Monday, February 11, 2008

The Far-Too-Frequent Flyers: Or, Things to Do in Denver When You're Half Dead

When you travel 60 hours with your Crabtot from one country to another, you think of all the refugess in the world...moms carrying children from North to South Korea, children hiding on boats from Cuba, families walking from Zimbabwe to South Africa...and you think to yourself: MY STORY IS WORSE.

Because you are a narcissist. And Crabmommy be your name.

Okay, so my story is not worse. But it is bad. I challenge you not to think it is one of the baddest tot-in-transit stories you have ever read. It is, in fact, so bad, that I have decided to blog about it twice. One version appears here. And the other version appears here. And yes the posts are long. Because it was a long, long trek home from South Africa to the US and many, many things went madly, badly wrong. And if you read what I have to say, you will see how ghastly and ruinous this trek was for the Crabmommy. And even the reading experience itself will likely be ghastly and ruinous. Which is why I have put incentives in, encouraging you to read on. Finish my tale, leave me your response and two lucky readers will receive:

a) a gently used red travel pillow
or b) an egg of Silly Putty. Because that stuff is the best child-amusement object you could possibly pack into your carry-on.

As I sit here n my purple robe, still recovering from the ordeal weeks after it has happened (it has taken me this long to even think about re-experiencing this hellacious trip online), I ask you to refill your cup, steel yourself, and relive my journey with me. Will it be hard going? Oh yes indeedy it will. But remember: there's a travel pillow in it for you! And an egg of Silly Putty with your name on it!

Saturday: After a three hour trip to Johannesburg and a 2 hour wait, Crabtot and I take a 19-hour flight to DC. But no, this is not the hell whereof of I speak. This is a piece of cake. This is easy peasy putty putts. Crabtot and I spend hours with Silly Putty. We bead our pants off. We color with invisible ink. We paint with water onto magic paper books that turn pink and blue and orange. We play with remote controls. And while Crabtot did, loudly, in the silent darkness of the cabin ask me how babies got into stomachs, the leg of the journey I most dreaded went without a hitch.

Sunday: Arrive in DC. Problems begin. Where is my door-checked stroller? "Ma'am, just wait here" (how is it Americans pronounce Ma'am like a foul four-letter word instead of a polite form of address?). Ma'am waits. 30, 40minutes pass and no stroller. I am about to miss my connection to Denver so I leave, Crabtot arcing in my arms. Luckily, an angel from customs finds me and brings me my stroller. We make the flight with minutes to spare.

Denver: I don't mean to insult my Denver readers, but what is that joke of a new airport? Those white cones that shoot up into the sky and look like a series of futuristic bras belonging to Madonna. But more important, where are the airport hotels? Oh, that would be a good half hour away by bus. But why do I need a hotel? The answer starts with what should have been the final leg, from Denver to Crabtown. Crabtot and I are flying solo and Crabhubby will be meeting us, a fact that is sending Crabtot into apoplectic delight as we approach the Crab valley. This is the promised reward for being such a good travlet—this and a bag of jellybeans.

Except that touchdown doesn't happen. What should be a 1-hour flight turns into a 5-hour flight that never makes its destination. Weather diverts our plane through uber-macro-turbulence (GAH! REVOLTING!) to a small Mormony town in Idaho where we proceed to sit on the airport tarmac and wait out some arctic winds. We ascend once more into turbulence, attempt Crabtown touchdown one more time, and are told that we must return to Denver.

Denver again: this is hour 48. I have had 4 hours of sleep. I beg the flight crew to help me as I foresee an airport full of disgruntled passengers all waiting to rebook tickets in what now has become clear is the blizzard ot the season. Crabtot begins a most justifiable meltdown. And I am told that, while there is a half-mile long long of angry people awaiting ticketing agents, no one will advance me to the front of the line.

Denver, still: I wait in the line. For 5 minutes. Crabtot is hungry and delirious with exhaustion. I ask a ticketing agent if she could let me in the line on account of the 48 hours for Crabtot, and the 4 hours of sleep for Crabmommy. No pity. This Denverian trollop tells me if I want to jump the line I must ask people personally. So I do. A compassionate gentleman lets me in the line. Another begins to shout: "If I have a small kid can I also jump the line?" I try to explain the length of the trip and the circumstances attending. He tells me he doesn't give a rat's bum. And then the Crabmommy starts to snuffle. Women swarm around me. Mothers bearing snacks. "That little thing called a penis, it just gets in the way of compassion sometimes," says a woman fiercely.

