Answering the eternal question - "You don't work? What do you DO all day?"

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Escape from Stockholm

We have returned, sanity mostly intact, from 10 days in Stockholm visiting the hubby's family. These trips are stressful for a number of reasons, but I think our trip to the airport and flight home sum it up pretty well.

Perhaps it was my bravado that did me in. I was cocky enough to think that since we'd made it the entire 10 days without a major blowup from my father in law that we'd manage to chalk the trip up as a success in that regard and that maybe, just maybe, he doesn't think I'm quite the evil harpie that he seemed to. But alas, as I emerged into my brother in law's hallway, running late and lugging ALL of our bags, my quick smile in his direction was obviously not enough.

"No good morning, Gen?" he said, and I swear, if it was actually possible for one's veins to actually freeze into ice water, mine would have. I stammered and tried to cover myself with a hurried (and I hoped sincere) "I'm sorry, I'm just so rushed trying to get everything together and all..." but the damage was done. He stood in the doorway and muttered to himself about how I was "unbelievable" and had "no character" while I turned thirteen shades of red and tried to will myself into invisibility. After an ulcer-inducing ride to the airport, during with I tried to keep my eyes averted and not do ANYTHING that was going to earn me more of his wrath, he basically slowed down the car and we all lept out. Huzzah! We had managed to somehow, against the odds, avoid a major blow-up (and indeed, when he and the hubby spoke about a week later, there was no mention of any discomfort or ackwardness. Of course, there was also no mention of me, but that's all for the best).

So there we stand, Oliver on Haakan's back, Elliot wrapped on my front (in the wrap that he'd vomited all over about 30 seconds after I put him in it), hauling all of our assorted crap in one of those airline carts up to the long LONG line to check it. At some point before they checked our passports to make sure we weren't trying to smuggle Swedish children into the USA, Oliver began to get antsy and we broke into the stash of toys. Finally, we got to the person who would hopefully check our bags and all, and were treated to the following.

Clerk: (riffling through our tickets) Where's the ticket for the baby?
Me: (shrugging as Elliot begins to whine) Isn't it there?
Clerk: (shuffling the tickets again) There's no ticket for the baby. WHERE'S THE TICKET FOR THE BABY?!?!
Me: (noticing that Elliot has thrown up on me) He's sitting on my lap.
Clerk: (looking at me with some disgust as I try to clean up said vomit) He still needs a ticket. You have to PAY for him to fly, you know. Why didn't passport control stop you?
Me: (wiping off me and Elliot with the burp cloth that Oliver had been flinging around like a flag) No idea. If this is such a big deal, how did we GET HERE?
Clerk: (eyeing me as if the little mini-me attached to my front was a baby I was trying to smuggle out of the country) You have to go over to that agent over there (points to someone WAAAAAAY on the other side of the airport) and sort this out. YOU (he points at me) stay here.
Haakan and Oliver (who has begun to thrash around on Haakan's back and chant "Want to get down? Want to get down noooooowwwwww?") head over to the other agent while I stand at the counter and steam over how ridiculous this all is.
Clerk: I don't know how you got through passport control. I just don't understand, they should have stopped you. This just isn't allowed. I just don't understand it.
Me: (wiping my vomited-on hand on the back of my pants because Haakan has taken the burp cloth with him) Why don't you ask passport control? How am I supposed to know what the problem is? This really isn't MY problem, now, is it? This is YOUR problem! But no, here I stand with my TWO little kids, while YOU figure out what the problem is and while we probably are charged AGAIN for the privledge of me sitting with my 3 month old on my lap, which I haven't even BEGUN to address!
Clerk: (looking at me with terror in his eyes, as if he thinks my head is about to spin around) Why don't you go and wait with your husband. Here, I'll walk you over.

The scene pretty much repeats with the second agent, but instead of cleaning up vomit, I pass Elliot to Haakan and take Oliver for a walk, because he has begun his chorus of "want to ride on an airplane?" and my head is already about to explode from having heard it for the fiftieth time in the preceeding five minutes.

So fine, after nearly reducing gate agent number two to tears with my rant about how stupid it is that we have to PAY for Elliot to sit on my lap, we go back to work out the luggage situation.

Clerk: (motioning to our giant bulky wheeled bag with our carseats) You have to check that.
Me: We're going to gate check it.
Clerk: You can't, the union doesn't have insurance to cover anyone to carry anything that heavy down from the jetway. You have to take it to "special check in" over there (and he points around the corner to a crappy x-ray machine where the checker-inner guy is drinking a cup of coffee and looking exactly like he's just going to go on the other side of the machine and drop kick all those "special" items onto the same conveyer belt that all the other stuff has already gone on.

In case anyone is wondering why we didn't just check the carseats, it's because the stupid airlines assume no responsibility for broken carseats. Meaning they could run over them with the damn cart, if they break them, they just say "Whoops! My bad" and that's about it. So, being that being stuck at the airport back in Pittsburgh with two (by that point) exhausted and beyond whiney children why my husband drove to Toys r Us and purchased two NEW carseats because the stupid airline had trashed ours was not my idea of a scenario that was good for my mental health, we were trying to gate check the carseats.

So fine, ok, round 1 goes to the airlines, who now have our money AND our carseats. We get in line for security, where Oliver proceeds to play the "how far can I get from mommy and daddy before mommy loses it and freaks out in front of everyone" game until I hissed at Haakan that I was going to grab him and stuff him into someone's carry on unless he was contained again. So back onto Haakan's back he goes, because, hey, punitive babywearing is STILL babywearing, right? Unfortunately, this does nothing to silence Oliver, who spends the next 10 minutes in the security line saying "Want to ride on a airplane now? WAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!" and throwing himself back and forth on Haakan's back.

And that, gentle readers, brings us to a natural pause. Will we make it home from Stockholm in one piece? Well, yeah, I guess I didn't build the suspense very well on that one. But I'll continue this little tale of dysfunctional woe in part two.

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