Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Have you ever been to LAX? I can't imagine the entire airline industry's problems not being solved after stepping within three miles of that place. Granted, it was just days before Christmas, but my goodness--the entire world was there. We met up with the Wards, our fellow travel companions, at the hotel where we all caught a shuttle to the airport. All twelve of us were heavy-laden with baggage...each child carried a backpack and a 'can't do without' Snuggie along with a carry-on, plus Greg and I had one checked-in bag carrying all of Christmas as granted by Santa himself. Matt and Aimee had their share of luggage and arm-busting carry-ons..so it was every man for himself. Every man, woman, and child. We stood in the lobby of the hotel waiting for the shuttle that continued to circle to the airport and back through all included hotels without stopping because it was never-endingly packed full of people. "Five more minutes," the hotel bellboy would tell us...slowly the lobby went from just my little family of seven, to the Wards after finishing breakfast, to many more people...each getting anxious that the last and only ship to sail that day would never arrive. Five minutes--psh! Another five, and another...slowly people began to move their way outside into the freezing cold dawn(not really to some, but to us Californians? ew...40 degrees.) I am never one to be unfair, but I know people, especially those catching a plane, are not going to be the same way, so I ushered my clan outside to their balking. I didn't want to be obnoxious and say, "I want to make sure we get on that shuttle because we've been waiting longer than anyone here!" but...I'm not a child I suppose, so trap shut--body language loud and clear. At last, twenty more people and twenty more bags later the shuttle arrives, and in it is an older gentleman who has the world in his hands and every minute to spare. We lug everything on, piece by piece is taken by the driver and placed on carts lined up against the front of the bus walls. We push back, standing or sitting, but not going anywhere because the whole sardine concept was in full force and in case of impact, well, I feared for the glutton that hits us. At last, kids getting louder as they get more excited, each feeding each other's frenzy as they look about them in awe of their circumstances, and the driver putts his way to the airport, foot looming over the break versus stepping on the pedal. Thankfully we were the last hotel stop, so next was LAX...should be BLECK or GAG or something else than a word that resembles 'relax.' The driver called out for airlines and we chimed back as he made mental note of all his upcoming stops. The departure area was alive with all walks of life, and to sit and people watch would've made a great Christmas on its own, but the money to get to Hawaii was spent so...oh well, off we went. Delta, our airline, was third in line to stop, and it was like the bus threw up when we got off. Bags, backpacks, purses, blankets, and this was just my family, not including the many others who fell out behind us. I had the misguided idea that checking in my bag in advance would speed up the process, but as I looked down the long line of brilliant people with the same idea, I realized...after too long in that line...that it would've been easier to go inside and check in at the counter. For one, it would've been warmer! We lined the kids up inside the airport along the window so we could watch them, but we mostly watched our breath escape in clouds and inhaled for at least half an hour. And we thought getting to the airport 2 hours early was getting the worm, but we were among early birds that already ate my worm, chewed it, digested it, and pooped it out. As we stood in weariness staring at the single man checking in people that had one problem after another that would never have occurred on any other day, we see a limo pull up. Out steps the leathery, cowboy-hat wearing, skin tight clothing having, fakest of fake faces to the point of complete new identity, her two kids and her wannabe famous husband. He appeared to be somewhat of a celebrity by the way the airline was treating him--the limo wasn't just a ruse I suppose, but the whole charade was ridiculous as those of us anonymous travelers stood by daring to breath the same air. Hey--at least it was entertaining watching this woman's plastic cheeks and lips move about in rapid motion as she spewed fake kindness and charm. Shrug. We were behind the next person to be helped. I looked around myself, found and counted my kids, checked for their bags on their backs, and realized--our suitcase to check-in was missing. The realization warmed me instantly as heat shot up to my head and through my ears. "Greg! The suitcase is on the shuttle!" I don't know what was worse, not making the plane or having spent all that time essentially for nothing because I had nothing to check in. Matt and Aimee looked around with relief as they spotted their two to check, but Greg dashed off looking for anyone with a name tag and I was in panic mode, which means I'm incapacitated. Matt got on the phone with the hotel and gets info about the shuttle while I'm scanning the street for shuttles with extra luggage on them just to have something to give my kids for Christmas. Inspired by the luggage gods themselves, Aimee remembers the shuttle driver had to loop back around because he skipped one airline...so he'll be back around any time! I feel like I'm auditioning for the next Christmas movie by Disney as my head jerks around, hair whipping, glasses slipping...looking looking...what color was it? What print was on the side? It was blue! the blue shuttles that drove by were like in families that flocked together. The lady in front of us was summoned to the counter which means my chosen time was coming and I was going to be ill-prepared! Greg was racing around downstairs finding a phone to call the shuttle whose name he absolutely did not know so he was really moving for the sake of moving because what else was he to do? Through the traffic, the masses of cabs, cars, buses, and shuttles, I see the blue van with the elderly gentleman...chin up and falling into his seat heavily like he was floating on a cloud and not performing airline miracles. I run to him, which was behind us and back about a hundred or so feet, dodging people and cars, throwing myself into harm's way for the sake of a stocking stuffer. I get in front of the shuttle and wave like groupie and the driver looks at me in bewilderment but stops and opens his door. He doesn't even have to hear what I say as he turns to look at the single bag sitting on the cart like a lost child. He grabs it and lunges it at me gently, and I thank him profusely, thinking how grateful I was for tipping the guy the first time around. I grab it with superhuman strength and hustle it back to the line in time to check in. Crisis averted! We whip through check in with the Wards and haul to security like every other maniac of delay...the lady at the line shook her head and pointed to the back of the line that lined up outside the airport and down the street, practically back to the hotel. I should've had someone waiting in that line while I checked in, but hindsight is so obnoxious. It was like a Christmas miracle. We raced, all twelve of us with each an extra fifteen pounds or so, to the gate only to get right into line to board the plane. People probably saw us and thought...hmph, they didn't even have to wait...but waiting is all we've done. And now, all I I wanted to do was sit in a seat, with a football player-sized man in front of me reclining into my lap and crushing my ice water cup on the tray and dream of tropical sunrises and poi. Taro root--take me away.