Friday, September 9, 2011

The Trials and Tribulations of Traveling

(Disclaimer: Yup, I like me some disclaimers. This is very long, and it's only a story of just one day. Time and eye-strain permitting, read as much as you like. Since it is so long, I have decided this shall be a multi-part series, but in no way reflects our family trip to Wisconsin as a whole. This tale will mainly vacillate between the good, the fun, the stressful, and the things we'll laugh about next year.) 

Since I was able to remember (and even before that, according to my mother) I have been traveling to Wisconsin to visit my extended family. This last Labor Day was my first time traveling to Wisconsin to see family with my own little family. It was.....challenging. Yes, that is the world I shall use.

In retrospect, the way our trip started off was most likely my fault for packing so many things on an already time-stringent to-do list. Scheduled to fly out at 1:20pm, I/we had a plethora of things to get done before then. First, go to work. At 9:30am I was scheduled to be in a staff meeting so we could discuss the evolution of office roles in the wake of the removal of the office manager, as well as my transitioning to part-time work. At 10am, I was scheduled to leave work in order to attend the restitution hearing for what it costs for your dog to kill the neighbor's cat (I'm sorry, I mean mangle it until the brink of death, resulting in a huge vet bill, rather than just killing it right then and there). Praying to God that didn't take too long (as the City Attorney promised since I agreed to pay the fine), I was to then head immediately home after picking up a bag of dog food, to collect my mother, pick up Jacob from work by noon to be at the airport by 12:20pm. Here is what actually happened.......

As with most Thursdays - well, any weekday, really - Jacob and I were rushed and running the requisite few minutes behind schedule. Instead of Jacob dropping me off at work like normal, I needed the car to do my various running around, but Jacob still needed his car keys. So when we screeched to a halt at his office door, he removed his key from the ignition and I inserted mine. I turned the key and.....nothing. Absolutely nothing. I don't even think there was the tale-tell click of a dead battery. What we had was a fried battery, to the point of when Jacob jiggled the switches, the gauges started spazzing out. But at that point, Jacob wasn't exactly sure what it was, afraid it could have been the alternator too. The trouble was, we needed the car to get started in order to figure that out and we were already having a dilly of a time trying to accomplish that.

A very nice man Jacob works with came over with his Nissan truck and offered us a jump with his very fine battery cables. I later joked to Jacob that a lifted car hood is like the Man Bat Signal; as soon as Jacob lifted it, a good six guys had swarmed the Jeep. It took a very long time for the Jeep to even remotely resemble making positive starting-up noises. I was so sad for her! After about 15 minutes, and constant revving of the Nissan, she finally turned over. But as soon as Jacob let off the gas, she died, leaving him to believe it was the alternator. So we disconnected the cables and the nice man went on his way to park his car. He turned the key and.........nothing.

Another very nice man who Jacob works with came over with his Durango and jumped the Nissan no problemo. So they suggested hooking it up to the Jeep just to try one last time. Well, you can guess what happened; the Jeep fired right up. And it stayed on after disconnecting the cables and letting off the gas. Now the only problem was that if we turned it off, she would be dead again. Alas! Jacob concluded it was, in fact, the battery, something that wouldn't take very long to fix (he figured it would take a couple of hours if he had to fix/change the alternator). Oh, right, that wasn't our only problem.

Jacob was alone at work so, of course, couldn't leave. He wouldn't see some sort of break or other warm body until at least 9:30am. When I called my office to let them know what happened, they offered to come pick me up, but I didn't see how that would then work since I had to be in court at 10:30. So we were stuck. But I spoke to my boss and he relayed what would be discussed in the meeting and assured me I would be filled in when I came in. I then called the City Attorney and she offered to continue my case for another 2 weeks. But, again, since I agreed to pay the vet bill, all I have to do now is stop by her office and sign the order. I'm already signed up on the payment plan for the other 4 offenses.

A little after 9:30am, Jacob was relieved for a bit to tend to the car. We hopped in one of the station's trucks and headed to the parts store. We bought a new battery for an insane amount of money (I don't remember spending more than $60 on a battery for my Blazer) and Jacob installed it easy-peasy; we were back on schedule. By then it was close to 11am so we had to get dog food and pick up my mom and Zoey and head to the airport. That was probably the only thing that went right this entire trip; those 40 minutes between the time we got home and the time we left for the airport.

If you've ever been to the Billings International Airport, you are surprised that it is, in fact, an international airport. It's about the size of a supermarket and it is never busy. Enter Thursday, we walked into the terminal to find the security line backed up to baggage claim. Thankfully, the line to check-in wasn't nearly as long. In fact, they were damn-near empty, and, unfortunately, this doesn't mean that the college interns they had running the joint moved any faster or more efficiently.

