22. December 2006 · Comments Off on Holiday Travel Travails · Categories: General, Memoir, Pajama Game

When I was a child, our holiday travels were limited to the 80 mile drive to Grandma’s house. It wasn’t “over the river and through the woods,” though, just “out of the city and onto the not-quite-expressway and eventually onto the back-country roads through the Ohio coal-mining country.” Usually in the dark, usually with cranky kids in the back seat, and cranky parents in the front.

Our departure date and time hinged on various factors – what day Christmas fell on, what time we got out of school, what time Dad got home, etc. Mom had us working for the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, making hand-crafted gifts to give to all the relatives. She got her ideas from an old craft magazine, “Pack-o-Fun,” which was all about re-using stuff that would normally be tossed. And this was long before Earth Day was established.

I remember using gallon bleach jugs to make piggy banks for my cousins. Or felt to make a holder for a yardstick, so you could hang your yardstick on the wall and always know where to find it (side note: my cousins called it “Mr Yardstick” and he figured prominently in their punishments when they misbehaved). One year, we taped tomato-juice cans together, stuck an orange juice can inside one of them, and created “yule log planters” by covering the whole thing with plaster of paris and brown paint.

When it was time to head “down home,” we’d gather all the stuff into the trunk of the car, bundle ourselves into our good clothes and winter coats, and head out.

The only travails these travels held for me were the cramming of 4 kids into the back seat of a 1966 Chevy Impala 2-door coupe, and the fact that there was absolutely *nothing* to do at Grandma’s, especially if the weather kept us indoors.

When I went away to college, holiday travels meant hopping a greyhound bus and riding for 6-8 hours through the Indiana and Ohio countryside, and making sure I had someone to pick me up at the bus station, 30 miles from home. One year, my brother picked me up, and all the way home talked to me about how I was too stressed out and needed to relax, and the absolute best thing I could do for myself was to start smoking dope. He assured me that it had no effects on his ability to function – as proven by the fact that he was driving just fine, even though he was high. I think I had my dad take me back to the bus station when it was time to go back to school.

Then I joined the Air Force, and for the first time in my life, was farther away from home than a simple car ride would provide. Idaho is a long way from Ohio, no matter what method of travel one chooses. So I chose to avoid the travails of holiday travel, and spent my Christmas holidays on base, or with friends who lived off base.

In 1988, I spent Christmas in Belgium, at a soon-to-be-closed GLCM base – it was probably one of the best Christmases I’ve ever had. No holiday travel travails there.

I had planned to fly home for Christmas in 2004, but that was the year central Ohio had a nasty ice storm, and my destination airport was closed. So I rescheduled that trip to New Year’s. No real hassle, there.

And then there’s this year.

Happily, I’m NOT trying to get to, from, or through Denver. I’m in Kansas City, on a business trip.

We have a client going live on our software in early January, and they need to be trained before then. So I was here this week training them, and will be back on the 3rd to provide more training. The schedule for this week was to teach all day Mon-Thu, and 1/2 day Friday, so I booked a 5pm flight on Friday the 22nd. But the client asked me if we could get it all finished by Thursday evening, and I agreed. We weren’t done in time for me to catch the last flight home on Thursday, but that was ok. I figured I’d just standby for an earlier flight today, and if all else failed, I’d catch my confirmed flight at 5pm.

So at 5am this morning I was standing in line at the airport, hoping to be offered an earlier flight when I tried to check in. The ticket agent was kind enough to not laugh in my face, but he did explain that there were absolutely no standby slots available on any flights today. Something about a blizzard in Denver wreaking havoc with travel plans throughout the country.

So I called my hotel, asked if they could undo my checkout (they could), and I had their shuttle pick me up and bring me back to the room I had left only an hour previously, and went back to sleep.

In the Denver airport, they’re sleeping on the floor of the airport. In the Kansas City airport, at 5am this morning, I saw folks sleeping in the hard plastic molded chairs that seem to grace every airport in the nation. I slept in a king-sized bed.

In the Denver airport, the Red Cross is delivering sandwiches, baby formula, and diapers. In the Kansas City airport, there are a variety of fast-food type restaurants and taverns that sell food as well. After I woke up from my extended nap in my king-sized bed, I wandered downstairs to the full-service restaurant and had a leisurely buffet breakfast, with all the coffee I chose to drink. Then I wandered back upstairs to my room, arranged a later checkout, and have been comfortably ensconced in an easy chair, watching The Weather Channel while I surf the ‘net. At 1pm, when I need to checkout, I’ll wander downstairs, store my luggage with the front desk, and enjoy the comfort and wifi of the hotel’s lounge until it’s time for the hotel shuttle to take me to the airport for my 5pm flight.

So what was I saying about travel travails? Never mind. I’m not having any travails – I’m having a wonderful, peaceful day in the midst of most folks’ holiday bustle.

But I’d still like to kick whomever thought it was a good idea to schedule client training for the week before Christmas.

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