Travel & Tribulations

Ahhh, the joys of traveling.

One takes for granted that flights will arrive and depart on time. And, looking back on the number of times we have flown, they generally have.

But when they don’t? It’s a total pain in the you-know-what.

And that is what we experienced in our attempt to make it to Sweden and our long-awaited reunion with my better half (sadly, Zoya had to be left in Istanbul as there was no direct flight large enough to accommodate our Beast from the East…however, she is, I am sure, happily cavorting with other dogs and enjoying the classical music her vacation kennel plays during the night…definitely better service than the Home Hotel provides).

So, here is the rundown of our trip from Chicago to Sweden:

10:30 AM Chicago – Hotel Room: Load 5 50+-pound suitcases, 2 30-pound carry-ons (good thing carry-ons are rarely weighed as they are a great way to offload excess luggage weight and, thus, avoid baggage fees), and 2 tennis rackets onto luggage cart (from here on out to be referred to as “The Mother Load”).

10:45 AM Chicago – Front of Hotel: Transfer The Mother Load from luggage cart into rental car.

11:30 AM Chicago – Arrive in Deerfield where we pick up my oldest son and add one more 50-pound suitcase and one more 30-pound backpack to the Mother Load. The Mother Load is now The Queen Mother Load, or to be referred to as TQML from here on out.

12:30 PM Chicago – Drop kids and luggage off at international terminal (fortunately, the kids are old enough to do this, allowing us to avoid dragging TQML from car to shuttle and from shuttle to terminal, a process that we have done many times in the past…like childbirth, one needs some time to let the memory of the pain diminish before repeating, and the last luggage logistical licking – despite being a year ago – is still way too fresh in our minds to contemplate).

1:00PM Chicago – Meet kids at airport terminal after having smoothly completed the rental car drop-off step. The kids and I put TQML onto two luggage carts and head to the SAS check-in counter…

1:05PM Chicago – …where we encounter a long line…

1:10PM Chicago – …and figure out the reason why when we look up on the flight status monitor and see “CANCELLED” next to our flight.

Oh, lovely.

2:30PM Chicago – Although we know our flight is cancelled and have been commiserating with other stranded SAS passengers waiting in line, it takes over an hour to make it to the check-in rep to hear confirmation of the dreaded cancellation and to find out what our back-up plan is. Turns out we are being re-routed to an American flight that leaves not at 4:30PM like our original SAS flight but, rather, at 7:30PM. Plus, we now get to fly via London (and dreaded Heathrow) instead of going directly to Stockholm. Which means that we will arrive not at 7:30AM Swedish time but 2pm.

Double lovely. Can it get any worse?

2:35PM Chicago – Turns out, it can. The check-in rep informs us that our new flight leaves in a different terminal. Which one needs to take the train to get to. A train that does not accommodate luggage carts. Which means TQML needs to be dragged to train stop and then quickly transferred – all 400 pounds of her – onto train in the 60 seconds one is allotted to get on board before the doors slam closed, luggage or limbs be damned.


3:15PM Chicago – We navigate elevators (whose “Door Open” button, by the way, does not work, making us repeat our up-down journey…we are not regarded kindly by the people waiting in line for the elevator when they see us again, still in the elevator car with every piece of TQML) and make it to and onto the train, the train managing agent taking pity on us and allowing us one cart (which teeters with its 250-pound load…luckily nothing falls on anyone and lawsuits are avoided).

3:25PM Chicago – Limbs and luggage arrive intact to Terminal 3, and I have a moment of brilliance and purchase entrance into the Admirals Club for all 3 of us (except the kids were FREE!) thus giving the oldest son access to a shower (surprise, surprise, he overslept at his friend’s house and was still in bed when we arrived to pick him up so no shower for him), both sons access to free, anytime-you-want snacks, and mom access to a complimentary, well-stocked bar which she is certain to need over the next few hours…

6:40PM – Chicago: …which is indeed the case because when mom makes a final check on the flight to London, she sees that the flight is DELAYED.

