Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Hard Day's Night...

Well, we are finally back in Grand Rapids. I'm not sure what sort of magnetism the Smith family has, but we seem to just "attract" challenges in transatlantic travel.

Things were going relatively well on Sunday morning. We all got up pretty promptly at 5am and we're ready for the airport shuttle at 6am. Faith and the kids very kindly got up early on a Sunday morning to see us off--which was a wonderful blessings, even if it also made it harder for us to say goodbye! We made it to Manchester airport without incident, including a stop for coffee and pastries on the way. Only as we were loading up the luggage carts did we realize that, in fact, an entire suitcase had been left in one of the upstairs bedrooms of our house in York! Well, at least we had each other, and our passports, all of which seemed most important. So we worked very hard at not being disheartened. Our flight to Gatwick was right on time, no troubles, and the same for our departure from Gatwick to Detroit. When we landed in Detroit 8 hours later, I quietly thought to myself: "Well, this has gone quite well." I didn't even say it out loud, as I didn't want to jinx things. Turns out just thinking it was enough.

After a long process in passport control (always a challenge since we're Canadians, living in the States, etc.), we emerged on the other side to still find the entire plane waiting for luggage. Apparently while we were all in the underbelling of Detroit Metro Airport, a thunderstorm had exploded over Detroit and shutdown the airport, including baggage handling. About an hour later, things were reactivated and luggage started to emerged from the conveyers that looked like black tongues rolled out from the ceiling. Slowly we collected our bags: 7, 8, 9...9...9...? As suitcases stopped coming down the black tongues we faced up to the reality: one of our suitcases (one of the BIG ones!) didn't make the trip from London. We started the day with 11; we were now down to 9. On top of that, the boxes containing my books looked like they had been transported from the plane by being thrown in front of the truck and pushed through the puddles with the front bumper.

OK, OK, we said: we're all safe, we haven't been deported, and we're only about 120 miles from home. Just one very short plane ride to Grand Rapids.

You'd think.

We made our way to the gate for our Grand Rapids flight. Not surprisingly, it was delayed because of the weather. And delayed. And delayed again. Until finally they very perfunctorily announced, around 9:30pm, that the flight had been canceled and that we should proceed to Customer Service for re-booking. A minor stamped ensued and we were informed that: (1) they would be very happy to book us on a flight to Grand Rapids at 9am the next morning; and (2) no, they wouldn't be providing complementary hotel accommodations. "Thank you, and have a nice day." Indeed.

I should say that at this point the cracks began to show and the meltdowns began: crying, anger, cussing. And the kids were kind of upset, too.

We found a discounted hotel room in the general vicinity of the airport and joined the herds of other stranded passengers making their way to these lodgings. After an hour fighting to get on one of the free shuttles. ("Fighting," I'm afraid, is not really a metaphor: there were so many people trying to squeeze onto these shuttle vans that as each one arrived you'd think it was a helicopter airlifting soldiers from heavy artillery fire.) We then were deposited at the Quality Inn & Suites with a crowd of others, only to waiting in line in the lobby for two hours just to get a room. (Don't ask: for the life of me I still can't figure out what took so long.) Having hoped to sleep in "our own beds" on Sunday night, we squeezed into various arrangements in the hotel room (Maddie on the floor, Jackson between us) for what sleep we could grab hold of. When we awoke at 5am on Monday morning, it hit us that we had no clothes, no toothbrushes, no deodorant, etc. But wait: Coleson had stick of roll-on in his backpack! Hurray! We circulated between us all, Coleson gagging with each shared swipe.

The rest was fairly uneventful. We made it to Grand Rapids and we're so happy to see the friendly faces of the Mulders (who, unfortunately, had also been at the airport the night before!). They kindly piled us into two vehicles as we made the pilgrimage back to Baldwin Street. We were home.

All that said, at least there was no vomiting on this trip... :-)

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