We were in a hurry so didn't pay attention to what was happening until we had a moment to breathe in and out in the check-point line. The line moved pretty swiftly, but still gave us ample time to notice our names were grossly misspelled on our boarding passes, and they neglected to say "infant in arms," even though it was obviously obvious. As we wondered how that happened, and if it was Dad's creative way of spelling our names when he booked the tickets, I remembered that the ticket lady didn't ask for our driver's licenses. We pondered on what difference it would make to the TSA agent when a nice man in front of us told us he's dealt with the same thing and that we should probably go back up to the counter. This would mark the third time going back up to the counter as my mom only received 1 of 2 boarding passes, and I didn't receive an infant boarding pass. So we decided that Jacob's name being spelled Jabob McIntrye might cause a few snags along the way so he left to get it changed. In the meantime, my mom, Zoey, and I seemed to move faster and faster up to the conveyor belt. Jacob finally got everything squared away just as we were given the clear.

We made it through security unscathed, unfortunately, my mom couldn't say the same; she was randomly picked for a search and frisk. So even though we had to get all of our crap together, and I had to listen to the lecture of every type of liquid needing to be in a zip-lock bag, we still wound up waiting for mom to put most of her clothes back on and put everything back in her bags. We made it to the gate (after almost going 100 feet to the left instead of 100 feet to the right) just as they were boarding those with small children or needing more time down the jet-way. So we scooted ourselves up to the front of the line (believe me, people see strollers coming and are happy to get out of the way) only to wait until most of the plane boarded for our gate-check ticket.

Finally, we made it down to the bottom of the jet-way, but Jacob realized the ticket agent hadn't given him his boarding pass back. So up and back down he ran. By the time we got on the plane and into our seats, we had another spare moment to collect ourselves. Zoey fussed in the beginning, when the doors closed, and it was hot and stuffy, and not moving anywhere. As soon as the plane took off, she got herself comfortable in my lap and fell asleep.

The best thing about our travel experience was that we didn't have very long layovers, but just enough time to get from one plane to the other with a bathroom stop in between. We got on the plane in Minneapolis without injury but soon hit the wall of heat that is an airplane without ground AC. It was the one time in all of these months that I have regretted wearing my jeggings, and it was taking all of my strength not to strip them off. To add insult to injury, it was a good hour between shutting the doors and actual take-off. Thankfully, the air kicked in when we got into the air.

Like the first, the second flight was a piece of cake. Zoey entertained herself with the seat belt and tray table, and it was only a 48 minute flight. We arrived in Milwaukee around dinner time, but, right off the plane, Zoey needed a serious diaper change. My mom and I luckily found one of those nifty family restrooms but we learned Zoey absolutely hates being changed on anything other than her own changing table. She cried the entire time, and had her butt up in the air, not wanting it to touch the table. She is so my daughter. Then all of a sudden she peed everywhere; it just kept coming like Niagara Falls, so, of course, she cried even more. My mom did her best to mop it up then yelled for Jacob to come help me. It was a struggle, but we managed to get her cleaned and changed in a good amount of time (and my Dad still asked us what took us so long. :-).

My dad, who had arrived on his motorcycle a few days before, picked us up from the airport and we went to the hotel. It was very nice and they promptly delivered a crib that suited Zoey well. Jacob and I hadn't eaten anything all day but weren't keen on going out anywhere. My parents said they were going to a bar nearby and would bring back food, but also offered we use room service or something. But first and foremost, we needed to feed Zoey, and that would require a bottle of water.

There was a vending machine down the hall that, naturally, sold water for $12.00. I guess Jacob's money wasn't good enough, though, because it refused to take the dollar after the one it already accepted. So off he went to the front desk for some quarters, only she didn't have quarters; she only had dimes. Only, the machine refused to take dimes. Throwing his hands up in the air, Jacob walked to the nearby gas station and bought a jug of water.

Once that was said and done, we headed down to the restaurant for some adult-type food. We arrived shortly after 8pm only to learn the kitchen stopped cooking at 8pm. Not exactly sure what to do, but knowing Zoey needed to get to bed, we headed back up to our room. She was active in her strange crib until 10pm when she finally dozed off. In that time, Jacob and I decided we didn't have the brain capacity to contemplate anything other than just ordering a pizza. But it took us about an hour to locate our hotel address and find a suitable pizza joint that would deliver to us. It took another hour for it to actually arrive.

So, shortly after Zoey fell asleep, Jacob and I ate our pepperoni pizza and bread-sticks on one of the full-sized beds and watched a depressing documentary about the events of 9/11.

If nothing else, our stressful day made us super-duper tired and we crashed once the TV was turned off. The bed felt a little small for the both of us so, around 4am, I moved to the other bed to give us a chance of a little more rest. I figured that since Thursday was over, our string of unfortunate luck would be over too; I was convinced it was just a one-day thing. And after sleeping in until 9am (8am our time but still a vast improvement), I thought things were off to a good start.............