I was only ten years old at the last family reunion, so I didn’t fully understand what I was getting myself into when I signed up for the South Carolina Thanksgiving Clark Reunion extravaganza. The amount of stress I accumulated this last week made my first day back to work feel like vacation.
In the interest of avoiding disinheritance, I’ll spare you the full explanation of my feelings about the event. Perhaps we’ll stick to the plane rides. Just keep in mind that they are the horrible bookends to an equally horrible Thanksgiving break.
Our flights to Greenville, SC: We board our plane at DIA, an international carrier packed full of people headed to Munich by way of D.C. As we settle in for the flight, I notice that my headrest doesn’t move. Then I notice that it’s sticking to my sweater. I take a little survey of the headrests around me and realize that my headrest–only my headrest, of all the headrests on the plane–has been installed upside down. So, not only does it not move properly, but the velcro designed to hold a small protector kerchief is faced downward, attaching itself to my neck. After a few minutes of attempting to detach the headrest and fix it ourselves, I called for an attendant. At this point, the pilot had informed us that a valve wasn’t working properly, so we had to wait an undetermined amount of time for it to be fixed–all to say, the flight attendants weren’t busy. To make a long story shorter, Steve figured out how to detach and reattach the headrest by the time the attendant called for a request to switch our seats. This was all a waste in the end, as we missed our connecting flight in DC, so I sat on the phone with reservations to get us on a different flight through Chicago. We did finally make it to Greenville, nearly four hours later than expected.
Fastforward through three painstaking days of meeting family members basically for the first time. Had I remembered a few in particular, I might not have been as willing to accept the invitation. I found out that Steve and I are two of the maybe five individuals who would consider voting Democrat. And, for the most part, trying to explain why we don’t attend church was a deadend. I also realized that I am no longer a Southerner. I no longer pick up my old accent when I’m around Southern drawls. I cringed at how many plastic bags the woman at the grocery store used.
On to our journey home… When we originally booked the flights, we were scheduled to get into Denver at 7pm. A month ago, I got a call from United saying the flight was pushed back to arriving at 9pm. I’m sure you can guess we didn’t make that time, either. Our flight out of Greenville didn’t register as “delayed” until our departure time came and went, and there was still no plane to take us. Not knowing when the plane would actually arrive to pick us up, the schedule screen kept pushing back the departure time by about 8 minutes at a time. We did eventually make it through the air, while a little girl consistently kicked the back of Steve’s chair until we arrived in DC. Our flight was over an hour late, but that didn’t matter since our second flight was also delayed.
DC to Denver: Our last leg of the trip was already pushed back an hour, but again, no plane was to be found when the time came, and they inched the departure time back minute by minute. As we boarded, one flight attendant started tying a “Checked Baggage” tag to our rolling carry-on bag while we were walking down the plank. No one in front of us had needed to give up their bags. They decided to start with us (which I question, because there were people behind us in line who rolled their bags right on down the aisle). We asked if we would be able to grab the back as we deboarded, and they informed us that, no, we would have to go to the baggage claim. This is exactly why I always carry on my bag. I do not have time to wait at the baggage claim, especially when my ride from the airport has already been waiting longer than they should. I don’t trust the airlines to get my bags to the same place as me, and when I have to switch flights, I always have all my belongings with me. When we protested, explaining that we didn’t have time to wait at baggage claim, and that’s why we work to only carry on luggage, the attendant literally ripped the bag from our hands and threw it out the door to a man to put it below deck. I couldn’t believe it. I was livid. After all we’ve been threw the last few days, it was all I could do to keep from swinging punches.
Grand Finale: Three hours pass, and our plane is nearing DIA. The pilot comes over the PA to tell us we’re on our final descent, only 20 minutes from being on the ground. Finally, relief is on its way. Forty-five minutes pass, and we’re still not on the ground. We see the city lights, but we seem to be flying in circles. No updates. No reassurance from the pilot that we will eventually land. No instructions from the flight attendants as to a potential emergency, or even a second round of drinks, for that matter. As we finally hit the runway, it is lined with fire engines, lights ablaze. We cruise along, and the pilot comes on: “If you notice all of the fire engines along the runway, they’re here for us. Our flap did not engage properly, and we weren’t sure we were going to be able to stop.” Awesome.
Some of my worry about getting home after 1am was due to the anticipation of having to be at work extra early to learn how to record usage numbers off the copy machine. Guess who forgot to show up early? Oh, I was there. But the person training me forgot. She didn’t show up until an hour later. So, when people ask me how my Thanksgiving vacation was, you can imagine the look on my face.