Friday, December 17, 2010

Rain Delays, Lemonades and Upgrades…

So close and yet so far. Before you read any further, I must warn you that I am writing this in a lack-of-sleep-induced semi-coma and I therefore claim minimal responsibility for the quality of this post. I am sitting at our gate at the San Francisco airport, so you know that the story ends (mostly) well. And a day during which Lexi and I got an upgrade to first class can’t be all bad! But let me start from the beginning…

When last I wrote, we had just settled into our seats for a short hopper from Guangzhou to Hong Kong. We were all showered and clean, nervous about the flight, but excited to be going home. That first flight sat on the tarmac for about a 30-minute delay. I guess I should have realized that might be a sign of things to come☺. As a result, we got into Hong Kong later than expected. Our dear friends, the Merediths, live in Hong Kong. We were very close to them in Tennessee, so it had been quite some time since we had seen each other. They made a huge effort to get out to the airport so they could see us during our relatively short layover. Trip took work off. They pulled the kids out of school. We were very happy and grateful that they would make the effort. BUT, our flight had been delayed, so our 3-hour layover had already been cut short by half an hour. On top of that, we were totally uneducated about immigration regulations in Hong Kong. We thought the Merediths would be somewhere we could find them easily. But once we were at the airport, we realized that we would have to go through immigration in order to find them.

At this point we had a dilemma, albeit one that a little education would have easily ameliorated. We were not sure if we could 1) go through immigration and enter Hong Kong without visas, or 2) get back out of Hong Kong once we got in. To complicate our predicament, we had 5 travelers with US passports and 2 travelers with Chinese passports. I just couldn’t deal with the possibility that we might miss our flight home if we tried to see them. So I suggested maybe it would be better if we just followed the directions in the airport and went to the gate for our next flight without seeing our friends. Oh, and just to make life a little more on the edge, my cell phone wouldn’t work for calls or email, so I had no way of communicating with them. The line for immigration looked huge, and I was sure if we tried to go through, we would never make our flight in time.

Several years ago in Tennessee I was fortunate enough to attend a meeting at which Elder Boyd K. Packer presided. Elder Packer is one of the leaders of our church, and a man whose opinion I respect very much. This particular meeting had only men in the congregation. Elder Packer said something that I have tried to live by ever since, and it has served me VERY well. He looked out at all of us and said, “Brethren, listen to your wives. They are usually more in tune with the spirit than you are.” So today (or yesterday or whatever this messed up travel schedule makes 24 hours ago) I listened to my wife. “Jeremy,” she said, “we have to go meet them. They disrupted their lives to meet us, we love them, we want to see them, and I just have to believe we will be ok. Besides, Trip flies in and out of Hong Kong all the time. He would have told us if there would be an issue.” So I listened to my wife and through immigration we went. And everything was fine. We had less time than we would have liked to with the Merediths, but, sad for them, we were their only Christmas visitors from the States, so we were extra glad we could meet up. By the way, Merediths, I can’t believe how much your kids have grown and how beautiful they all are. Trip, it’s a good thing you married Jen…☺!

So after some quick but fun conversation, a lunch they treated us to and some guidance through the airport, we were once more on our way. Of course we had more trouble from security regarding Graci’s oxygen concentrator. At every security check in China, they acted like her rechargeable batteries were going to bring the plane down. Fortunately with a little bit of Chinese from me, a little bit of English from them and a lot of sign language from everyone, we managed to return to the US with her concentrator with us.

Now for the fun part. A 12-hour flight with our girlies. Oh what fun. Oh what joy. Oh how many trips to the bathroom. Let me just say, I really was a good guy on this flight. I let Christi sit with the easy girl for almost all of the trip. And the “easy girl” wasn’t always the same person. To begin with, I sat with Lexi and Christi sat with Sophi. So have I described for you yet just how much fun it is to feed Lexi? She is really quite good at feeding herself-IF you control her surroundings. If all that is within her reach is a plate with her food on it, great! She will use her hands to slowly eat pretty much anything you give her. It’s a bit messy, but it works for now. If, however, there are other things within her reach (and she WILL find them!) she will grab onto whatever is there with a death grip and not let go until you pry it out of her fingers. If whatever it is makes noise (paper, for example) she will crunch and crinkle and rip it for all it’s worth. If it is food that she thinks you might take away from her, she will grip it as tight as she can, even if it’s an easily-breakable plastic airline cup. And what makes her craziest of all is when she hears any kind of wrapper crinkling. She will grab at this so fast it will make your head spin. So sitting with her in the confines of airline seats as everyone is served a meal is quite the experience.

Lexi was sitting in an aisle seat with me in the middle and Jesi on the other side of me. I had the stewardess put Lexi’s meal on my tray and I just held my meal in my hand. Then with my free hand I would feed alternating bites to Lexi and myself, all while using that same arm to keep Lexi from attacking the food. Of course, opening all of the plastic bags the food items were packaged in didn’t help at all☺. Lexi also has to go to the bathroom about every five minutes. We think that sometimes she asks to go just out of boredom. But her tummy has been upset off and on since we got her, and there have been enough trips that were VERY necessary, that we find it very hard to make her wait when she says she needs to go. She seriously went to the restroom at least 20 times during that 12-hour flight. It got old really quickly.

Meanwhile, Christi was with our little princess. Sophi was not happy and when Sophi ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!!! She was pretty loud as we started out the trip. She also had two messy diapers before we took off. To really ensure that this was the most difficult trip Christi and I would ever endure, Christi was blessed to have the world’s rudest woman sitting in front of her.

As we were getting into our seats, this lady made the loud, sarcastic comment: “Oh, aren’t we just lucky. We’ve got kids in front and kids in back.” Several times the lady literally SWORE at Christi. When Sophi had the messy diapers, it definitely stunk. But Christi took care of it quickly and did the best she could. She swore at Christi because of the smell. She swore again later in the flight when Christi barely bumped her head against the back of the lady’s seat as Christi leaned forward to get something Sophi needed. Finally Christi said, “I’m really sorry. It was an accident, and I’m doing the best I can.” She received a curt, “It’s OK,” but at least the lady left us alone after that.

So at the beginning of the flight, we both had our hands full. Christi was near tears with our rude friend, so I switched seats and girls with her. Shortly after that, Sophi fell asleep, and I switched her back again. Sophi slept almost the entire trip, so, although Christi wasn’t able to sleep much, she was able to rest in relative peace. Lexi, in the mean time, continued to make bathroom run after bathroom run. This got to be pretty annoying, but in the long run it led to our upgrade to first class☺. During one of our bathroom runs, one of the stewardesses noticed me carrying Lexi. She also noticed that all of the economy class bathrooms were occupied. She asked me if I would like to use the business class bathroom. Suddenly feeling very chic, I replied in the affirmative. Lo and behold, the business class bathrooms were also occupied, so she led me all the way up to first class. I must say, now I see why they have those curtains between classes. It is to shield all us normal folks from the glory of the upper class passengers. I feel lucky that I survived gazing on them with my mortal eyes, even for a few moments. Next time you are on an airplane and see those segregating curtains, don’t feel denigrated, be grateful that they protect you from…ok, so I’m being a bit sarcastic. She took me to the first class bathroom, past some fully reclining (as in lay fully flat) seats, and I got to use…a toilet. Believe it or not, even the first classers have a toilet. The sink was definitely an upgrade, though. As soon as Lexi was done, I was invited to return back to the dungeon, er, coach. So although our foray into fortune was but for a few moments, Lexi and I WERE given an upgrade to the first class restrooms on this wonderful flight.

Probably my favorite moment came with about two hours left. The stewardesses came by with pre-poured cups of juice for everyone. I took one for Lexi, one for Jesi and one for me. I was sooooo careful to keep them away from Lexi’s marauding appendages. I was cautiously holding a cup of apple juice and talking to Christi. At this point I was in the aisle seat and Lexi was next to me. I was talking to Christi, three seats away, and protectively holding the cup over the aisle. Suddenly, I just completely lost the cup. Have you ever been holding something and it just slipped from your hands? You felt kind of silly, right? Now imagine doing that with a full cup of juice in the small confines of an airplane. I felt it starting to go, so of course I grabbed for it with my other hand. This only compounded the problem. I basically ended up flipping the cup end over end. Time slowed down, and I was able to see the individual drops as my apple juice exploded like a little bomb all over me, my seat and the aisle. Fortunately, it didn’t really get on anyone else. I felt wet, cold and idiotic.

All good things come to an end, and eventually we landed in San Fran. Immigration went pretty smooth. There was an issue with boarding passes for Sophi and Lexi, but it was resolved pretty quickly and we made it to the gate with about 30 minutes to spare…only to find out we were facing a 2.5 hour rain delay. The upside to all of this is that I can’t help but look around me at these 5 wonderful girls I’m traveling with, and realize that life really has given me lemonade. These are 5 of my favorite people in the world, and if I have to spend an extra 2 hours with somebody, these are the people to spend it with. (Dad, you’re not too bad either☺). Although it’s been a crazy, exhausting journey, we are almost home, Lexi and Sophi are Greens and US Citizens, and I should still be able to catch that bowl game tomorrow!

Go Cougars!!!