Because my flights to Kansas had gone so well, I approached the Kansas City airport with confidence. Our flight departed at 6:10 and it was about 4:30 at that point, so I didn’t think we had anything to worry about. I’ve never been more wrong about anything in my life. I mean, trying the Sriracha flavored Lays was bad, but nothing compared to this.
It was awful from the beginning. Kansas City didn’t have a dedicated TSA pre-check lane, so we had to unstrap the car seat, unpack the laptop and tablet, I even had to take Rosie off and run the sling through the x-ray. A man and woman in line behind me were being so helpful, but when he tried to take Woody from Mitchell, Mitchell decided he didn’t want to fly again. It was awful. So, we get to the other side, and I find out I have to go to the side to be swabbed down because I’d been carrying Rosie. The same lady was trying to repack our carry-on, but I’d had everything in there JUST SO and it was hell getting it back in. Eventually we got everything settled again and were on our way to the gate. I’d like to point out that the fellow passengers were oh-so-helpful, while the screening agents were oh-so-less-than-helpful. I know they were just trying to get us through, but Dayton workers were SO HELPFUL. I have no doubt that, even without other passengers, none of the workers would have helped me.
So, on the way to the gate, I stopped at Starbucks to grab Mitchell something to eat. It was only 4:30, but we weren’t due in Chicago until almost 8, which is a pretty late dinner. While we waited in line, I overheard the worker saying something along the lines of, “I don’t care what he says, we’re closing. I’m done with this.” Which is always a good sign. We got to the front of the line, and I asked for a wrap, and she informed me that the ovens were off, so no wraps. As soon as she said that, Mitchell started crying. I was shocked that he’d made this connection, and she immediately offered to turn the ovens back on. Upon closer examination, though, it turned out he had his finger stuck between the counter and the wall. Hard. And, being Mitchell, the more attention strangers showed him, the worse it was. I had to argue with the lady to just give me a muffin instead of cooking a wrap just so we could get out of there. We got to our gate, and the security guard at the exit decided to tease Mitchell for crying. “Oh, those aren’t even real tears! You aren’t even crying! That’s the fakest cry I’ve ever heard! You don’t even have a reason to be crying!” All of which made Mitchell cry that much harder. Because that’s what kids do. I was pissed. I finally told her that he DID have a reason to be crying, he’d pinched his finger and it was blue, and she JUST KEPT GOING. Then Mitchell dropped the damn muffin anyway, and got worked up even more. So we moved. I’d been trying to stay in line for the gate because they’d overbooked the flight and I really didn’t want to get bumped, but I had to get Mitchell away from that awful woman.
Finally got Mitchell calmed down, confirmed that we had a seat on the plane and wouldn’t get bumped, and then Rosie started screaming. I’m pretty sure every single person waiting for that flight were crossing their fingers, toes, and praying to whoever they prayed to that they didn’t get stuck anywhere near us on the plane. Rosie was hungry and tired, but I really wanted to wait until we were on the plane to feed her.
Our flight ended up delayed a bit, so by the time I got on the plane, I whipped it out to feed her. Luckily they didn’t say anything about using the sling as a cover, but when the poor early-20s kid came and saw me in his seat (another pointer – book seats one away from each other because nobody books a single seat – fail), I asked if I could have his seat and he didn’t hesitate to say yes.
Mitchell was a bit more active this time around. He was tired, hungry, and ready to be home. But he was settled down before the plan even left the ground. Rosie was awake, because Rosie apparently doesn’t sleep on planes.
Funny story interlude: the guy sitting in front of Mitchell was drunk. Well, at least tipsy. He was also nervous as hell. So, Mitchell did his thing. He asked lots of questions about the airplane having gas. Then, as we neared Chicago, he started pointing out the window and saying “Water!” I said no, it’s just clouds. He got more and more insistent, and finally I saw that he was right, we were flying over water. So I confirmed that yes, that was water. So he started yelling, “Airplane go down! IN WATER! Water! Airplane go down in water!” The more I corrected him and said we were NOT actually going to LAND in the water, we were just descending to get closer to the airport, the more emphatically he said we were going down in the water. The poor guy in front of him almost cried, I swear. The child has a knack.
Before we even left Kansas City, I got a text saying my next flight was delayed. It’d gone from departing at 9:08 to 10:40. I groaned, but thought at least we wouldn’t have to run to catch it and we could stop and eat something.
We got to Chicago and stopped to eat. Well, Mitchell paused to eat, then jumped around, which Rosie thought was hilarious. I have no idea how he had that much energy. We did our last round of diaper changes and headed to our gate.
