Andrea and I have safely arrived back in Phoenix after a long and excruciating flight that probably took ten years off my life. All the mechanics went well with flights more or less on time, etc., but my little girl who was such an angel on the flight to Sweden was nowhere close to her best behavior on the flight back.
Can’t really blame her, as it’s a very long flight for a three-year-old, and she was pretty strung out from all the new impressions during the visit, but when you’re six hours in to a 24-hour journey and the nervous breakdown looms closer and closer, finding that inner reservoir of parental patience and wisdom grows increasingly hard.
Here’s a short breakdown of how the journey went:
3 AM Swedish Time (7 PM Arizona time): Reveille and breakfast in Swedish winter darkness after much too few hours of sleep.
4 AM ST: Get in car for four-hour drive to Arlanda airport in Stockholm. Child sleeps most of the way. Her dad, on the other hand, has been cursed with an utter inability to sleep in moving vehicles of any kind.
8 AM ST: Arrive at airport. Wake cranky child and go stand in line for flight. Child is extremely unhappy about leaving her grandparents behind.
8:30 AM ST: Go through security and head to gate. Child wants to explore airport.
8:45 AM ST: Go through second randomly placed security check. Passports and boarding passes are still valid, go figure.
8:55 AM ST: Go stand in line to go through the security check at the gate. The line is long and the child does not enjoy standing in it, preferring instead to roam. This is not so good. Sweat is dripping from dad.
9:20 AM ST: Get through security checkpoint at gate. Passports and boarding passes are still somehow valid. Dad does not find three security checkpoints to stand in line for at all excessive. No, sir. Fill out some random bulls**t form necessitated by child having an American passport.
9:40 AM ST: Child decides to start crawling around inside the gate and thinks the word “no” is daddy code for “giggle and do what you want.” Child decides to run as far away as possible inside gate and thinks dad running behind yelling “no” means that this is a fun game. Dad is angry and sweating.
9:45 AM ST: Thank you Baby Jesus, they’re boarding the flight.
10:15 AM ST: Seated on plane. Child does not wish to put on seat belt. Much persuasion happens. Child screams.
10:30 AM ST: Plane starts to pull back from gate then stops. Ominous music starts. Pilot gets on intercom and announces that due to the extreme cold and fog, the tractor that was supposed to push the plane from the gate couldn’t get traction, so another tractor had to be found.
10:40 AM ST: Yay! Airborne! The fasten seat belts sign goes off. Dad dishes up things to amuse child. They work for about 20 minutes and then she’s bored.
Hours pass: Child sleeps for about two hours. The rest of the time is spent walking around the aisles, complaining that she wants to go home, and demanding constant attention.
12:50 PM Chicago Time (7:50 PM ST): Arrival at O’Hare. Go through immigration, where Child sees another child with a suitcase cart and decides she wants one, no, must have one. Pick up bags to go through customs, drop bags off, get on train to go from Terminal 5 to Terminal 1. Go through the security checkpoint at Terminal 1. Put shoes back on after check point. Drink a lot of water and sweat like a pig from carrying bags and keeping child from running away. Curse Gods.
1:50 PM CT: Find gate. Child is hungry. Walk ten minutes back to McDonald’s. Get burger and fries for child. Sit down with child at gate. Child accidentally kicks the fries on to the ground. Dad picks up fries and throws them, explaining to child that they are dirty and are not to be eaten. Child demands dad go buy new clean fries. Dad explains to child that the flight will board in fifteen minutes and there is no time to get new fries. Child will have to make do with the hamburger. Child demands Happy Meal toy which dad did not pick up. For some reason dad is a bit tired. Child demands to play with other children in the gate area. Dad thinks child should focus on eating her burger. Dad finds out that the flight has moved to another gate. Move to other gate, which is thankfully close by. Child eats half of burger, which is a sort of record for her and must mean she was starved.
2:20 PM CT: Child decides she must have a suitcase cart right now. Throws huge temper tantrum at gate.
2:50 PM CT: Plane f**ing finally starts boarding. Child is still extremely angry about dad’s lack of ability to magic a Hello Kitty suitcase cart into being.
3:20 PM CT: Plane sits at gate. Dad has yet another big discussion with child about the importance of putting on the seat belt when the light comes on.
3:30 PM CT: Fasten seat belts sign comes on. Child does not want to put on seat belt. Plane sits at gate for no apparent reason. Child starts to stand up on seat. Dad wonders how high his blood pressure can get before something ruptures.
3:40 PM CT: Plane leaves gate. Child is sitting with seat belt on after blood dripping warnings about the furious wrath of her mother when we get to Phoenix and the excruciatingly long time-outs that will ensue.
Hours pass: A blur of stress.
6 PM Phoenix Time (5 PM CT): Child succumbs to weariness and falls asleep. Dad spends a few minutes reading the novel he had optimistically brought along.
6:40 PM PT: Flight lands. Child is completely fried and does not want to wake up.
7 PM PT: Go to luggage claim and meet child’s mother. Wait 30 minutes for bags to appear.
8 PM PT (4 AM Swedish Time): Arrive at home. Dad takes off shirt and sees that his black T-shirt is covered in dried salt from profuse sweating.
After all these years, Nic still can’t understand the American attitude to healthcare.
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