What was that? You want to hear the details of our overseas trip and/or are in the mood for horror? Well, if you insist.
I keep wondering if it all went wrong because we didn’t call a taxi. Saturday morning in Madrid was quiet, the whole city and the sun itself still groggy from their traditional late nights, and we decided to save money by taking public transportation to the airport. Technically, nothing went wrong (which is probably a miracle in itself). But by the time we had taken the bus, found the right Metro entrance, lugged the stroller up and down three sets of underground stairs, caught the two different trains for the airport, bought the ticket supplements to get into the airport, and walked for a week to the international terminal, we only had two hours left before our flight. And we couldn’t find the check-in counter.
Mangling the Spanish language beyond recognition, we asked an airport official for the American Airlines counter. He pointed us to the opposite end of the building, at which point we asked another official. He pointed us back the way we came. I thought bad words in Spanish. We finally found an information desk with—heaven!—someone who spoke English. “Oh no, no, no,” he clucked at us. “You can’t just ask anybody these things. You have to ask someone who knows. No, no, you are in the wrong terminal. You have to go outside and take the bus to Terminal 4. Here is the number for your check-in desk, and don’t worry; your flight has been delayed an hour!” We ducked away as he launched into a story about why some of the international airlines were not to be found in the international terminal, blessing the powers that be that we had an extra hour on our hands.
We took the bus. We found our counter. We waited in line until our turn… and found out it wasn’t the right counter. Not even the right airline. Oh, and our flight had not been delayed at all; it had been moved up. With only one hour left, we found the correct counter and waited a-tremble through the line. “Do not worry,” said the woman behind the check-in counter. “You have plenty of time. Except, there is a big problem.” She explained that their system did not show a ticket reserved for Sophie, and we were sent to wait in line at the ticketing office.
Natalie and I trotted off to buy some breakfast while Dan solved the situation, and when we came back, he was begging to talk with the ticket agent’s supervisor. Ten minutes later, he was still begging to talk with the supervisor. Twenty minutes later. Thirty minutes later. Finally, the ticket agent relented and called her supervisor, who shrieked on the phone, “Their flight leaves in twenty minutes?! Why are we still talking? Get them on the plane!”
Eight blue-clad employees sprang into action. They slapped tags on our luggage, shoved a temporary ticket into our hands, and told us to run. “We’ll figure this out by the time you get to your gate,” they assured. So we ran the fifty yards to security. We got through and ran to the shuttle. We got off at the right stop and ran to the passport check… and nearly plowed into the 400 people in line before us. No time for courtesy; we dodged our way to the front, explaining in-between breaths that our plane left in a few minutes. We made it through and ran like we’ve never run before to our gate, where flight attendants were calling “Bassett!” Natalie and I dashed onto the plane while Dan paid the finally-determined amount for Sophie’s ticket, and we settled into our seats with still-warm breakfast sandwiches as the overseas flight took off.
The situation was decidedly un-funny until we were up in the air, at which point a laugh and a few more bad words and then another laugh were in order. The flight was smooth, and the girls did great. Once we landed, all we had to do was catch a short connecting flight, and we’d be done. Well, pick up our luggage and then catch the connecting flight. Well actually, only pick up the particular luggage items that the airline hadn’t lost.
We waited while someone in a uniform looked below for our luggage, and by the time he assured us it wasn’t coming, the line for Customs was fanned around the carousels to the very back of the building. We looked up the time at the exact minute our connecting flight was scheduled to take off. I thought unscriptural things about our airline. After this point, the story just gets tedious and teeth-gnashing: more lines, still more lines, a screaming Sophie who got us promoted to the front of the line, no way to call the relatives who were supposed to pick us up, replacement tickets for a flight several hours later, a flight delay, a second flight delay, a third flight delay, a 20-minute flight through a lightening storm, and finally a safe arrival at an hour our bodies expected to be waking up from a long night of sleep.
I will need counseling and maybe a few exorcisms to get over the trip itself, but I can’t entirely begrudge the effort taken to get here… soaking up the Florida sun in the lazy river, eating chocolate frosting with forks, and cramming into the minivan to sing Beastie Boys at top volume (while Dan’s mom teaches Sophie DJ scratching motions). Oh, I love my family-in-law. Their superpower is talking—both the Italian mealtime variety and the midnight heart-to-heart kind—and they like each other. It’s exactly the kind of vacation my sponge-thirsty heart needs.
Especially after that trip. Ay to the caramba.