I'm sorry, readers At this point I find it too taxing to complete my story. And since I did complete it over at Cookie magazine, might I redirect you—in the spirit of diversion (a theme neatly encapsulated by the preceding paragraph) —to another zone?

If you can't bear to finish the story (who can blame you? the narrative arc is so tedious—no actual movement from a to b, in fact nothing but circuitous re-routings back to dang Denver) then I can't blame you. "Denver Airport Again" does not fascinating reading make, especially when you and your offspring are half-dead and hence entirely unable to partake of the Denverian delights that I am quite certain await in the city proper. Okay, so maybe I am not certain. Anyhoo. Skipping ahead, yes, we made it out of there. We did manage to escape, barely, from the Madonna Bra Airport the following day, but only after much tribulation.

And we never made it to Crabtown. But we did make it to Utah. Where we took refuge from a great big wanker of a blizzard at my mother-in-law's. Many days passed before Crabhubby could drive the 5 hours from Crabtown and fetch us. But drive down he eventually did. And he managed to do this only *just* before I almost converted to Mormonism.

As many of you know, I like to make fun of Mormons. But one thing the people of the Angel Moroni know how to do is run a good airport. Want your plane to land in hardcore snow? Go to Salt Lake City. Do not go to Denver. I might add that on this my very last flight into Salt Lake City, I was so tired and delirious and excited to imagine getting out of planes after 60 hours of travel, that I actually made friends some Mormon fellow passengers. One, an ob-gyn gave me a spiel about the US having a declining population. And briefly, I thought, in my half-crazed state that maybe I should listen to this highly pleasant and as always, always good-looking disciple of Joseph Smith and have another child to serve my adopted country.

And then, dear God, I thought about traveling with two of them. And while the tabernacle of Nephi might say unto ye, come forth and multiply and polygamize, and while landing in Utah seemed suddenly the finest thing that had ever happened to me, I resisted the call of the mighty Mo-mo religion.

It was close. But I escaped, my atheism and one-child-only religions intact. Ish.


Anonymous said...

Although I have never had such a traumatic flight like that, still I totally feel your pain. It seems that the airline industry (unfortunately not just United) as well as the general traveling population has become anti-family. I don't understand it and I don't see any good out of such rude, inconsiderate behavior. Families- especially those with small children (not to mention parents traveling solo) SHOULD receive "perks" and should not be made to feel guilty for receiving them. It's amazing that these rude childless travelers want the kids to be quiet happy angles but aren't willing to do anything to help assure that they be that way. Yay for the women who understood your situation and actually stood up for you and were helpful. Now if someone could just sock it to the airlines so that they would take notice- if they don't change I don't see the culture of the ugly travelers changing on its own. YOU GO Crabmommy- you deserve an award for daring to make such a long journey and surviving to talk about it!!

jwoods said...

Argh, that sounds like the worst trip ever. I haven't had anything near as bad, but I can say this: when my husband and I were planning our trip to China to bring home our daughter, he (a superb road warrior and air traveler on business) had the genius idea to bring my mom.

Turns out, she is a baby whisperer. Good thing, too, since our trip home went from a 26-hour marathon to a 3-day ordeal (thanks a chain of disasters including a missed flight and lost tickets) and she saved the day. On the worst leg of the trip, my mom rocked and crooned softly to our 13-month-old and it was like magic.

But I was surprised at how many people have just zero sympathy for exhausted parents and their kids. Kindness of strangers? A rare and wondrous thing.

Crabmommy said...

Anonymous, thank you for your kind words.The Crabmommy so appreciates your input and I wuite agree with you, we need to 'scok it to the airlines." maybe we moms should amrch or something!!!

Julia, how right you are that a grandma can make all the diffs. I had both husband and mother-in-law on the way out to S. Africa, and that was brilliant. Unfortunately I wanted to stay longer than they could...and the extra days of solo time in my home country without all of the extra family I brought out were, quite frankly, worth the Denver nightmare, hideous as it was.