While we were eating, I got another alert saying our flight had been delayed again and wouldn’t depart until 11:25, which put us into Dayton at about 1:40 a.m. My blood pressure rose a bit. Between then and midnight, though, I got seven text messages alerting me to further delays or gate changes. Rosie slept, thankfully, and I resorted to parenting via tablet once Mitchell decided that it was his job to pick every piece of trash off the floor and throw it away. We also wandered the airport a lot. Mitchell loved the moving walkways, so we walked them so often I lost count. All while I was carrying Rosie, a backpack, and wheeling the carry-on.
We were hanging in there. A little worse for wear, but hanging in there. Everything was closed by this point, so I begged the Starbucks for a cup of ice water for us. Then, at midnight, almost an hour after my flight was initially scheduled to land in Dayton, the flight was cancelled completely due to pilot fatigue. The entire gate hollered. The gate attendant announced that we could go to customer service to get a hotel room and be rebooked to a different flight.
So, by this point it’s midnight, and Mitchell hadn’t slept yet. He was done. He alerted everyone to this fact by throwing himself on the floor and screaming when I tried to move him away from the fish by the customer service line. I couldn’t blame him, as that’s what I wanted to do, too. But in the process of getting him up off the floor, I woke Rosie up, and she started screaming. So even though Mitchell finally stopped crying, I still had a screaming baby while waiting in line. God bless her, a woman next to me in line took it upon herself to shame the people in line in front of me into letting me cut them in line. All except a few single guys at the front of the line pushed me forward. Usually I would have said no, I’ll wait in line like everyone else, but I was beyond thinking I could handle this on my own. Mitchell was sitting in his car seat nodding off until I would try to shuffle forward, at which point he would jump up and take off. Finally, when I was next in line anyway, a United worker took me to another desk to rebook my flight. She commented on the giant car seat attached to the carry-on, the two kids, and my backpack and said I had my hands full. I agreed. She told me my best option was a 7:00 a.m. Delta flight to Detroit, then to Dayton. I said whatever. She told me to go feed Rosie while she got everything settled. So I did. Mitchell passed out on the bench, sitting up, while I was feeding Rosie. First time he’s ever done something like that. Sheer exhaustion will do that to you. So, after everything was settled, she handed me $21 in food vouchers (“We’re only supposed to give $7 per adult, but this is a special circumstance”) and couple slips of paper to give to the Delta gate attendants to get a seat on the flight. She told me that the flight was in another terminal, so I’d have to take a bus there in the morning at 5:30 when it opened. She told me I could walk there if I wanted to tonight (I was really worried about cutting it too close and missing my flight), but I’d have plenty of time in the morning.
I laid Mitchell down, and sat down myself. Then I looked at my child, and it broke my heart.
So I went up to the customer service desk. If I stood off to the side of it, I could still see the back of the seat Mitchell was laying on. I tried to get the customer service guy’s attention who was closest to me, but he ignored me and took the next customer in line. Finally I yelled loud enough that the lady down the way could hear me. She came over. I told her that our flight had been cancelled, and we were sleeping on the benches. I asked if there was anything they could do for us. She told me if we wanted somewhere private to sleep, we could head to the family restroom. I’m sorry, WHAT? Sleep on the bathroom floor? Seriously? I could’t believe she’d said that to me. I told her I’d only packed enough diapers for the trip, and I only had one left (Rosie took care of that shortly after). She shrugged. SHRUGGED. She said some of the family restrooms might have vending machines with diapers, and I was welcome to check them. I said Mitchell was sleeping, and I couldn’t carry him and Rosie at the same time while moving the carry-on. I asked her for any ideas. She looked at me and said, “I don’t know. Maybe pack enough diapers for the trip next time?” At that point I was so angry I didn’t trust myself to say anything more to her. I walked away. She apparently left to see if the closest family restroom had diapers, but it didn’t. Instead she gave me an overnight kit. Gee, thanks. Ever tried to pee or do anything else in a bathroom with a baby strapped to your chest and a toddler running around? Yeah, I didn’t even crack open that overnight kit until we made it home.
So I laid there next to Mitchell. They must’ve shut their wi-fi off for the night, because I couldn’t get anything. All the stores were closed. As I lay there, I got angrier and angrier. I couldn’t believe their reaction to this situation. So I went back up.