Of course it is.

By 45 minutes.

So, it takes all of a nanosecond to figure out there is no way we will make our London-Stockholm connection.

Checking with the AA rep, I find that the next flight to Stockholm with SAS is full. The only SAS possibility is a 6pm London time departure that would put us into Stockholm at 9:30PM.

Of course, there are earlier non-SAS flights, but whether or not they’ll put us on one of those remains to be seen (I arm myself with the list of flights just in case I have to have that battle…I also check hotels near the airport with vacant rooms because if we get in at 9:30PM, there is no way it’s worth driving 1.5 hours to our house to have to return in the morning to the airport to meet my husband’s incoming flight from Istanbul).

Ahhh, the best laid plans…

8:45PM Chicago – We are finally taking off, our 45-minute delay extended another 30 minutes. There is actually an upside to this. Because I know there is no way that we can make our connection. Which relaxes me despite the inconvenience because this means that we will not have to stress and run like idiots to our connection gate, a situation that is always guaranteed to spike the ‘ol blood pressure and produce a full-out sweat.

10:00AM London – The plane made up some of the delay and we arrive into London. We actually could potentially – if we are very lucky and run like idiots – make it to connection.

Damn and double damn.

So we run like idiots, backpacks bucking like broncos as the boys gallop down the airport’s halls, my carry-on swerving crazily on its wheels as I sprint to keep up, yelling out to people all the while “On your left!” to avoid running over some misplaced pedestrian.

10:35AM London – We make it to the gate. Yes, we are frothing at the mouths and our bodies are running with sweat – enhancing greatly our 12+-hour travel aroma – but we have made it. The final passengers have just been let through the gate. I hand our re-routing information to the check-in agent…

…who tells me that (a) I needed to check in at the SAS ticket counter (I was told to go straight to the gate) and (b) but, in any case, the flight is booked.

Full. As in no seats free. Not even one.

(Don’t ask me if I was contemplating leaving my offspring behind. I’ll plead the 5th.)

Of course it’s full. Why wouldn’t it be? Which means that we have plowed over innocents, made asses of ourselves as we ran pell-mell through the airport, and are now stinking like pigs in slop for nothing.

Which does not move the check-in agent a bit. The flight is full. He is very sorry, blah blah blah.

10:45AM London – Here we are at Heathrow’s transfer desk being booked on next flight to Sweden with SAS. Fortunately, they are booking us on the full 1:50PM flight, its adjective making me quite nervous – that and the agent’s comment about booking us ‘stand-by’ – until the woman swears on the bible that we are double and triple confirmed on it and won’t at any cost be bumped from the flight.

(The transfer agent also gives us some food vouchers…the fact that she repeats to me 3 times that the vouchers cannot be used to purchase alcohol makes me wonder if she perceives I am in need of something stronger than a soft drink?)

So we are booked on the 1:50PM flight from London to Stockholm. Confirmed.

1:23PM London – Which is all fine and good if you actually make it to the gate.

Correction: if you make it to the right gate.

Because the gate that is on the boarding pass?

Not the right gate.

Which means the gate we go to early to make sure that we don’t miss the bloody plane?

The Wrong Gate.

Which means?

You guessed it… we have to, once again, run like idiots, knocking out of our way other travelers – toddlers and elderly alike – to make it to the damn gate.

Which is closing when we arrive.

But we do arrive and in time.

5:30PM Stockholm – We are in Sweden. Of course, once there, we are overcome with travel fatigue, the boys start fighting, we lose each other, and I end up at guest services paging my teenage sons. Family drama and all that. Better to skim over this part.

But we do eventually get the rental car and we do eventually make it to our little Swedish house, our tiny sanctuary that – once TQML is carried up the cliff-like incline that our house sits on – starts to work its magic.

The glass of wine also helps.

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