Alexis said...

Oooh, I knew I shouldn't have read that FIVE DAYS BEFORE I TAKE MY BABY ON A TRIP TO EUROPE! I can only hope that since she is only five weeks old she'll just sleep through the whole thing.
That is truly the worst air travel story I have heard. I am very grateful I booked American instead of United (they're the only two with direct flights to Brussels!)
What your story lacks in narrative progression, it more than makes up for in existential angst--very postmodern! ;)

Crabmommy said...

Fret not! I think most of us would agree... new babies are so much easier on a plane. For starters, they sleep more. For seconds they are portable (ask the airline to give you a BASSINET and bulkhead seat--for overseas trips, they will literally hook a bassinet onto the front end of the seating and it is FABULOUS!) Also, if you are nursing that sure helps. All in all, they are more portable, less alert and generally much easier to travel good for you for flying now while it is still easy. That said, even my horror story won't stop me from traveling. You just ahve to do it and horribe as it might be, it always ends. Eventually. Good luck!

Crabmommy said...

whoops--and sorry I dropped the "A" off your name, Alexis!

LizLSB said...

Definitely qualifies for a "worst trip ever." I'm never rude to people traveling with small children; however, your story did make me glad again that my kids are no longer tots, crab or otherwise. When you travel with teens, you can stick headphones in their ears, cellphones or PSPs in their hands, and life is grand.

Jennifer said...

I thank God, yes I believe in God and coincidentally I am a Mormon, I thank Him three times over that I have never once had to travel with my children. I am single-handedly trying to repopulate the earth with my five plus one in the oven and thankfully we have all of our family living within an hours drive. We have vacationed with the children but because of our large brood, we don't fly...we drive. I totally sympathize with you and your plight. How can people be so rude and uncaring? I don't understand. I would have carried you and Crabtot to the front of the line myself. (Actually, would have enlisted the help of my 5. They come in handy that way.) Thanks for sharing your story. It was funny to read and I'm glad it's over. Just stay here for a while. Don't go anywhere. BTW, have you ever read the book, "Cheaper by the Dozen?" It contains a very hilarious chapter about a mother traveling by train across the country with several of her children. You should read. It's funny.

Leann I Am said...

What a nightmare! At least you lived to talk about it...even if just BARELY! I'm going to Cookie to read the rest right now!

tonypark said...

Phew. Right now. I'm glad I don't have kids or a stroller. (Mrs Blog and I are far too self-absorbed to have children).

We did have a similar tale of airline, woe, though. Do you know it took two hours for us to get a drink on the Qantas flight from Joburg to Sydney?

I am kind to mothers and tots on flights, though, and have a gift for stopping (most) children crying.

If I am seated near a screamer I catch the child's eye and then pretend to pick my nose by placing my bended knuckle to my nostril. They're usually fascinated into silence.

crabmommy said...

Could you really be a Mormon and be so NICE TO THE CRABMOMMY? You're a good sport, considering I make sport out of Mormonism on this very blog.

On to the kids: you people are definitely much more long-suffering than I. How is it you can manage life with 6 kids? And why not just...adopt -- overpopulation and all. Curious here.

Thanks for your compassionate words re. my ordeal. Yes, I have only one...but I always act like I have 5! In your shoes I would never leave my bedroom! ha!

Jennifer said...

Dear Crabmommy,
Mormons are quite easy to make sport of. We are so quirky and take ourselves so seriously. I, for one, do not take myself seriously. I do take my beliefs seriously but I don't find that I am caught up in the extra Mormon "culture" that goes on around me. Does that make sense? My BFF is an ex-Mormon athiest and I will love her until death. Actully, for eternity for me and for her, til her body is in the ground.

As far as having children, you seemed to have two questions. First, I don't know how I do it. After three, it gets easier. The older ones learn how to help and pitch in. My husband is a big help. I have family close by. I want to do it more than anything else in the whole world. I love it but it is hard as hell and I don't recommend it for everyone.

