An eventful 12th day of Christmas it was. Twelve drummers drumming, Bing Crosby or the McKenzie Brothers weren't present to mark the occasion--but the travel shall be remembered.
Travel duties over the holiday season were divided between my dear wife and I by a complex formula involving preaching schedules, vacation usage, school calendars, mileage expenditures, and airfare purchases. This equation kept daughter #2 and I in Minnesota until today, with an early departure from Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. My dear wife and Daughter #1 returned to the Seattle Metro January 2 for the school schedule, primarily. Traveling today for me saved about $400.
The problem with this kind of travel arrangement is early morning flights and layovers. This time we landed in San Francisco, an airport I hadn't seen in over 10 years. Turns out I still wouldn't see much of it. Arriving early at MSP in anticipation of security, we were well prepared for contingencies. Or so we thought.
A three year old in an airport always presents extra challenges. Timing of bathroom stops, snacks, drinks, activities and exercise while in a high security and frenzied pace setting keeps my head on a swivel, establishing some sense of order and direction. I knew this planning and administration registered with my daughter, because she offered advice to other adults, "you have to wait your turn."
We cannot control some variables in the trip, like sitting on the plane for an extra 45 minutes or so waiting for a gate while the plane was a bit late in the first place, dealing with important substances like wing de-icer. This delay put our connection in peril. Fellow passengers graciously let us out of the plane ahead of them expediently, and we waited at the gate for the stroller that help small legs manage a long walk to the next gate.
But the stroller did not come. After five minutes, my plane was boarding, and I didn't have time to chase down United Airlines officials to locate the stroller. I made an executive decision (that's why they pay me the big bucks)--we had to go. This was a risky venture with an unpredictable three year old. I told her to run. She ran. I had our semi-bulky and awkward carry-on bag, two insanely heavy coats for the West Coast (but important for Minnesota in January), and her little carry-on. I wanted her to focus on her keeping balance and her eyes on the path before us, which included maneuvering through three moving sidewalks.
As I watched her move, encouraging her to run, pay attention, watch out for others, stay with me, etc., all that came to mind was an unfortunate comparison--O.J. Simpson cruising through a busy airport as a spokesperson for Hertz car rentals. She dodged, she spun, she bobbed and swayed, but she never fell--and she stuck with me as well as a three year old can in a sprint through an airport terminal. We ran, jogged, and walked quickly for about a half-mile.
With about 100 yards to go, she started crying. She looked like a marathon runner who had hit the proverbial "wall." There's only so much a little girl can take. She was up at 4am, yet to have a successful trip to the potty. No lunch, and had run the most in one stretch she had ever run. So I held up her Nemo stuffed toy as a makeshift motivational speaker and said, "Do you want to carry Nemo??? Run to Nemo!!!" She ran to Nemo, grabbed her toy, and continued sprinting to the gate. I stopped when I got there, and she kept going toward the plane, only to be stopped by laughing TSA officials. It almost had the same feel to it as Forrest Gump running a football for the University of Alabama. I wasn't going to stop her, but it would be a trio of laughing TSA officials doing a "Stop Forrest, Stop!" to my daughter.
Wiping the sweat from my brow, we slowed down and made it to our seats. All the while, she proclaimed orders to random seat holders, "you have to wait your turn."
We're still waiting for the stroller. We had to make a claim to get it returned from United Airlines. The employees at baggage service noted how cute my little girl is. What I didn't tell them is that she pulled off a small athletic miracle.