I made it to Maryland. Whoopee!!! It's my first trip alone in seven or so years, and man was I in need of a little alone time. Ostensibly, the reason for my trip was my 15th high school reunion in Baltimore this weekend. But none of my friends are going, so I'm not actually attending the reunion. (I figured it wasn't worth the $50 ticket to watch people I didn't care about 15 years ago get drunk at the open bar.) It seemed, though, that an excuse like this would only come along once every, oh, five years. Hence, I made my travel plans. I'm going to see a couple of my high school friends while I'm here, I'm going to do some touristy things that the rest of my family wouldn't be interested in (can anyone say: Library of Congress? Oh yeah!) and I'm going to do some serious walks down memory lane. I can't wait.
But to get to all that fun stuff, I first have to endure the hazing that we call air travel.
It could have been worse. I kept thinking that this morning. At least when I was stuck in traffic, barely moving in measurable increments for 45 minutes, I was the only one whining in the car. When I watched the clock tick closer and closer to takeoff time, and I was still stuck in traffic, at least I was the only one panicking. When I drove past the entrance to the parking garage not once but TWICE, causing me to circle the airport not once but TWICE, I was the only one there to call myself an idiot. When I was standing in my socks getting patted down because the full-body scan showed something in my right front pocket, at least I didn’t have four kids to redress and all their belongings to gather. I was stressed about getting to the airport with only 30 minutes to get through security and onto the plane, but at least I was the only one I had to calm down. When I got in line with the other cattle being herded to our fate, at least I didn’t have a car seat, a toddler, a diaper bag, and a backpack full of dvd players and other distractions in my arms. It’s been much worse before.
Now, I’m not saying that without kids, flying is a picnic. I think the whole airport experience is designed to encourage people NOT to fly. Honestly, where else other than an airport do you disrobe to such an extent in front hundreds of strangers? (Maybe I should clarify that – where else would I disrobe in front of strangers? The correct answer is: nowhere. I’m not that kind of person.) However, this being the first time I’ve flown alone in the 12 years since I had children, I have to say it is substantially easier. If flying wasn’t the only way to get most places conveniently, and if I wasn’t the kind of person who liked going places, I wouldn’t take kids on an airplane until they were old enough to manage their own shoes/jacket/dvd player/etc. Sitting by yourself, or maybe with your favorite responsible adult by your side, that’s the way to fly.
Despite the stress level of the morning, which had my hand shaking so badly that my entire left arm was vibrating, I can’t help but be excited. Sure, we had close to a two hour delay. But like I said, it could have been so much worse. Two hours on a grounded plane meant two hours of reading a book. The only frustrating part was that we were supposed to be going somewhere, but once we actually started moving, eh, it was no biggie. The woman next to me was upgraded, so I traded my middle seat to an aisle with a spot in the middle for the window guy and I to put all of our junk on. Plus, since now I was on the plane for much longer, I bought myself lunch from the cart. Sure, it cost $11 for a sandwich and some pringles, but I wouldn’t imagine buying it if it meant $11 x 6 people. For all the people who complain about the miserable, cramped conditions, the lack of free food, the delays, I say this: fly with lots of kids – your own kids, that you are responsible for keeping happy and quiet and fed and entertained – and then fly by yourself. This flight is practically luxurious. And I’m in coach!
Since I’m alone (have I mentioned yet that I’m alone?) I’m noticing for the first time the job of the flight attendants. You know what they are? They’re mothers! Even the men! And all of us on the plane are the children. We’re the ones complaining about how long the delay is (Mom! Can we go now?) or how long the flight is (Mom! Are we there yet?) or how cramped we are (Mom! He's touching my armrest! No, it's MY armrest!) People need help with their bags and their jackets and their dvd players. They spend the entire flight either feeding us or cleaning up after us. All I can do is try to be the best behaved child on the plane, because I know how much work kids are on planes and I just want to give these people a break.
My grandparents picked me up at the airport, and it was great to see them. They are in their 80's but they don't act it at all. They put up their Christmas tree and their house lights specifically so they would be on when I got here. They're supposed to be planning a trip to England to see my parents next summer, but they aren't thinking about it until after my visit. Aren't grandparents great? At least grandparents like this are, the ones who think you are the bee's knees and can't imagine you doing anything wrong and love you enough to keep the clay rat you made them in first grade. We went to the Double T Diner for dinner and now we're sitting in their sunroom, reading books quietly (or in my case, clattering away on the laptop). It is delightfully peaceful. I'm about to start making a game plan for tomorrow, which may or may not be hampered by the snow that is forecast. Tomorrow's plan is to take the Metro into DC and spend the day there.It's so quiet, I think I can hear the blood whooshing around in my brain. I forgot life could be this quiet. I may never come home.