the humour was quickly beginning to fade.
Finally, two final people volunteered to forsake their seats, and I wondered how much Sivana & Ethan’s screaming aided in that. Annoyingly, another thirty minutes later, our pilot piped through the intercom announcing that the delay was due to the fact that the last two people who left were circus acts and they had to dig for five large pieces of luggage from the plane. What are the odds? Finally we had the green light to take flight! One more hour, one more hour, one more hour…. We were now scheduled to arrive just past midnight, but at least we would finally be home!
After thirty minutes of screaming & crying, Ethan finally collapsed into sleep on Duane’s lap & Sivana was beginning to settle down in my arms.
And then that feeling. That blasted instinctive feeling…
Melina (who was sitting next to me) saw the look on my face and said “What??”
“I cannot shake this feeling that we are NOT going to see our home tonight.” Hmmm, I hope that feeling doesn’t mean we are going to crash! Better keep that last thought to myself!! And so began my prayers asking God to still my anxious heart, to give me deeper faith in Him and His plan and to be with all of us on our journey home.
Pilot piped in again as the plane began to move warning that the weather in Winnipeg was alarming but planes were still able to land and the forecast did not indicate worsening conditions. Blizzards back home… what a welcome party… I hope our ride can make it to the airport without being in any kind of danger!
After what felt like forever, the plane took off as Sivana finally, finally, exhaustively fell asleep in my arms. Sigh… this was looking promising.
But that blasted feeling…
The take off was bumpy and shaky (thankfully Anika had nothing left in her to throw up!) but we finally made it up to the sky. To my horror, I heard some unusual sounds under our seats, not helping my anxiousness. Sure enough five minutes later, the plane banked hard to the right as the pilot’s now familiar voice chimed in.
“I’m afraid I have some bad news, folks….”
As a mother with five children on board (one of which is my sister’s) can you imagine the many horrific thoughts that can cross your mind in that millisecond after those words are spoken? I assure you, it is both impressive and terrifying!
“Planes are no longer able to land in Winnipeg, folks, as the winds and turbulence are impassible. I’m afraid we need to turn around and land back in Minneapolis.”
Oh my goodness, Ethan’s food! Hopefully it will only be a few hours delay. Oh why did we pay the blasted $75 to check that luggage instead of taking on the challenge we did coming here? But we honestly did not think things could be worse than our journey TO Florida. Apparently I can lack imagination!
As the plane was landing, Ethan woke up suddenly SCREAMING and SCREAMING, “IT HURTS, IT HURTS! MY EARS ARE BROKEN!!” He was hysterical and Duane could barely hold him in his arms as he thrashed around. Out came the water bottles hoping that drinking would help pop his ears from the descent. He fought and kicked and screamed while Duane was short of restraining him and shoving a water bottle down his throat! He finally got him to drink and Ethan’s ears must have popped as he stopped thrashing around.
But naturally, all the screaming woke up Sivana who was now chiming in as well.
Once off that plane, we were shuttled to a man at a computer who was to help us rebook our next flight. When he announced that the soonest flight out for six passengers was on Saturday… TWO days from now… my jaw dropped.
Our winter jackets are back home and it’s flippin’ winter out there! We’ll have to pick up jackets!
Our crew is too big for one hotel room… shoot, that’s two hotel rooms times two nights… oh my goodness!! Oh and all the meals… holy smokes! This will cost more than the trip to Florida did!!!
Izzy’s Friday appointment will have to be cancelled… oh shoot, James… he’ll have to keep Izzy another day! And our supposed ride from the airport?? It’s too late to call him now! This is disastrous!!!
WHY DIDN’T WE TAKE THAT $3,600 DEAL???
You know those little wooden desktop birds that slowly move downwards then back up again? Well, for two hours, we watched that not-so-helpful clerk type on his little keyboard much the same way… “we can fly you to Chicago?”
And down goes the little wooden bird… type, type, type, type… back up again… “We could get you to Regina?”
“NO, that won’t help us! What about renting a vehicle?”
And down again to type away only to come back up to say “We can find you a sedan.”
“No, do you see our crew? We need an eight passenger vehicle.”
“Oh, yes… hmmmm, we can get you a full-sized car?”
“NO… that will not hold 8 passengers, now will it? Can’t we get a van or suburban??”
“You can’t cross the border in a rental vehicle greater than a car.”
“Duane, we should try to find out where the Ethan Suitcase is.”
“Yes dear, we’ll all make the long trek out to luggage claim when we figure this out. For now, let’s stick together.”
