I just remembered a hilarious thing that happened at the airport recently.
Lolly and I were coming home from our trip to Utah in August. We had just spent a week with my extended family that had gone unexpectedly well and we were feeling pretty awesome. We drove our rental car to the airport, removed our 473 bags from the car, strapped them all over ourselves and our children, and made our trek into the airport. Then we got to security.
Let me tell you a little something about going through security with 471 (two were checked on, you see) bags and three daughters under age eight. Have you ever seen an ant hill? How about a college football game where someone gets tackled, only that someone is a three year old trying to walk under the railing to freedom? Okay, combine those two concepts. And then add having to pee, having to make sure you don’t have liquids in any of the 471 bags, listening to the soothing sounds of your five-year-old melting down about not being able to adjust her headband while holding her suitcase as everyone else in line looks at you like you’re the worst parent on earth. Also add the smell of feces in your youngests’ diaper. Multiply that by having to take your shoes and belt off, then subtract all the metal from your pockets. Divide this by having to get all of your crap onto a conveyer belt into multiple bins. Take that total, and then multiply it by having to go through metal detectors where you lift your arms up and have your entire body scanned, then put your clothes back on, and get all of that same crap recollected on the other side without losing one of your spawn. Would you like to know the total of this complex equation? It is 666. See? Now you understand how math works, as well as what it’s like every time I go to the airport with my family.
Anyway, after getting through security we did a very important thing: we ate at Cafe Rio. The timing was perfect. We were going to finish our meal, and then we would have about 30 minutes before we boarded our plane for home. The food was delicious, and the timing was perfect. And it was while we were sitting there relaxing, enjoying our pork salad heaven, basking in a very successful trip, that we got a voicemail. A voicemail from a number we didn’t recognize. It came to both of our phones. I picked up my phone and listened.
Your flight will be delayed, it said. By two hours.
It was at this point that things started to get dicey. Being in an airport with kids, as I have insinuated, is hellish when things go well. Being in an airport with kids and then realizing that you have to stay there for hours while you wait for a late flight is one of the most uncomfortable things that could ever happen to a parent, because the entire time you are waiting, you are thinking about the fact that the end of waiting will be the beginning of a multiple-hour flight in which you are confined to an enclosed space with three psychopaths who have already been bored for several hours and are sure to freak the hell out for the entire flight home.
Torture. Akin to water-boarding. I’m sure of it–or at least I would be if I had any concept of what water-boarding actually is.
We got settled in. We sat down near a wall and got the kids busy watching iPhones and coloring in coloring books, and then we looked at each other and sighed. It was going to be a long wait. Almost two hours passed.
And then we got another VM. It did not contain good news. Hours. Multiple more hours. Our flight which was originally supposed to leave at 2:30 was now slated to leave at 7:15. Because of weather in Las Vegas. Thanks a lot Sin City, incurring the wrath of God for your iniquities in a horrible storm that affected my flight from SLC to Seattle!
Take home lesson: reckless sinning affects innocent bystanders. At an airport in Utah.
(Also, no offense, Las Vegas. Lolly loves you and wants to move to you someday. Because she’s evil.)
We waited more hours. The girls got restless. And then something horrible started happening. The batteries of our electronic devices started dying. FIRST WORLD EMERGENCY!!!
We had to take desperate measures. I sat by the wall with all of our crap while Lolly and the girls went to the middle of the terminal where there were plugs. We could see each other decently well, but we couldn’t communicate. There was only an hour or so left at this point. All of this is the set-up for the following:
Lolly texted me “I’m going to the bathroom. Keep an eye on the girls.” No big deal. The three of them were sitting across the way, contentedly watching a show. I couldn’t leave the luggage I was sitting with on the other side of the terminal, but it would be fine. Lolly looked over, made sure I was paying attention, then ran to the bathroom.
And that’s when they called for the passengers of another flight (which had also been waiting for hours to board their plane) to line up. Right in front of me. Obstructing my view.
I tried to play it cool. You know… no big deal. My girls were fine, right? Just beyond that line of people, they were still sitting there watching their shows. Right? Right?
I could catch glances of them between rows of legs from time to time, but then another row stood up and they were gone. Eventually I just had to take a deep breath, realize I couldn’t leave my luggage unattended and that Lolly would be back very soon and all would be well, and calm the heck down and wait. I tried to distract myself with my phone. Several minutes passed, and I began to wonder if my girls really were okay. I started getting restless and nervous again, wanting nothing more than these lines of people to get out of the way so I could see my daughters safely watching their shows.
It was at this precise moment that a man walked up to me, held a picture up to my face and in an collected, controlled voice said “Recognize these three little girls?”
It was a picture of my daughters.
It’s funny how information can process through your mind at an incredibly rapid pace in a moment of panic. I pictured the three of them taken, caught up, stolen–the picture, which I hadn’t looked closely at, snapped as they panicked and screamed for us, all so that Lolly and I could be taken for all we are worth (zero dollars) and more in a ransom. I pictured my girls, their terror, their cute faces contorted in fear at what was happening to them. “I have to protect them! I am their father! I must kill this man!” All of these thoughts coursed past my awareness in a split second.
And then I looked more closely at the picture. It was this picture on a cell phone: