Monday, November 21, 2011

On the road again: Houston, day 2

Everything went well until I hit the airport for the flight home.

I stepped to the side to open my suitcase so I could take out the book I'm reading and change into more comfortable shoes. The lock was stuck and would not open. No, I didn't forget the combination; I have it noted in another place just in case. The lock simply wouldn't open.

Stuck in the suitcase was my small baggie of liquid items, each in the TSA-approved size. So, I passed through security nervously, but after some discussion about whether the liquids looked to be the right size, the TSA folks let me through.

The airport's only bandwidth on offer was a Boingo hotspot that was temporarily down. So much for work there.

Dinner was a bright spot: a very large and very tasty hot dog.

My seat on the plane proved to be on the bulkhead row in coach. It was at least an aisle seat, so I was hoping to be able to work. Alas, no bandwidth on the plane. No problem: I'd have some concentrated quiet time to write.

No such luck. A father filled the window seat to my left, and he completely covered the middle seat with baby stuff. His wife and two kids were in the three seats across the aisle.

The row behind me held a father and two kids, with the mother and their other two kids on the opposite side.

The row behind that one held the same arrangement: two parents, four kids.

No kid in any of these rows was older than six.

All of them went off at once during take-off. We had an earache, several bored boys, and a variety of fights.

At no point during the next two and a half hours was there ever a single second when we didn't have at least one kid crying and two others fighting. Not once.

My favorite parent line: "No, Michael, I don't believe that Joey hit your thumb with his eye."

My favorite conversational snippet:

Child: Are we going to get a van?

Father: I'm not sure. We're going to get a vehicle of some type, maybe a van, maybe an SUV.

Child: What's a vehicle?

Father: Like a car or a van.

Child: Why didn't you say so?

Father: [sigh]

Child: What's an SUV?

Father: A sports utility vehicle.

Child: What kind of sports does it play?

Father: No, you use it for sporty things.

Child: What kinds of sports do you play with it?

Father: You don't play sports with them. You do things like drive off-road with them.

Child: Aren't you supposed to stay on the road?

Father: Yes. Don't worry about SUVs.

Child: What's u-til-i-til-i-tee?

Father: It's like a usage, a way you use something.

Child: But you said you don't use it for sports.

Father: Would you like me to buy you the cartoons they're playing on the screen here?

Child: Okay.
At least that part of the trip was fun, though it would have been more fun if the baby across the aisle hadn't been crying. If all the other kids had been quiet and just let this one grill his father, I would have been happy the whole flight. Alas, the conversation ended when the cartoons took over.

When we landed in RDU, I called the TSA airport office, which Gina had found and which is open around the clock. The guy there graciously said he would indeed try to open my bag with his TSA key. Of course, his office was in the farthest point in the opposite terminal from where I was.

When I got there, courtesy of Rana picking me up and looping around, the guy came out, put in his key...and nothing happened.

"That's strange," he said, "I've never seen it fail."

We tried many different combinations, but nothing worked. Eventually, we set the combination correctly, he held the key in the open position, and I pounded on the lock with the side of my fist--and one of the two zippers came free. A little more pounding freed the other.

I am so very glad to be home.

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