As the reality of the situation was sinking in, I sat myself down and started crying. Yep, plopped down on the chair and let the waters flow from my amply-supplied tear-ducts. This apparently drew the attention of an airport Swahili worker who approached me with his best of intentions (or so I tell myself).
“Hey, hey… you not need cry! You are ALIVE. God has different plan for you! And hey, you not DEAD!” At which point he looks down at baby Sivana, our young Ethan and our sleeping Anika and adds, “But even if you DID die… this is BEST time… These little ones will NEVER remember you!!”
Everyone around us literally stopped what they were doing as I starred at this man whose big bright smile really did make me believe he was convinced he was helping. Can you really punch someone whose innocence just stabbed you in the heart? The pressure was on as everyone looked to see what I was about to do given the clear “stability” of my current mental state. (Please note sarcasm here).
“OH… Okay, Sir… Um, thank you.”
“Yeah, they never know you! It would be okay!”
“Yes, Sir. That’s true… thanks for pointing that out.”
The man looked satisfied that I was no longer bawling and went back to his business. At which point I slowly looked down at each of my precious babies still somewhat stunned and started to wail… albeit, a lot more subtly!!
Did that seriously just happen??
We finally spoke with a manager about SOME form of assistance for our newly anticipated MEGA EXPENSES and reluctantly we were given a voucher for two hotel rooms. Phew… that covers $300! I have no doubt that had that manager seen what had just unfolded with one of her employees, she would have made the Swahili worker pay for the second night!!
Finally, it was decided that we could get two flights home Friday at 1:30 pm with the rest of us on standby, two more on 5:30 pm flight (with the rest of us on standby) and all six passengers booked for a Saturday flight (as a worst case scenario… because as you can clearly see, our family HAS to plan for these worst case scenarios!).
By this time, it was passed 1:00 a.m. and Anika was sleeping across two seats with her legs dangling off the end unto a piece of luggage. Ethan, unsurprisingly, was still awake.
Finally after two hours of pleading, rebooking & being “comforted” by a Swahili airport worker, it was time for us to get our luggage and car seats. I felt so close to the brink of a breakdown that I dared not speak a word for fear it would result in some kind of assault charges. I had been anxious about getting to Ethan’s food suitcase so we quickly began the long several-mile trek to luggage claim.
A little shuttle buggy was driving by and Duane, Anika, Ethan, Melina and Loreena were able to get on. Unfortunately, Sivana in her stroller , my suitcase, purse, carry-on and I could not fit on as well so we continued walking… trying not to focus on what felt like another jab from fate as they disappeared around one of many, many corners. A few seconds later, I heard the sound of another little buggy “beep! Beep!” Aha! Perhaps things are not so unfortunate afterall!
Lo and behold, Mr. Swahili-oh-so-helpful-comment guy is there with his big smile and his own shuttle buggy driving right next to me gesturing for me to “hop in.”
Oh dear me… I think I am about to snap… better just keep walking. Please Mr. Swahili man, for your own safety, just keep going.
“Hey Lady.. it is very far walk… I give you ride! Come, I give you and baby ride!”
Oh sure, and maybe you could accidentally drive into a wall, orphan my babies so they’ll never remember me! ARGH!!! (Where oh where could I find a good Samaritan / good Christian pill right now?).
I looked down the empty endlessness of the airport where Duane and the others were nowhere to be seen… okay, Swahili guy, but you’d better leave orphaning my children out of anything you have to say!
Thankfully, he did manage to get me to the luggage claim without any majorly unwanted comments and I was reunited with the others. I had the luggage claim tickets in my pocket and handed them to Duane who was waiting patiently for them. I took a few deep breaths trying to keep the reins on the floodgate of tears that still felt too close to the surface. Keep it together, Rita. For the sake of the kids (and those still in this airport) just keep it together!
Duane returned hesitantly and asked “do you have another ticket in your pocket?”
“What… do… you… mean?”
“Well, um, you only gave me four claim tickets… and we need five.”
My heart begins to beat alarmingly fast as I ask, “Which ticket is missing?”
“The Ethan Suitcase of food is missing.”
My breathing felt funny as I tried to keep it together. I tried digging through my purse, my pockets, the file folder of impeccable organization (which did NOTHING to serve us in that moment).
How would we feed Ethan? WHAT would we feed him? Where is the stub???
I started throwing the file and dumping my entire purse desperately on the floor and finally falling to the floor and crying like a baby. This was quickly becoming way too much for me!
Anything else, Dear God… anything but the Ethan suitcase… PLEASE!!!
