Monday, August 2, 2010

Home Sweet Home Or Bust aka The Last Vacation Story For A While (Probably)

Nearly every year we take our family vacation on a little island on the coast of North Carolina.  We always stay at the same great oceanfront resort.  It's not a fancy place, but we love it.  It has three pools, multiple hot tubs, a fantastic breakfast buffet and a tiki bar.  Every Thursday evening they have a poolside wine and cheese party.  The rooms are huge, but affordable.  We get a two bedroom suite that has a full living room and kitchen.  The balcony has a view of the ocean and the hotel's tropical gardens.  For the short time we're there, it's paradise.  I'd tell you the name of the place, but then you might want to go there.  It's hard enough to get a reservation as it is.
From the resort's website.  The room we usually reserve
has a slightly different layout.

I could tell you all sorts of great stories from our many vacations there, but I'm not going to (well, not today, anyway).  Today, we're going to focus on our experience getting to and from that little piece of paradise.

Anyone who has traveled by air over the past few years knows that TSA regulations for what you can and can't bring on an airplane change all the time.  When I book our flight, I read up on the current rules.  On our last trip, my parents and our son's friend traveled with us so I made sure they were aware of the restrictions well in advance.   I was not as specific as I should have been.

At the time, and I don't think it has changed since, you could not bring any type of liquid, cream, lotion or any product resembling such in your carry-on luggage or on your person.  This would include, but was not limited to: medications, cosmetics, beverages, food items, and toiletries.

I gave this information to my mom.  I went over it and gave specific examples of what she should not take on the plane.  I think I mentioned lipstick, hand lotion and a few other things she would commonly have in her purse.  I reiterated it the day before we left as well as on the way to the airport and again as we entered the building.  She assured me she had none of the forbidden items with her.

Check-in took longer than we expected that morning because I had made a mistake when making our flight reservations online.  My dad has back problems so I always request a wheelchair at the airport for him.  Somehow, I had managed to request a wheelchair for each of us.  It caused quite a stir, and eventually a lot of laughter at the check-in desk because they were preparing to bring seven wheelchairs and seven employees to escort us all to our gate.

With that cleared up, we headed over to the security checkpoint.  The kids, Mr. Willoughby and I got through without a problem and were putting our shoes back on when we saw my mom having words with one of the security screeners.  Mr. Willoughby went over to see what the problem was.  Turns out that my mom had a tube of toothpaste and a large bottle of some over the counter liquid medication in her carry-on bag.  The screener wouldn't let her pass through until she either disposed of it or went back to the check in counter and had it added to the checked luggage.  My mom didn't want to dispose of them because they were brand new, sealed containers (which is why she thought she could leave them in her carry-on bag).  Things were getting ugly until Mr. Willoughby offered to take the bag to the counter and check it.  (I should note that my mom will never live this down.  We still tease her about it.)

Eventually, we boarded our plane.  Our flight was uneventful and we spent nine wonderful days in North Carolina.  During our stay, another of our son's friends joined us (his dad was working in a nearby area temporarily).  When it was time to head home, we now had eight people and all of their luggage to jam into our rented mini-van.  Our flight home was also uneventful.  It was once we deboarded the plane in Detroit that everything went south, so to speak. 

I've been to a number of airports in my life, but I can unequivocally say that the baggage claim area in the Smith terminal at Detroit Metropolitan Airport is the worst.  It is seriously equivalent to the bowels of Hell. 

If you've seen the movie Joe vs The Volcano,
 you may remember the terrible lighting in Joe's office.
I think those are the same bulbs they use in the baggage claim area.
The minute you get to the bottom of the stairs, your fellow passengers go from friendly to aggressive.  A dog eat dog mentally overtakes the crowd.  You may be elbowed, kneed, punched, kicked or shanked in an attempt to retrieve your luggage and that's on a good day.  On a bad day (most of the time) the carousel isn't working properly and the suitcases cause a log jam that whips the crowd into a frenzy.