Second, I don't worry about myself overpopulating the earth. :) I can see your point, how can I sit with my big fat pregnant belly and 5 children while there are probably millions of children needing homes? I can't give you a satisfactory answer. I do my best to take care of my corner of the world and make it a better place. I donate time and resources to charitable causes. I am certainly not blind to the plight of millions of children around the world who go without basic things like food, clothing, love, etc... What little I do is not enough...could never be enough. But, I don't feel guilty. I provide for my children and their existence is not taking away food from other children. Governments failure to properly use resources is. Sorry if my answer is offensive or unsatisfactory.

Keep up the good writing. I enjoy it.

Crabmommy said...

I think you're a swell girl. I've made no secret of the fact that I think Mormonism is wacky, what with th magic underwear and the Nauvoo plots and whatnot...and I poke fun at your religion on this very crabby site. Yet you haven't sunk any claws into me -- and believe me, people have done so for far less offense. I think you do great credit to Mormonism itself for being light about the serious. Mormonism aside, any mom who has still has a sense of humor after 5 kids and counting is practically a saint. (Can they canonize you? *wink*) You are officially my second Mormon-mom friend on this site. I'm glad to have you here. Cheers!

Daisy said...

What a trip! What an adventure -- not! Oh, that sounds ridiculously awful. My daughter would call it "epic," her word of the week. Crabtot was a gem to make it through the long leg of the trip, and you're right, was justified in melting down at the appropriate moment. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers -- and family, too.

Matter Of Fact Mommy said...

wow, a nice mormom! ;p totally kidding. i have enjoyed reading all of these responses... crabmom, i have to fly to boston for a baby shower in april and i may have to bring a kid with me... do i bring the one who travels for free, or the one whose seat i have to pay for. yup. the free one.

skape7 said...

Oh my God, that's horrendous! My only trip that comes close was the flight back from by grandad's funeral when Miss T was about 18 months old. Miss T wanted to go and look at the distant shops in the airport "Shops! Mummy! SHOPS!!" But I had said no very firmly and told her we couldn't because we were just about to board the plane. Which we were until it got DELAYED. But don't move an inch, folks, because we could ask you to board at ANYTIME. A whoppingly, huge, screaming tantrum ensued because we weren't going to the SHOPS and we weren't going to the PLANE EITHER, thus curing my brother (whom I was travelling with) of ever having children. I think it cured most of the childless people in the airport too. Upside was Miss T wore herself out so much with the writhing and the head spinning and the screaming in tongues that when we finally got on the plane she fell asleep on take off and slept the entire trip home. Thank God or she might not have made it that far.
Crabmommy, I don't know how you did it.

Anonymous said...

I am a former flight attendant, and I know how to travel, and I am one of those people who would know how to travel even if I weren't a flight atttendant. I was traveling with my almost two years old daughter and a one month old who was breastfeeding. And my almost two year old was fine on the tarmack for the first hour or so. But then she started to scream. Before the take off! We could not feed her, soothe her, or give her enough bendaryl to stop. No coloring book, Barney, nothing was helping. Passengers eyed us as if we were any less affected by the incessant crying. And there were a few remarks tossed out. When we arrived at the end of the day, at home, we rolled down the windows of the car for the hour or so car ride home because it was so bad. She screamed until she went to sleep. Ear infection. I would have paid money to have not had that experience. LOL

Crabmommy said...

Post-script: after complaining to United, they sent me and Crabtot each a $250 voucher...toward travel on ANOTHER UA flight! The horror continues...

Anonymous said...

I love your blog and am a fellow SA Mommy, who coincedentally lives in Denver with the Madonna bra airport. I will be taking the very same trip in just a couple weeks, however I will be travelling via JFK on a midnight flight (which is sure to go over grand) and will have to spend the entire day in New York before leaving on my daunting 18 hour flight to Jo'burg. This will be done with a 9 month old and an almost 3 year old and of course the hubby. I did it with my daughter when she was 9 months and it was smooth sailing, this time however, bags are packed and a little extra baggage called two year old attitude will be coming along this time around. I'm excited and terrified all at the same time. But in true laid back South African style I hope to keep my cool and make it through somewhat sane. I loved the story and I hope that I won't be able to relate :) Let's hope this time SAA doesn't run out of water...and god!

Crabmommy said...

Leigh, wishing you all the best luck! I suspect once you leave Madonna's bra behind you things will improve.