Saturday, September 01, 2012

Travel is My Gift

Happy Fortieth Birthday to me today. Which actually sounds young compared to this rephrasal (perhaps not a word): "I am entering my fifth decade of life".

Forty or no, I spent this birthday in the exact same way as last year.

Last year: on August 13th, 2011, the kids and I went to Midway, intending to fly to Portland with a short layover in Denver. We were flying PioSpiritJetExpress, or something like that; not a major airline. Well, almost the moment my husband dropped us off and drove away from the airport, a huge thunderstorm blew over. The plane scheduled to take us to Denver was approaching, but had to turn tail and run back to Indy. By the time any plane was able to come pick us up, there was not enough time in the day for us to make our connection in Denver, so we were stuck there over night.
I may have said this last year (I'm too lazy to go back and check to see if I already posted this story) but it bears repeating today: having friends here, there and anywhere can be to one's advantage. My local Denver connection, G and her family, graciously hosted us for the night. Bonus: we got to catch up with them in person, which was a sweet surprise. The next day was my birthday. We flew without incident to Portland, and I was on time to my own birthday party.
I had no intention of making this an annual birthday tradition. I shouldn't be surprised, though: I love to travel, but find it hard to justify when I'm in the kid-raising trenches and I'm not being paid cash money to do it (if anyone knows of such an opportunity, please connect me. I'm mostly not kidding). My birthday is the one time of year when indulging traveling impulses feels justifiable, and I do want to see my parents, my sister/sister's family and Oregon herself at least once a year.

So, this year's birthday being the big FOUR OH, I was invited to please visit Oregon sans offspring. By the time I secured clearance for the endeavor, round trips from ORD to PDX were in the neighbourhood (now that I'm 40, I can use British spellings if I want) of $500. Not an appropriate price for in-the-first-year-of-starting-our-own-business us. A kind friend employed by United secured me stand-by pass, and I was off.
Going out to Portland was a cinch. There were two possible flights. The first was full, but thanks to rain delays in another part of the country, I got on the second easily. My mom did have to drive the hour from Salem to Portland at one a.m., but she didn't seem to mind. (thanks, Mom!)
Fast forward a few days, during which I spent a bit of long overdue time with my Grandma, Uncle and Aunt in Salem. I also played tourist in Portland, which is a story for another day.
Went back to the Portland airport quite early in the morning on Monday, so I'd have four chances through the day to get on a flight to Chicago.
Well, the first flight went without me and I didn't mind a bit, I was squeezing in a few extra hours with R who had kindly flown in from California for the occasion.
The second flight went without me and I was starting to understand that as a non-blood-related-to-an-employee-type-person, my status was right at the bottom of the totem pole. This realization caused me to freak out just a little, since I planned a tight schedule for us which involved me flying in Monday so I could pack us up to drive to our family vacation on Tuesday.
My prospects weren't great in Portland so my (kind and generous) friend at The Airline advised me to fly up to Seattle and try my luck there.
It's no one's fault but my own that when I arrived in Seattle, I wanted to eat something better than fast food. And that in searching for it, I accidentally went out to the curb. That's right, I got to go through security again.
No problem, I had five hours to kill before the three flights I was aiming at took off.
At 10:30 or so, people were starting to board. So I went to the gate, hoping I'd finally get some good news. Let's remember, I've now spent a 16 hour day in one or airport or another. Well, everyone and all their relatives and friend were all trying to get east at the same time. Not just one, or two, but all three of the flights were completely oversold. Oh, and I did I mention, the kind lady at the gate helpfully informed me that it was pretty much the same situation for the following morning.
This is where I pause and give thanks: first to God, then to my parents, my sister and brother in law, my grandma, my aunt and uncle, and R. You gave me this iPad for my birthday, and because I had it with me I was able to figure things out!
What I figured out was, flying to O'Hare with a ticket would set me back $1000.. Not an option, no matter how much I wanted to get home. That is how, at long last, I gave up on The Airline altogether and flew home on my own frequent flyer miles.
This time, my kind college friend drove more than a half hour each way to pick me up from SeaTac, let me take a much needed three hour nap at her house, then transported me back t the airport at 4 am. T, you're a hero!
Remember, it's now the day of my 40th birthday. My husband and my kids picked me up from the airport and we immediately started driving to our vacation in Missouri.
Aren't I blessed? Every year, from now until I should move on to a Better Place, I know what I'll be doing. Stay on your toes, if you live anywhere besides Chicago, then you may get a midnight call from me!

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