Yule Be Happier Staying At Home
These are the waning hours of Christmas Day, 2010. We are snowed in (unusual for North Carolina), two of my children are sleeping in a Hilton in Chicago, I'm still trying to figure out how to tell my body that no matter how much foreign fluid is in my lungs, there's no sense in trying to eject them wholly from my body, and I am lying in a bed in the main guest room at my parents' house in North Carolina, pondering on how I got here.
Actually, come to think of it, as I am in my PARENTS' house, I should phrase that differently. I don't know about you, but as I have children, I have some sense of how I got here, and I really would prefer not to ponder that deeply into the mechanics of it all, if it's all the same to you.
Our Christmas travels began on the evening of Wednesday the 22nd, Liam's birthday. With the threat of impending snow (an event which, I am told, came to little more than a few inches of snow, which in New England is considered about average for a July afternoon, while (this is true) a similar amount here in North Carolina has shut down the airport), Liam and I drove down to stay overnight at a hotel adjacent to the airport for our morning flight on Thursday. Well, when I say "Liam and I drove", of course HE drove, I was much too drunk after celebrating his fifth birthday.
Our first flight of the day, we sat next to a lovely young college student named Molly, who apparently attends college one town over from the CA town that my Aunt and Uncle live in, and I learned significantly more about her life than I would have thought possible in a two hour flight, largely because she spent the whole trip talking to Liam. Now, it's not that I'm jealous, exactly. As a middle-aged man, I wouldn't really want to have any success with a young woman only a couple of years older than my oldest child. It's just that Liam has only comparatively recently discovered he HAS, er, naughty bits, while mine (being a divorced man) are woefully underutilized, so it is disconcerting to me that, should he turn his mind to it, he could pick up hot babes at the drop of a hat, while for me to accomplish the same thing, I'd have to be babysitting an infant with a fever.
Our flight had a three hour layover in Charlotte, NC. This is not unusual. Virtually every flight that terminates somewhere in the southeast routes through Charlotte, and the layover is generally either short enough that you arrive at your connecting flight smelling like the locker room after a hot August pre-season NFL football game, or long enough to encompass the rest of the season. And as is not uncommon, there were earlier flights going to our same destination, and so we walked to the departure gate for one of these earlier flights to see if we could "stand by" and get there earlier.
Now, let me say right off the bat, there are some very fine airlines out there. Even in these days of trying to make up lost revenue by charging an extra fee for everything (one airline is considering a fee to use the rest room on the flight, although as I understand it, cleaning moistened seats is still an included part of the service. It's really up to you!), some airlines are better than others, and we're flying on one of the others. This particular airline, which rhymes with "U. S. Stairways", seems to have decided that it makes good business sense for them to charge a $50 per person "standby" fee to allow you to change flights. Now, understand, the earlier flight was half empty. We had no checked luggage. And the flight we were on was oversold. If they had merely allowed us to fly on the earlier flight, they would not have had to bump someone to another flight, and pay that person $200 for the privilege, but for want of my paying THEM $100 for the opportunity, they lost money. This is not the Einstein of airlines.
So Liam and I made our way across the terminal (Don't be silly, of course they were at opposite ends of the terminal) to the proper gate for our flight, at which point I committed the first sin of anyone traveling with a small child: I forgot to check every 3.2 seconds to see that the one little bag Liam was carrying (as I hauled the remaining approximately 700lbs of carry on bags behind me) was still, technically, somewhere on his person. It wasn't. Somehow, somewhere, Liam had set down his little cloth lunch box with the blue star on the side of it, carrying his three small toy cars and a snack for the plane, and was now upset with ME because we didn't have it.
Now, in hindsight, I realize my son was just trying to help us get into the "Christmas Spirit" by reenacting the journeys of the "three wise men" in search of one particularly important thing indicated by a star, but at the time I was rather miffed. Nonetheless, in about the same time it took Balthasar, Melchoir and Casper, the Friendly King to reach Bethlehem, Liam and I retraced our steps back and found, in a Christmas Miracle, the bag, just moments before the TSA swooped in and blew it up, in much the same way that the TSA in Bethlehem would have swooped in and blown up Mary's new baby, had he been left unattended in Concourse D of a major American airport.
The rest of our trip was uneventful, except for the various maladies each of us is currently suffering, but I shall not spend too much time on those, as there are at least two other recent essays on those topics, and I'm sure you're getting (ahem) sick of that as a topic.
This is getting longer than I had planned, so I will continue next week with Andrew & Katie's travel travails. This will also give me some time to allow them to come to a full conclusion before I have to write the end of the story. Not that I'm above making something up, I'm just too lazy to do it if I don't have to.
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I just want to throw in one last thing here. Sometimes I have a joke that I'm afraid just won't go over very well, because it relies on a word or phrase that is no longer in common or popular use. Still, there is a particular pun which makes me laugh, even though I'm afraid that about 90% of my readers, being people of fine taste and an admirable lack of pedantry, won't get it. So I'll just include it here. An earlier version of this essay included the phrase "In about the same time it took Balthasar, Melchoir and Caspar to reach Bethlehem, I had an epiphany." If you don't get it and really want to, Google the Christian meaning of the word "Epiphany", but I warn you, it's really not worth the effort!
Copyright © Dec 25, 2010 by Liam Johnson. http://humor.liamjohnson.net