December 23, 2008 9:27 AM- letter to the man

oh santa,

It's two days before Christmas-- did you realize that? Yeah, me neither.

Damn-- ever feel just so behind? Like no matter what you do whatever you are doing should've been done weeks ago?

Alright, enough of that-- let's focus on the positive. It's bitter cold, but the sun is out. I am home safe and warm with my three dogs. There's a bowl of oatmeal in front of me, and a roaring fire behind me. Life is good.

Of course it did not feel this way last Wednesday night as I stood fighting to get my luggage removed from the bowels of a great, big bus. . . wait, you're a busy man. Do you even want to hear this story? I warn you, it is quite mundane in its trajectory. There are no circus clowns wheeling through the terminals, no stand-up comedians holding court at the baggage kiosks. Ah, no.

Okay then-- but before I launch into a modern spin on Dante's tale of old, I must give a shout out to Swirly and Team Santa Monica! If being treated like a queen is your gig, I highly recommend a stay at Casa La Swirl. I can honestly say that I have not laughed as hard as I laughed in her company since I was eleven years old staying up past midnight with my best friend Stacey to watch reruns of The Carole Burnett show while we ate her mom's homemade pickles out of the jar. That is the measure against which all convulsive laughter will be graded and I had honestly given up hope of ever laughing like that without the assistance of some good drugs-- until the Swirl, that is.

The Swirl, she is funny. Dangerously funny. My abdomen twinges in pain just thinking about it.

Whoops, Santa man, I just glanced at the clock. I know you've got a busy day ahead of you and I for one have a to-do list that runs over several pink post-its. So, let me just try and hammer this out in the next 15 minutes.

The scene: the bulkhead row of a Southwest flight. I sit with my legs stretched out (in the very best seat on the plane wondering how that ever happened since my boarding number was not great) thinking, damn, how lucky am I?! When the pilot's voice comes over the speakers and announces that it is snowing in Las Vegas and that we are being re-routed to Ontario.

Ontario, I think. Gosh, we traveled fast. We've only been in the air, what-- 45 minutes? I must really suck at geography, but hey! How lucky am I?!! I bet they will go directly from Ontario to Manchester, NH (my final destination) and I'll get home even earlier than I expected.

I smile broadly.

(Yes, people, this is truly how my mind works. Sad. Sad. Sad.)

A moment or two later, the voice of a flight attendant comes over the speaker. Her voice shakes with a tremor of barely controlled laughter as she struggles to maintain the poise and composure commensurate with her position.

"For those of you who might be confused, of course we mean Ontario California."

My smile is now, perhaps, slightly less broad.

The next six hours are spent at the Ontario (California, mind you-- not Canada!) airport where no one seems to be in charge (though some have walkie talkies) and directions on what we should be doing and information about what our options are overlap and crisscross until I feel like I am wrapped in a skein of yarn that was on the losing end of a long, drawn-out battle with a ferocious young kitten.

At about the 3 hour mark, we are given the choice to either board a bus back to LAX or stay in Ontario for the night, as no more flights will be leaving until the next day. I opt to stay in Ontario as they will be providing us with a hotel room and the idea of getting on a bus back to LAX fills me with dread. I mean, come on-- I've got an imagination. If all flights have been delayed and driving conditions in CA are backing up traffic, even Mr. Magoo could envision the hell that awaited behind Door #2.

Those who choose to head back to LAX (the vast majority) grab blue tickets and head down to get their luggage from baggage claim. We are told to stay at the ticket counter until we'd gotten our flights lined up and only then to head down to get our bags from the carousel.

See that? See how I provide a bit of foreshadowing in my tale here?

Three hours later, I am booked on the next available flight, which has me leaving CA on Friday afternoon. Hoo-yah.

I head down to collect my bags before finding wherever it is I am supposed to go to wait for the hotel shuttle. As you've surely guessed, when I arrive at the baggage claim, my luggage is not there.

"Why didn't you come down sooner?" asks the unfriendly helper person.

"Why don't you all talk to each other before you sniff glue?" was my kind and courteous response.

"They just took your bags. Go outside and find the bus. They're taking them to LAX."

So off I scamper, gaily ( I must add) into the pouring rain to find the bus in the dark.

To try and describe the look on the guys' faces when I raced up to them (shouting DON'T TAKE MY BAGS) just as they were pulling down the aluminum doors to close the bays is beyond my ability.

Did I mention it was dark and pouring rain and we were not under any kind of awning?

When they asked me what my bags looked like and I responded, "a big red one and a small black one" I thought one guy might just grab me and bury me in the mound of luggage. Chances are he'd get away with that sooner than they would find a small, black bag in that jungle of luggage.

