There's a guy who works at O'Hare airport who thinks I'm nuts. I said, "I'm so proud of myself!" as he cranked the yellow steel boot off my car like a 70-pound can of corn, "I learned to ride the shuttle!" But let me start at the beginning.
My day began at midnight. It was 7:00am in Madrid and the hotel wake-up call woke us all up, including the baby. It was time to make my way across the world back home with two suitcases, a carry-on, a kid and no husband. Niko had to go on to Berlin after he watched me scurry into terminal four at Madrid-Barajas Airport from our idling rental car, a gray Peugeot 308 we had argued ourselves into a week before. They tried to stick us in a Ford, but we're Americans who want the kitsch of real European stuff. In my next life, I will also ask for a Fanta. The irony is that as I was running into the terminal, blowing a frantic kiss, baby clinging to my shirt, pits sweating as I begged the universe to let me on the flight, it was an American pop song that faded into the distance from the car radio. Fact: the whole world listens to the same ten songs over and over.
I was bargaining from my fox hole because I was an hour late after discovering a charity race completely blocked every major road to the airport. Every one. I mean, fuck cancer and all that, but you have to put the race between hotels and the airport? It was like that scene in Truman Show where the guy tries to escape town and magically every exit is blocked with traffic as soon as he shows up. Dear City of Madrid: MAYBE BUY A MAP OR SOMETHING. I dunno, this is already sounding like an asshole story about Fancy People Problems. Stay with me.
Pleading with a cop and driving through two pedestrian squares finally got us out of that particular jam. Others awaited. I was detained after checking in at the airport, for example. (Someone matching my description must be committing hella international crimes because I'm plucked out for questioning 50% of my time in airports. I've seen many secret gray offices.) They held the plane, though, and I was eventually let on. My apologies to passengers of Iberia flight 6285 for the 20-minute later arrival time in Chicago.
My journey didn't end there, though. When I arrived in Chicago and schlepped through customs (having been accused of buying baby food abroad, which I assure you sir, I DID NOT) I picked up my bags and then had to shuffle to the over-sized baggage area for the stroller (all the wheels this time! high five, Iberia!) and then to a train, two elevators and to my car, which was parked in the White Sox lot. It was there, the permanent tune Hey Hey, Good Bye playing in the elevator bank, where Niko and I had giggled before our departure an eternity ago, that I spotted the bright yellow boot on my car.
Alone with a baby. Ten thousand pounds of luggage. Starving from the airline forgetting my vegetarian meal on the nine-hour flight. Troll hair. Ill-fitting tank top. Bug bites along my arms (the less-charming souvenirs of a vacation in the mediterranean). Phoneless.
I pressed the button to talk to the parking lot people who instructed me that another train ride and a shuttle, paying a fine, and the return adventure awaited.
I did it.
You know what? I can ride a train. I can figure out a shuttle to an impound lot. I can not eat for 12 hours. I can haul 90-pounds of luggage and nurse a baby through three in-flight movies. I can drive home in the rain and the curse of holiday traffic. It's not like a person telling a story about their vacation to Spain is going to drum up much sympathy anyway, but I did do it all with a decently calm face. I didn't bitch. I even thought about tipping the guy who cranked off my car boot, but a) I didn't have any money and b) he's probably the one who put it on there in the first place. Awkward!
I kept calm and I carried on. Just like the coffee mugs and all the Facebook memes say to do. You know why? Okay, fine, Zoloft too. Shut up. But what I was going to say was I was relatively chill about this because of what was waiting for me when I got home. Good stuff was waiting. Home would heal me. No matter what happens to me out there, I've got the good stuff inside to come back to.
People go through worse bullshit than unpaid parking tickets every day and they don't have two lady babies baking pink and purple cupcakes for them and making them rad "MOM" keychains. Those people at that ugly auto pound lot who were so sweet and wished me a happy Mother's Day and warned me of the rain? They have to sit in those four unbeautiful walls on that desolate lot by the airport five days a week. I only had to be there one afternoon of my life (hopefully) and then I get to go back to my air-conditioned house that doesn't have a misspelled "out of order" sign on the bathroom. Where people love me and we have awesome pillows.
So, yes it was a pain to get home, but I'm home now to my real life, and it's the best f'ing life ever. Laundry and all.
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Filed under: Field Trips