Like an answer to prayer, Duane worked with a clerk and within minutes (to me it felt like forever) they found Ethan’s suitcase. Loreena came down to the floor where I was, hugged me, and with her ever optimistic heart proclaimed “Hey, Tante Rita, this is still the best vacation ever!” And now I know where the optimism pills ended up!
With our mountain of luggage, and mild twitch in my walk, we made our way to where shuttling services could be found. We called our hotel only to have them tell us that their shuttle service ended at midnight. We were on our own, transportation-wise.
“How much for a shuttle with you guys?” Thank God Duane still had his wits about him because I was border-line rocking back and forth with a glazed-over look.
“We have six passengers, two car seats, an infant car seat, stroller and all this luggage…”
The lady looked at our crew, the mountain of luggage and said “$86”.
And now it was Duane’s turn to nearly flip out. Oh this was going so well. We were fast approaching two scoops of crazy with a side of coo-coo-catchoo! After he choked, he looked around and saw two men standing by taxi vans just outside the doors. He ran out and spoke with them, ran back in and said “these Swahili guys could do it for $36 in total.”
No! No more Swahili guys!!! (No offense!)
At this point, I had nothing in me to argue… I just wanted to crash somewhere before anyone else dared to speak to me. Duane, Melina, Anika & Ethan were loaded into one van (the one with the Swahili guy who COULD speak English) while Sivana, Loreena and I were in the van with the Swahili guy who could NOT speak English.
I felt numb despite our guy driving alarmingly fast. Within ten minutes we arrived at our hotel. I started to unbuckle Sivana’s carseat when the driver gestured for me to “wait”. I watched Duane bolt into the lobby and then bolt back gesturing “keep going!”
What do you mean, keep going???
Before I could ask, we were driving like mad 80 miles an hour on a freeway following Duane’s van (who had also taken up driving lessons from Thelma and Louise!) when suddenly our van lurched followed by a ka-thump-ka-thump-ka-thump-ka-thump sound rattling our brains! Even I knew we had just blown a tire but the driver kept driving… at 80 miles per hour… on a blasted freeway!!!
Maybe I could open the door and just let myself fall out… then this would all be over… oh who am I kidding? Knowing my luck, I would survive!!
Finally I yell to the guy “I THINK YOU HAVE A FLAT TIRE!!!”
As a side note… why on earth do we assume that yelling at someone who doesn’t speak our language will somehow magically make him understand?
“FLAT TIRE!! PULL OVER!!”
Finally the guy pulls into a gas station as we watch the red tail lights of Duane’s van disappear in the distance. How on earth are we going to fix this? The driver just sat there, I looked at Loreena… I looked at the dollar signs clocking higher and higher on his meter.
“Um, Sir… can you STOP the clock, please? STOP the clock?”
“Yeah… yeah… we STOP.”
“No, I know WE are stopped… can you please stop charging me for sitting here??”
“Yeah, yeah… we stop.”
Oh good grief can someone just put me out of my misery?? Ten minutes passed (with the meter ticking the whole time) and another van showed up to pick us up. I dug through my purse, pulled out a wallet only to realize it was Duane’s.
Are you flippin’ kidding me??
Do not, folks, in any circumstances ever ask yourselves “can things possibly get any worse?” Because you will ALWAYS get your answer. And that answer is “YES!!”
I panicked and say to my driver (as though he could understand) “oh my goodness, I have my husband’s wallet.” At which point the driver of the van who’d just arrived to rescue us said “yes, I know… I was your husband’s driver. I am here to pick you up… and his wallet!”
My cab driver prints off my receipt and points to the part that says “TIP AMOUNT”.
Yes folks, I burst out laughing. Not a nice laugh but more of a slight crazed laugh of ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!
We unloaded and re-loaded in the freezing cold and ten minutes later, I joined the rest of my family at the hotel and we finally walked into our hotel rooms. It was now just after 2:00 a.m. Anika & Ethan collapsed exhaustively into one double bed, Melina & Loreena in another one. No crib so Sivana slept in her stroller and Duane and I each got our own double bed.
Exhaustion seized us both as we looked at each other much the same as I would imagine one looks over at their comrade in battle after a cease-fire. It had been an onslaught of relentless misfortune in just four hours but we were now only moments away from much needed sleep! We were unwilling to think of what tomorrow would bring and surrendered only to the overall blessing that no one was hurt, we had Ethan’s food & meds, and an oh-so-humorous God watching over us!
Where most people would have thought to themselves, “man, after all of this, I am going to need a vacation!” this thought offered anything but relief for me! When this would be all said and done, we would be wiping "vacations" off the map for a LONG time!