This time, I talked to the guy. I’d already tried my luck with the woman and was still too angry to face her. Once again, I explained my situation to him. I said that the gate attendant had told us we’d be given hotel rooms for the night. He pointed out that other people were sleeping on benches, people did it all the time. I said, “Yes, but we’re talking about a TODDLER here. My TODDLER fell asleep on a bench and I have to get him up in five hours to make our next flight. And there’s NOTHING you can do for me?” No. Nothing. The woman came over and threw three blankets at me. I told the guy, “I understand the delayed flight, but I don’t think you understand how badly you just screwed me over. I have no diapers! I packed enough for the trip! What do I do?” He just said, “These things happen.” He asked what anyone else had done for me, and I said the food vouchers and printing our itinerary. He said he could give me more food vouchers. I asked if I could spend them in Detroit, and he said no, just Chicago, and I asked how in the world I was going to spend more than $21 in the hour and a half that we’d be in the Chicago airport, since everything was going to be closed until at least 5:30, and we’d be spending time in Detroit. He said that’s all he could do. Again, I got myself worked up enough that I couldn’t talk to him anymore. So I went back and laid down.
I tried to sleep, but even though I had Rosie strapped tightly onto my chest, I had visions of her falling off or to the side and getting smothered. And even without thinking of that, I kept envisioning Mitchell waking up and wandering off in the middle of the Chicago airport. So I didn’t. I just laid there. Well, not entirely true. Rosie couldn’t sleep very well (gee, I wonder if it was the 60 degree building, the bright lights, the banging around from the workers?), so I walked around with her a lot. And Mitchell woke up scared a lot, so I sat with him. I hadn’t planned on opening the blankets on principle, but it was FREEZING. I opened one for myself, dug Mitchell’s blanket out of the carry-on (thank goodness I’d put it there instead of the checked bag), and gave one to a Chinese woman who spoke approximately three words of English so the customer service people must not have cared about her comfort but was obviously freezing as well. It was a long, boring night. In retrospect, it was kinda a short night.
At 5:30, I woke Mitchell up. This poor kid. I have no idea how he was holding it together.
Everyone we passed did an “Awwwww”.
We stopped at McDonald’s and spent $7 of our food vouchers. The rest went unspent. I almost spent them on principle, but wanted to get to the shuttle as soon as it opened. Quick stop at the bathroom, because I hadn’t used the restroom since the rest stop on the highway on the way to the airport the day before and Mitchell was semi-comatose so I figured I could possibly control him while I sat there. No diaper changes for the kids, because we hadn’t yet located any diapers.
So, we get to the shuttle pick-up spot. At that point I found out it didn’t open until 6. I also realized I couldn’t find my flight number on any of the boards, and I had no idea which gate I was going to in this other terminal, so I stopped a United person and asked for help. She said I wouldn’t see the flight number until I got over to the new terminal, and the shuttle was the only way to get there. The walk would require actually leaving the airport and going around. She pointed to a set of stairs that I’d have to take to get to the shuttle. My heart sank. It was 6 by this point, and I couldn’t manage stairs with Mitchell, Rosie, and, most importantly, the carry-on with the car seat strapped to it. I told her I couldn’t do stairs, and she shrugged and said that’s the only way to get to the shuttle, which was the only way we were going to make the flight at this point. I almost cried. My voice quaked. I said, “Seriously, I HAVE to get to this flight. I can’t stay in this airport any longer! Our flight last night was cancelled, we spent the night in the airport! They rebooked me onto this flight!” She said, “Well, the shuttle is the only way to get there in time, and the stairs are the only way to get to the shuttle” and walked away. Thankfully, a gentleman had heard the entire exchange and offered to carry the suitcase and car seat for me. He was huffing and puffing by the time we got to the bottom, so I know I couldn’t have managed it. Oh, did I mention the shuttle didn’t REALLY start until 6:15? And I wasn’t even in the right concourse when we got to the other terminal? So, to recap, they rebooked me onto a flight that departed at 7:02 a.m. and started boarding at 6:30, in another terminal, which could only be reached by a shuttle that started at 6, that could only be reached by a set of stairs that I couldn’t possibly manage due to the carry-on and car seat that the attendant who rebooked my flight commented on, so she knew my limitations.
Thankfully, we made it to the new flight with a few minutes to spare, to discover that it’d been delayed. Mitchell was less-than-stellar while we waited. He kept wanting to run to the windows and look out, and then run to the trash can, and basically do anything but stand next to me.
