Family Magazine

Chicago is Always Nice in January

By Sherwoods
So far in our Foreign service career we've been pretty lucky in our travels.  I have a friend with five children with the most amazing barfing stories who has set a new standard for bad travel - no matter how long and tiring and irritating travel is, it's not truly bad until someone vomits.  So considering the number of children we have and the amount of time we spent traveling, I consider myself pretty lucky to only ever have one incidence of vomiting - and my mom got to clean that one up.
We've also had remarkable luck with delays.  A few summers ago we got stuck in the Chicago airport for nine hours, but that's been about it.  Like I said, very lucky.
And so, of course, that means that every now and then you don't get lucky.
Our day started pretty early last Friday when the alarm went off at 2:30.  I had grand plans the night before that involved unconsciousness by nine o'clock, but of course those didn't pan out.  They never do.  It doesn't matter how much planning you've put into packing suitcases, cleaning out the refrigerator, making lists, gathering clothing, and all of the other assorted 329 tasks that are necessary to prepare for international moves by airplane, something always comes up that you didn't expect.  So instead of nine, our bedtime was closer to eleven than I would have liked.
Thankfully our ride to the airport showed up promptly at three because Brandon had turned both of our phones into the embassy and our house phone had been disconnected for the majority or our tour.  I had visions of frantically knocking on neighbors' doors asking to use their phone to find out where in the heck our driver was.  You don't want to miss your flight in Baku because it may be another few days before the next one comes.
We got to the airport with enough time to check in and discover that half of the family had tickets to Chicago and the other half had tickets to Missouri.  Since none of us intended to visit Chicago in January, especially without the other half of our family, some frantic clickety-clackety was in order by the nice Lufthansa agent.  Luckily we were late enough that nobody else was waiting impatiently behind us.
The tickets supposedly worked out (you'll have to get your boarding passes printed in Chicago, he told us apologetically), we made it through security and passport control just in time for boarding.  I don't like the stress of cutting timing close, but I don't mind having to wait an hour for boarding either.  But despite the airport TV system's claims that the plane was boarding, nobody was moving a muscle when we showed up at our gate.  And nobody moved for another hour and a half.
Evidently one of the engines had decided it was a nice day for electrical failure and so our plane, which was supposed to take off at 5:10 left Baku at 6:40 instead.  Thankfully we had originally had a three-hour layover in Frankfurt and cutting it in half left us just enough time to deplane onto a bus, be driven around the entire airport before unloading in the basement so we could walk the fifty miles to the train and hundred miles to our gate - the very last gate at the very end of the airport.  When we got on the plane for our nine-hour flight I sighed in relief.  We had made the two longest legs and just had one hour-long leg left.
Each time I fly with the children the trip gets easier and this time was no exception.  Brandon drew the short straw (I have to use the pregnancy card when I've got it) and so Edwin and Sophia kept me company for the flight.  I don't know how anyone flew internationally before personal video screens.  Both children spent all of the flight watching Planes, Despicable Me 2, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, (I still can't make sense of that movie), and various other cartoons before they fell asleep.  Everyone ate their own lunch, kept themselves occupied, and let me finish a book, eat my lunch, take a nap, watch a movie, and start another book (I love my Kindle).  Mothers of young children, take heart.  One day you too will be able to read a book at the same time you're flying with two children.
We landed in Chicago with no trouble (I was shocked to look out the window and see all of the world coated in white) and made it through passport control and customs without anyone stopping us.  We had another three-hour layover and so we were doing well and just had to put our bags back into the system and clear security before going to the very end of the airport for our last leg, having been up for almost twenty-four hours by that point.
I was ahead of Brandon with my fully-loaded luggage cart and encountered a helpful United employee with a scanner.  She scanned a bag, made a face, and announced "your flight is cancelled."  
And that's how we ended up spending the night in Chicago O'Hare Embassy Suites (can we stay there because Daddy's a diplomat?  Kathleen wanted to know) instead of at Grammy and Grandpa's house.  Despite having clear weather, the wind was too strong for our little 21-seat puddle jumper plane and we had to wait for the next day to finish our travels.  Thankfully we were able to rummage through our bags and pull out clothes and pajamas before checking in all three of the carseats and four of the five suitcases we had schlepped halfway across the world.
After a bath and pizza (I don't know how many times Papa John's has fed us on these jaunts) everyone including Brandon and I were asleep by seven.  Which was good because Joseph decided that midnight was a good time to wake up and bother his brother and everyone else (except Edwin) was wide awake by 4:30.  Thank heaven for cartoons.
Everyone was happy for the generous breakfast buffet before packing up and heading back to the airport for our last, uneventful leg.  We showed up a day late and several dollars poorer, but with no harm and with all of our bags.  And no vomit.  So I'm not complaining.

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