Saturday, November 7, 2009

Travels With My Family

Oh, the joys of travel. I can remember a time where people put on their Sunday finest if they were traveling by airliner. Not a plane, an airliner, a word that conjures up an image of the dignity of traveling on a cruise ship of a hundred years ago. The important word here was dignity. ‘Was’ as in past tense. Today, traveling by plane is more like being sentenced to the county jail for the weekend.  Complete with the strip search.

Is it even possible to enjoy traveling by air anymore? The cost, the delays, the brain dead security, and the overcrowding are bad enough, but the true terrors of traveling are your own family.

My own very real brush with hell was a Christmas flight to visit my wife’s family. Not only would we take the boys, What’s-His-Name and The-Other-One, but we were taking Aunt Dingbat. Once a bright, incredibly talented woman whom I was proud to have as a friend, she had been turned into Aunt Dingbat by dementia. While this sounds unnecessarily cruel, it is important to realize that the previous tenant has moved out of the familiar body and the present squatter has no resemblance to the previous treasured member of the family.

Okay, I am a little cruel, but personally, if I don’t do it this way, all the great memories I have of a wonderful person will be replaced by memories of a clown.

So, there we were, traveling with small children and Aunt Dingbat. The children are bad enough; since even a trip to the grocery store and back requires that you tote enough luggage, baby bottles, and diaper bags that you resemble an African safari attempting to locate King Solomon’s Mine. If I had it all to do over again, I would buy stock in the parent company of Pampers before we had the children.

We checked Aunt Dingbat out of Our Lady of Perpetual Motion’s Home for the Habitually Stupid and made our way to the airport with just enough time left to catch the last seats on a late flight to Dallas Love Field. I’m not going to tell you about dragging this group through airport security, since we all know it is too ineffective to catch a drunken moose. I was once held up by security for over an hour for the sin of carrying a fountain pen. The security guard had never even heard of one before.  Would someone please try to strangle a pilot with a bra?  If we have to undress at airport security, I want to see something come off more interesting than feet.

The flight was delayed by bad weather, the flight was bumpy, and every child onboard, including mine, was screaming. We arrived late, so late that the rental car company was obviously doing me a courtesy by waiting for me to show up and claim the car I had reserved. Since the flight was on the ground, I reasoned the worst was over, my luck was changing.

I had rented the largest land yacht available, a real pimpmobile. I told myself that I wanted a car big enough to handle two child seats, five people, and a mountain of luggage, but in reality I was trying to rent a little dignity. Maybe a luxury car would make up for the fact that I had just flown on a cattle car to the colicky baby convention.

As I drove back to the airport from the car rental office to pick up my family, I could see the lights in the terminal building turning off. It was midnight; Merry Christmas.

I parked in front of the deserted airport where my family was waiting, hit the button on the dash to open the trunk, set the heater on high to warm the car, and got out to begin loading the trunk. I ran around to the passenger side of the car and opened the front door for Aunt Dingbat, then started to tackle a mountain of luggage.

Aunt Dingbat was impressed with the car. She leaned over, resting one hand on door’s armrest and admired the leather interior. “Wow,” she said. “This is nice.”

Then she stood up, hitting the door lock button, stepped back, and firmly shut the door, locking us out of the car. The key was in the ignition, the engine was running, the airport was deserted, and we were screwed.

Want a silver lining? The trunk was open. I got to pick the window I broke with the tire tool.


  1. nice. she didnt know how to open the door?? or unlock it?

  2. She might have known, hard to tell with Aunt Dingbat. The woman could get lost in a phone booth. But since she was not, nor was anyone else, IN the car, it's a moot point.