Twenty minutes passed as four of them searched. Meantime other travelers also staying the night in Ontario had joined me and were also waiting for their bags to be unearthed. I stood there, soaked to the skin (I was in jeans and a cashmere wrap) and began to cry. At that point, I wasn't even sure my bags were even in there. The feeling of helplessness just sucks.

The good news? That was my breaking point. From there on out, I was calm and patient and just rode out the next 32 hours until I was home, rolling on the kitchen floor with my three dogs while a sleepy husband looked down on us before glancing back up at the clock that read 2 am and announcing he was headed back to bed.

Oh dear, our time is up, isn't it Santa?

I wish I could say there was something to be gained in that experience. I always try to find something worthwhile about adversity, but you know what? There is nothing to be gained. It sucked. End of story.

Now, I must bundle up and take the boys outside. They will body surf in the 2+ feet of powder we've got here while I take a broom to our solar panels.

But, I'm back-- more stories and photos to come.

Peace out.

got 2 cents?

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Heather says:
I LURVE that photo of Daisy with the snow on her nose. And I'm so glad you liked the gift!
posted on: December 23

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Bridgemor says:
What an experience. Makes you never want to fly during the winter. Then to come home and face the challenges that mother nature offers up this time of year, you know that **** word. I hope you, T, and the pups have a wonderful and very safe holiday.
posted on: December 23

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Jazz says:
Used to be I loved everything about travelling, even the actual travel time. Now I dread it because it seems like every time the experience just gets worse. Something ALWAYS goes wrong. Customer service? "Waste of time, they have no choice unless they want to drive."
posted on: December 23

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Sheryl says:
Glad you're home, and that you have internet access, yay!
posted on: December 23

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amy says:
what's henry wearing on his collar... a new iphone? some high tech tracking device? some solar panel to keep his paws toasty? in any case, makes my day to see the pups so happy to have you home!
posted on: December 23

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beth says:
and people wonder why I crinkle up my noise and make vomiting sounds in the back of my throat when they mention flying...
posted on: December 23

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alex s says:
Oh Blluest One: I am so glad that have made it safely out of the 7th ring and are safe in the furry paws of your boys. I;m thinking of you this winter's day, hoping that Santa hears you and that you have a sweet and wonderful Christmas and an impossibly perfect New Year. xo
posted on: December 23

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jin says:
Oh you poor thing, having to go through all that. Only you could describe it so grippingly and amusingly and hilariously and poignantly all at once. Welcome home.
posted on: December 23

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Brenda Kula says:
You poor girl! Oh, but finally a happy ending with your guys! Happy Holidays to you and yours. Brenda
posted on: December 23

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La Phoencienne says:
that must be a gps device on henry's collar...to keep track of him when he goes off-off-off (imaginary) leash.
posted on: December 23

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Justin says:
wow...now that is a travelling zen story if i have ever heard one...glad you made it back safe and man oh man..2 feet??? you gotta do some skiing!!! merry christmas...
posted on: December 23

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violetismycolor says:
Oh, the horrible plane travel season. Our Adam decided to drive since they were cancelling planes willy-nilly at almost every airport in the country, including Portland. Glad you're home and safe.
posted on: December 23

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lizardek says:
The traveling part is never the fun part, usually. It's the getting there and the getting home that matter. XO
posted on: December 24

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Swirly says:
Painful. That story is just painful. But I love seeing your dogs romp around in the snow. Happy Christmas girlie.
posted on: December 24

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tinker says:
Oh wow - what a winter's tale, BP - and to think you were stranded only an hour or 2 (or 12 or 24 considering the weather and our wonderful freeways) - away from us. Some people spent the night in their cars on the frozen freeway not too far from where you were stranded (my SIL luckily never made it down to work to begin with, or he'd have been one of them) - though that's small comfort, I'm sure, considering all you went through. The joys (and pits) of travel! Sounds like you found both the best and some of the worst of our wacky state on your vacation. We have no idea what to do with weather when it arrives here... Now that you're home safe and sound, hope you, T and your lovely golden tribe have a merry, happy and warm holiday season - merry Christmas to you all!
posted on: December 24

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Claire says:
oh, but you still had time to blow dry Daisy's hair/fur like that though...merry christmas!! x
posted on: December 24

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Suzanne says:
Been there; done that. Quite exascerbating! I lived in Anchorage, AK for 14 years and traveling down twice a year (usually in the winter) always seemed to come into some ordeal on the airlines. We were in Maui one time (flew in from Anchorage) and while we were there, a volcano had gone off and no one was flying to Anchorage and we were on a set budget. That was fun. We had to fly to Seattle so that we could catch a flight on Alaska Airlines who was going into anchorage.
posted on: February 17

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