Once we got on the plane, he was good, which was AWESOME because we ended up sitting on the runway for an hour. The pilot said it was because of rain, and, while it was raining, fellow passengers were looking up other flights on their phones that were also headed east and they were all on time, so they swore there was no reason for us to be delayed. We also sat there for quite a long time after it stopped raining, supposedly waiting our turn for take-off.
It turns out every single person on that flight was only landing in Detroit for a connecting flight, because the closer we got to Detroit, the more everyone was getting ready to run. I asked the attendant for options, because we were going to land with only twenty minutes to make our connecting flight two concourses away and I HAD to make that flight. I tried to explain our situation, but she kept walking away. She said they didn’t have the electric carts or anything at Detroit, but she’d order me a wheelchair and assistance to run our stuff across the airport. I asked if they would hold the next flight, or if she could call ahead for me, but she said that wasn’t necessary. She said they’d be able to see that we were coming from this delayed flight so they’d hold it for me.
As soon as the plane stopped, everyone was up. I had another guy get my carry-on down for me, and I held my ground when people behind me asked to get in front of me. I told myself I just had to be selfish at that point, because I couldn’t stay in an airport a moment longer. As soon as the doors opened, I got Mitchell in front of me and told him to run. We stopped to grab his car seat and strap it on to the carry-on, then ran out the gate. I stopped at what I thought was our wheelchair, but the worker said no, it was in use. I said the attendant had said she’d order us one to meet us at the gate, and the worker started to argue with me about it, saying “I don’t know nothing about that, nobody told me anything,” and I just said “Whatever, I don’t have time for this shit,” and ran. Mitchell and I ran. A lot. We ran two concourses over, only pausing for escalators. That’s right, escalators. We didn’t take elevators. The suitcase may not be suitable for use anymore. But whatever. I ran with a 40+ pound backpack on my back (seriously, the thing just kept getting heavier), a 15 pound baby strapped to my chest, and pulling a carry-on with a car seat strapped to it. Mitchell just ran.
But it was in vain. We arrived at our gate TWO MINUTES late. TWO MINUTES. And the plane was gone. A fellow passenger was already there, and shook his head as I ran up. That was the point where it became all too much. I cried. “Nooooo! But we RAN the WHOLE WAY!” Seriously, I was wheezing by the time we got there. The lady just shook her head and said, “We aren’t allowed to hold a plane.” Which was bull, as just the night before I’d watched a United gate attendant hold a flight for four passengers on a delayed flight. “But the attendant promised! I ran a two-year-old across two concourses to get here! We were supposed to be home LAST NIGHT! My kids are out of diapers! We slept in an airport last night!” I was just done. The lady said our flight had already been rebooked and she’d look it up for me. She informed me that we were to fly to La Guardia now, and would be in Dayton by 10:00 p.m. That made me cry harder. So she went and got her supervisor and said, “If there’s a way to get her in Dayton earlier, and by direct flight, we really need to make it happen.” So, thankfully, the supervisor made it happen. We were stuck in Detroit for four hours, but we could fly to Dayton that afternoon. They then set about trying to find diapers.
They never did find diapers, but they pointed me toward a convenience store in the airport that sold them for only $8 per pack…of two. Seriously. But I was desperate. I assume that anyone buying those diapers is. The kids both got a diaper change, I got a giant cup of coffee, and then we invaded the lovely little play house that the Detroit airport provides. I don’t know how we would have made it for four hours without that play house. We bought lunch (thanks for those vouchers, United…oh wait), lots more coffee, and people remarked on how adorable Mitchell was playing basketball with an invisible basketball. Mitchell asked to cuddle several times, and I tried, but he wanted picked up so badly and I just couldn’t with Rosie. I tried, and managed for a few minutes, but the exhaustion was catching up with me and I couldn’t carry both of them very long.
Before we headed to our gate, I decided to risk going to the bathroom with these two one more time. I figured two bathroom breaks in 24 hours was probably about my limit. So, as I’m trying to get my pants pulled back up, I had to argue with Mitchell about whether or not Woody needed to pee. Mitchell: “Woody pee!” Me: “No, your Woody doesn’t need to pee.” Mitchell: “Woody need pee!” Me: “Don’t put your Woody there, he’s going to get wet!” I swear, when we exited that stall, nobody was trying to hide the fact that they were staring directly at us. I quickly pointed to his Woody doll, and they let out a very audible sigh of relief. Goodbye, Detroit, sorry about that!
We got to our gate well ahead of time and found out that it was delayed…due to missing flight crew. Seriously. The exact same reason for our first delay. It was almost funny. It was also almost funny when they announced that they’d found a pilot, and the pilot had found a minor mechanical issue. Shortly thereafter, we got to board an ancient aircraft with no air conditioning.