While Mr. Willoughby went to get our vehicle, the kids and I fought through the angry crowd and eventually retrieved all of our luggage.  It wasn't pretty.  My son had to dive over the carousel to grab one of our suitcases that had fallen off.  Battered, we rounded everyone and everything up and headed outside.

Our transportation for the sixty minute drive home was my mom and dad's mini-van.  It's a good size, but clearly not meant for eight people plus their luggage.  It took at least twenty-five minutes to force everything in and still leave a little room for passengers.  We were in a loading zone and other people were honking their horns at us to move along.  The overall mood was foul and becoming fouler by the minute.  We finally pulled away from the curb with three kids in the third row seats, my mom and I in the second row seats with my son sitting on a suitcase between us, my dad in the front passenger seat and Mr. Willoughby in the driver's seat.  We were all wedged in place by luggage.  No one could move more than a half inch.  It was uncomfortable.  I'm sure we looked like the Beverly Hillbillies.

Only five minutes into the drive, my daughter started screaming.  She had lost her souvenir ring and couldn't find it in the dark.  We told her we would find it at home, but she was inconsolable.  The screaming turned to crying.  At about the same time, the "door ajar" alarm malfunctioned (a frequent problem in this vehicle) and made an incessant dinging sound.  My mom suggested that we pop in a cd and turn the volume up, so we did.  The only cd in the van was one my son made for them.  It's heavy on the Barry Manilow, but my mom's favorite is Chicago's "Your The Inspiration".

Every time the song ended, she asked if we could play it again.  I think we heard it five or six times.  I believe we heard "Mandy" two or three times, too.  I wish I had some audio to share with you because you just can't imagine it.  Ding, ding, ding, sob, sob, sob, "'re the inspiration...", ding, ding, ding, sob, sob, sob, " bring feeling to my life...."  For an hour.  One. Whole. Hour.  We arrived home shortly after midnight and practically exploded out of the van.  My mom and dad headed home, the kids went to bed and Mr. Willoughby and I each took a dose of ibuprofen.

We laugh about it now.  Amazing how your least favorite experiences make for your most favorite stories, isn't it?


~Photos courtesy of Google Images~


Chicago Mom said...

The bad experiences are the usually the most memorable ones! Too funny!
And to comment on your last post; the two times my husband and I traveled out of town for weddings he forgot his dress shoes the first time and his belt the second. Men!

Jenn Erickson said...

Your vacation spot sounds wonderful! Too funny about the wheelchairs! The baggage claim in Detroit and that drive home ~ sounds like sheer torture. I'm glad there was a lovely, relaxing vacation in the midst of it all.

Joanna Jenkins said...

I always say, vacations would be great if it wasn't for all the other tourists.
Take care Willoughby,

Cynthia@RunningWithLetters said...

This is hilarious! I love the part where you won't name the destination for fear of further reservation competition. The wheelchair bit was priceless...and I can so see all of you jammed into that van, well, jamming to those 80s tunes. This is the stuff memories are made of! Sounds like a success to me!

La Gitana said...

Oh man..... can I realte! What a horrendous tale! And yes, you will be able to laugh at this one soon as time marches on... thanks for the visual on Barry I can't get 'Mandy' out of my head! LOL!

La Gitana said...

P.S... I just LOVE the way you designed this blog! you are very, very creative girl!

Kerrie T. said...

Oh man. So been there. SO been there. Great story!

Holly said...

The vacation spot looks great. The rest of the vacation sounds like one of ours. Me and which ever kid I happen to have always get pulled aside by the screeners...last time I flew I was 7.5 months pregnant and they made me strip to my tank and jeans to go through security - my clothes were too heavy and then missed the large bottle of green food coloring in my purse which them exploded all over my person. Let's not even ask why I had green food coloring in my purse.

I will be singing "You're the Inspiration" for days now!