It is hard to believe that this is Ayo’s fourth trip to France in less than a year. He is such a fortunate toddler and he doesn’t even know it! Of course, we felt like he was one of the least fortunate of them all when we realized it would take us three days to arrive to our destination…
A not-so-funny comedy of mechanical errors meant that after flying for three hours from our home to Washington DC, we de-planed a total of three times and took three different aircrafts over three days. No, really! The first mechanical error took hours and hours and hours to resolve. Some complained, others strummed their guitars and entertained the crowd. Ayo chased after a little B-oddball for hours and hours. At some point on our journey, Ayo got to discover two toys I had made for him the night before: a mystery rattle box (equipped with mirror, peep hole to drop caps inside, tape measure and elastic bands) and a toddler wallet filled with junk. They kept him busy for a fair amount of time:
After the in-flight food for first class was declared inedible but just 45 minutes before the pilot would have reached his legal flying time, we were at last able to take off in a second aircraft for Ayo’s long awaited flight #20. We flew for almost four hours in that airplane. We turned back with a new problem severe enough to return to the USA. It was a little funny..or perhaps a little sad..to turn around and see that about a third of the passengers were sleeping when the pilot announced we would return to the States. One oblivious passenger asked the flight attendant why the plane on the little personal TV screens was pointed towards North America, was the flight navigation broken perhaps? Poor guy – he thought the flight attendant was joking when she said we had turned around.
Of course, we arrived back at 3am when the airport was closed and only one customer service manned the booth for 150 economy passengers. It took one full hour for the first person to be “served” with meal vouchers and another hour before they sheepishly announced that “partially due to the worst storm of the year, there are actually no hotels available for anyone”…oh and, err, “we can’t give you access to checked baggage overnight”. Service ain’t what it used to be, folks! That isn’t totally true – Coca Cola (no water) and peanuts were available upon request (!!). I was of course at the back of the mammoth line, having waited for a gate-checked baby item. I kept myself awake interpreting the messages for confused monolingual Francophones – one of my favorite things to do. Ayo kept himself busy consuming puffs and running after them on a grimy floor.
Tall Mountain tested his better luck at the back of the short business & first class line somewhere else in the terminal, attended by not one but three customer service agents. He waited for everyone to be served, eventually but casually playing the “baby” card, which let’s be honest, is a pretty valid one (Ayo had now morphed into a wired zombie). TM had the benefit of having just defended the agent from out-of-control verbal abuse, he also held this airline’s gold status (++) but had purchased an economy seat (–) and was at the back of the line. This last item was actually a good thing. This meant that after all VIP passengers had been served, there could be hope that someone might have made private arrangements. It was almost 5am EST when I joined TM in his line and we heard them whispering something about maybe trying to give the family with the baby the remaining voucher. We totally scored, even if our hotel night was extremely short. It was worth it for the four hours of rest Ayo got and for the shower the next morning! Seniors, pregnant ladies, families with connecting flights in Europe all slept on the floor of the airport that night. With that airport opening back up for 6am flights, I can tell you, that would not have been their best night of beauty sleep. We were beyond thankful.
The next day, we weaved through security again. This time, I tested positive for explosives and had to have each item in my possession analyzed for explosives. By the time we finally made it to the gate for our specially chartered flight, the storm of the year had rolled in. The mishaps almost felt comical by this time. Ayo wasn’t phased at all – you kidding – he had about 150 people ready to play ball with him across the gate on the airport floor. He was happy as a lark. Someone even said: “I feel like he is like our baby!”. I was concerned I wouldn’t have enough diapers and food to survive further delays. Note to self: ALWAYS BRING EXTRA DIAPERS and basic baby overnight items!
By this time, we were on first name basis with many of the passengers. Bilingual kiddos flying with their family and nanny (plush!) played with Ayo until he bonked his head. Catherine and her daughter fetched the ball that had gone into the crowd of people passing by our gate. One lady offered to go to the deli and pick something up for us and Ayo, another thought of setting up a Facebook page for our flight to commiserate. A Dutch lady told us that poor tired Ayo shouldn’t be sucking his fingers – she had 5 pacifiers in her baby’s crib at all times available to him. We shouldn’t let him suck his fingers. The rest empathized with the many delays we had endured with a little one.
Weary and skeptical, but with a fraternal-like bond with our fellow passengers, we boarded our third airplane in Washington DC. After the days it took to reach the runway, we heard the motors shut off until the storm would pass. I am not sure how long we waited in the sweltering heat (more than 30mins but less than 1h), but it didn’t feel all that long by this point. We chatted more with people around us and let Ayo crawl up and down the well-trodden aisle until his heart was content. Suddenly, the pilot told everyone to “sit down!”, backed up by frazzled flight attendants scurrying around to check for seatbelts. The captain raced to take off between raindrops. Ayo’s flight #21 landed 8-ish hours later, the next morning, at our final destination. Ayo will forever end up with odd flight numbers when we arrive to our destination now!
As in any situation, you are given the choice to see the cup as half empty or half full. Sure, it was a hassle – by far the worst of our international journeys ever. But we bumped into two old friends during our prolonged stay at the airport – and one of my former colleagues was even on our flight. We were thankful that we were safe and
smelly sound, had [sort of] slept a mini night in a hotel and that we arrived when we did. We later heard that the entire airport had been shut down right after our take-off! I had had 12 diapers on me (and had already planned on using a bulky sanitary towel you can find in the airplane WC in case we ran out – that is the type of thing that goes on in mama’s brain), enough baby food, one extra outfit to change out of the first airport-floor blackened one, a sleepsack and a toothbrush. We were just fine.
A lot has happened since these travels five days ago (including TM flying to another continent!) but baby jetlag has been so bad again this time, that I would rather sleep now than deal with further sleep deprivation whilst entertaining Ayo-monkey during all hours of the night. So, until I can write more, here are a few photos of our journey and the first few photos upon arrival. Night nights.