We all got situated, and then…nothing. We sat there. I joked to my neighbor, whom I’d told of my ordeal, that it was my bad luck following us. We sat there so long, Mitchell fell asleep. Adorably, of course.
And then, I really can’t make this up, the pilot came out to inform us that there was an issue. The Dayton airport was closing for an hour because the Thunderbirds, a performing flight group, was landing there in preparation for the air show this weekend. Since our flight was delayed by half an hour, we’d missed our window and would have to wait another half hour. I might have asked if we could turn the air conditioning on, and he informed me that there was no air conditioning until the plane was in the air. He said, “I’m in the same metal tube you are, and I’m wearing a tie.” I replied, “I’m wearing a baby. I win.” But it was under my breath, so only the people around me laughed. They passed out some room temperature water and we all settled down to sweat. Seriously, by the time we got off the plane my pants were wet. Poor Rosie was dripping sweat. The pilot was very funny and nice, though. I like him even more because he called a buddy of his who was in charge of “everything down there” and found out that the Thunderbirds ran into some bad weather and got stuck in Kansas City, so there was a chance we could make it there before they did. And so he turned the seat belt light on as he taxied out, and we were off. The Thunderbirds flew over us to land, it was that close. We ended up being a half hour late, but I was thrilled. We were on the ground! Only sixteen hours after we were supposed to be! I said something to my neighbor about my bag getting heavier and heavier (I could barely lift it from the ground), so he picked it up to put it on my back. As soon as he did, he went “Holy cow, yeah, that might be heavier than the allowed limit for checked bags!” Eh. Yeah.
We made the trek from the gate to the front doors, me telling Mitchell that he’d get to see Daddy soon (he hadn’t woken up very well…gee, I wonder why!). The whole walk, Mitchell kept saying, “Nope, not Daddy” to every guy he’d see. As soon as he saw Justin, he broke into a grin and sped up. I’m pretty sure the only reason he didn’t start running ahead is because the whole past day and a half he’d only heard “Stay next to me” or “Hold the suitcase” over and over. Justin picked him up and they shared the most adorable half-crying hug I’ve ever seen. I really wish I’d had my phone out to take a picture. I almost cried.
I wasn’t surprised to find that my checked bag hadn’t made the connection. I could barely keep track of my connections, I really didn’t expect them to either. Delta had no record of the bag being put into their possession, and apparently United didn’t have record of it either. But I was so exhausted I didn’t even care. Sure, every pair of jeans but the ones I was wearing were in there, and most of my shirts, too, but I couldn’t think of anything but a shower, which doesn’t require clothes.
As soon as we got home, I ran for the shower. I was so grimy and disgusting I didn’t even want to sit on the couch. While playing with Rosie on the floor, I dozed off. While sitting on the couch, I dozed off. We all ended up going to sleep at about 8. Mitchell slept for 12 hours, I slept for 14 hours, and Rosie slept for 15 hours. And we’re still exhausted. I’m so physically sore I can’t describe it. My legs hurt, my back hurts, my shoulders hurt. It turns out that, even when I wasn’t wearing the 40+ pound backpack, I was still carrying a 15 pound baby. 90% of the time the sling was supporting her weight, but even that takes a toll after a while, and after all was said and done, I carried her for 24 hours straight (other than a few diaper changes). I was awake for over 36 hours straight. I stood for the majority of the time, even overnight, so I could sway and keep Rosie content and chase Mitchell. I was constantly on edge, because who wouldn’t be with a toddler and a baby in an airport? I was terrified that he’d run off and I’d lose him. That was why I didn’t want to fly in the first place, and then I had to endure 24 hours of watching him like a hawk. We lived on airport food for three meals, and it just isn’t the healthiest (or the cheapest…again, thanks for the voucher, United). Justin and I were talking about the air show this weekend and I almost had a panic attack. I have no idea when, or if, I’ll fly again. Almost all the workers I talked to about this ordeal made it sound like it was par for the course. I just wanted to say, yes, for adults, it’s a pain in the butt, but I had two children. I had a toddler and a five-month-old. On my own. You can look at that picture of Mitchell sleeping on the airport bench and feel good about what you said to me, United? How about the picture of him the next morning, after only five hours of sleep?
Whatever. It’s over now. We’re home. Thank goodness! And Justin has done everything in his power to make us comfortable and happy. Oh, and my bag finally made it to us!