Here we go again. I’m on yet another flight with my wife, from our home in Arizona, and headed to our old home in Iowa. Literally. My mother-in-law now lives in the house we use to call home for ten years, prior to moving across the country, and as usual that’s where we’ll be staying while we’re back in Newton. Albeit “mom” has made many changes and a few improvements, to the ranch-style dwelling since we left, so “our home” is hardly recognizable to me at this point, especially since my wife and I sleep in what use to be our son’s room, but there certainly still is a familiarity with our temporary living arrangement. The view of the sunrises from the back deck are still breathtaking, and relaxing in the nearby hot tub is like reuniting with a long lost friend.
We love our family immensely, so we return to the Midwest every Christmas because it’s a promise my wife and I made to each other before moving away. Why else would we be willing to sacrifice the comfort of Arizona’s typically sunny and 70* weather, during the month of December, for Iowa’s blistery winter conditions? The snow, ice, sleet, slush, and freezing cold, so prevalent in the Midwest, doesn’t seem to make Iowa an attractive destination during the winter months. If truth be told I actually do like the state’s bitter cold and fresh fallen snow but only at Christmastime and only for about a week.
My wife and I recently decided that seeing the clan only once a year was no longer adequate, so we planned an extra trip to the Hawkeye State, during the month of June, and most of the family knows nothing about our upcoming visit. We are going to just show up on my parent’s doorstep and holler, “Surprise!” Every time we head back to Iowa, we fly the friendly skies. I cannot imagine using any other form of transportation for the thousand miles-plus journey. I think taking a cruise ship could be nice once in awhile, but I don’t know exactly how that would work with so much land in between the two states. I suppose I could check out a map to see if it’s at all possible, but as usual – I’m too lazy.
We have flown many times before, so you’d think it would all be routine for us by now, but there always seems to be some sort of occurrence to make the experience a little more interesting than it should be. Even our first Christmas, coming back to Newton, we had the customary but unfortunate experience of losing a piece of our luggage. Luckily, we had arrived a couple of days earlier that year, so we did have some time to recover the lost bag before the 25th. It’s a good thing the airline was able to track it down because most of the presents we had purchased for our loved ones were in that bag. There have been a few times when we have had to rush through the airport, for fear of not making our flight, although our pace was nowhere near the extent of frenzy, compared to the McCallister family, as seen in the classic Home Alone movies.
Last year I was stopped on the freeway by an Arizona Highway Patrolman while heading to the airport. I knew I wasn’t speeding (not too much anyway), so I respectfully kept changing lanes to let the approaching officer get by me; therefore, allowing him the opportunity to capture whatever fiend he was pursuing. I couldn’t imagine why he insisted on staying directly behind me, but when he eventually flipped on his siren I then knew I was the fiend. The officer explained how my annual registration was overdue by a couple of days, but the patrolman was nice enough to only give me a warning. I did tell him how I had not received a bill in the mail from the Department of Transportation, as I had every single time before, so I honestly was unaware I had been driving illegally.
After our vacation was over I contacted the D.O.T. about the incident. Their lame response to my untimely situation was that they weren’t obligated to send out reminders but they sometimes would simply as a courtesy. After five straight years of the Department being “courteous,” and my becoming dependent on the annual notifications I had been receiving each year, I guess they ultimately had me right where they wanted me. I quickly came to the realization that their suspicious policy, of being inconsistent with the public, was probably a newfound way of generating some easy income by preying on responsible yet unsuspecting drivers.
All was going well this time, unlike our previous traveling experience, at the start of our Summer trip back to Iowa, until we took some ill-advised advice from a shuttle driver. He had just driven us from the parking lot to a free baggage check-in service located a great distance from the actual airport. He insisted the lines inside the airport would be much longer than the line, consisting of about eight fellow passengers, formed on the sidewalk right in front of us. We reluctantly took his advice, and after a twenty minute wait the man behind the counter informed us his computer would not allow him to check in our bags since it was now less than 90 minutes until our scheduled flight. Well, that certainly wasn’t the case when we first got in line.
Besides, wouldn’t that have been a perfect reason why he should have accepted our luggage, and sent us on our way, instead of making the check-in process so challenging? The seemingly long ago leisurely start to our trip had now become another chaotic dash through the terminal. Five minutes! It took us a measly 5 minutes (less actually) once we finally arrived at the spot where we had intended to go in the first place to check in our luggage. We then got to the airport security checkpoint and again encountered somewhat of a line. This time though it appeared the line was manageable enough, so we felt like we no longer needed to worry if we’d be arriving at our boarding gate destination in time.
However, airport personnel suggested almost immediately, for those of us towards the back of the line, to go to a different security checkpoint because the wait time there would be significantly shorter. Sound familiar? He also said the wait would be approximately 30 minutes or more if we remained where we were. I didn’t even consider, for one moment, taking the airport employee’s suggestion at that point. I am so glad I know and trust in the famous adage, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” Fifteen minutes! That’s all it took for us to get completely through security. A mere 15 minutes and not the threatened amount of twice that time. I’ve learned to expect the unexpected with our flying endeavors, so I’m not too surprised anymore whenever our carefully planned itinerary eventually goes awry. My parents, on the other hand, were utterly surprised when we “just showed up.” The priceless expressions alone, on their faces, made our summer trek to Iowa worth the while.