An Uneventful Thanksgiving Trip

On your next long-distance family get-together...

Posted Nov 25, 2016

pixabay.com, Public Domain
Source: pixabay.com, Public Domain

With Thanksgiving a busy travel time, I bought my (expensive) airline ticket and airport parking lot spot and reserved my rental car and hotel room a month in advance, hoping my travel plans wouldn’t change. I also hired someone to house-sit with my doggie Einstein, taking great pains to explain everything.

Two days before I was to leave, the  sitter cancelled. I would not put my doggie in a kennel so I used Rover.com to find someone available on Thanksgiving. Good luck. After going through some close-but-no-cigars, I finally got one. She’s disabled, so Einstein wouldn’t get his daily hike, but he’ll survive.

The day before leaving, I steeled myself into Remember Everything Mode: Pack everything consistent with the Accuweather report and the planned events. Be sure your phone, laptop, and Kindle are charged, pack your flight itinerary, rental car, hotel, and airport parking reservation, and your medication after taking it, memorize the Psychology Today login and password, and check in for the flight.

The morning of departure, I took Einstein on a long hike to hold him for the three days he’d have to do without.

The housesitter came right on time but there were more things to explain that I had counted on. For example, I had Googled her and saw that she was a pot legalization advocate. We had to have a discussion about whether she should smoke pot while caring for Einstein. She assured me she only smokes enough for pain control—and that she’d be fine. I didn’t have much choice. I gulped and agreed.

My wife had said she likes using the valet parking at the airport—they have the car up front when you return. So I had to show the attendant my paperwork so it could be upgraded. Alas, as I was taking the bags from my car, he put the paperwork into the car (to which was stapled my boarding pass, flights itinerary, car rental reservation, and hotel reservation.) I didn’t notice that nor did I remember to ask for it back, and so off I went on the car rental shuttle to the airport. As mentioned, I had made the car rental reservation a month ago, and thought Priceline gave me Avis but I was only 90 percent sure, so when I got on the plane, I’d have to call to see.

When I got to airport security and went to pull out my boarding pass, I realized it was in my car. I had to get a new boarding pass. It’s still not late….until I see the TSA line—longer than the longest lines at Disneyland. I flash on the old days when it was five minutes from lobby to airplane, and once on, I’d play the piano in the piano bars that were on American Airlines 747s.

As chance would have it, I was not TSA PreCheck and so it was 45 minutes of stressful waiting. Now I barely have enough time to get on the flight.

At the gate, the clerk tells me there probably isn’t room in the overhead for my bag. He asks me to check it. I plead for a chance to try. He allows me and I manage to find a place to stuff in my bag.

I now call Avis. While the reservationist is asking me questions, the flight attendant is loudly issuing instructions. I can’t hear the reservationist. Finally, she tells me she can’t find a reservation under my name. The flight attendant tells me it’s time to turn off my phone and stands over me until I do. I explain I need one more moment. I’m still feeling confident it was Avis so I asked the reservationist to double-check. She asks me for additional information and finds it.

As soon as the plane takes off, tired, I take a nap. Fifteen minutes later, I feel tapping on my shoulder but I’m in a deep sleep. The tapping continues. It’s the passenger next to me—She wants to get out to put something in her overhead. End of nap. I can’t get myself back to sleep.

So I turn on my laptop to start writing this article. The cursor freezes and I get the blue-screen of death. Because the cursor is frozen, I can’t even shut down the computer, so I commit a computer sin—I just turn off the power and try to reboot. It gives me another scary message—"Your computer was not shut down properly. Do you want to go into Safe Mode?" I won’t bore you with the details but finally the computer works.

After reaching the point where I needed a break from writing, I decided to look for a game to play on the seat-back screen. Okay, Hangman. I’m a word guy—I need a win. I pull out the controller. It doesn’t work. I call the attendant. “Sorry. I’d have you change seats but the plane is full."

My flight is on time, actually 15 minutes early, so I call my wife at the hotel (she had come two days earlier) to let her know I’d be there soon. Alas, there’s only one way things can go as planned and an infinite number of ways they can go wrong. I take the airport train to the rental car shuttle stop. Every rental car company’s van was there except Avis. Fifteen minutes later, now 11:30 PM, I’m at the rental counter but there was only one reservationist and the guy in front of me was annoyed that he had reserved a full-size car and only got a BMW 3 series. It took 15 minutes to satisfy him. 

It’s 12:30 AM and I finally arrive at the hotel room. The lights are out, my wife is sleeping, so I have to blindly put my stuff away, get ready for bed, and silently crawl in next to my wife for a much needed hug.

Thanksgiving morning goes well, highlighted by my playing “Grandpa Monster” chasing my grandkids around a community park filled with great kids, playing beautifully with each other.

Despite having just written a PsychologyToday.com article on how to avoid overeating on Thanksgiving, I probably consumed 2,000 calories, including the wine and the best cheese I’ve ever eaten: Bijou goat cheese.

Unaccustomed as I am to dining with five- and seven-year-olds, I was amused—okay, eventually a little annoyed—at the amount of their full-throated yelling and singing before, during, and after Thanksgiving dinner, including repeated chants of “pumpkin pie” followed by repeated chants of “whipped cream.”

I enjoy talking politics but with the wide range of powerfully held positions, like the 53 percent who were nervous about talking politics this Thanksgiving, I had to exert all restraint for hours—Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time to relax, not have to be so vigilant, but vigilance is the best word I can come up with for me on Thanksgiving.

I stop to think. All of this happened without any of the more common problems occurring: car trouble, traffic, flight delay.

I still have one more day left before our cross-country flight back home but I think you get the point.

The Takeaway

Some people love making a big trip for a holiday get-together. But many others do it out of obligation. If that’s you, perhaps you might want to think twice the next time. But in reality, most people, including me, will continue doing it, perhaps dutifully, as one of the prices of maintaining relationship with family.

Marty Nemko’s bio is in Wikipedia. His newest book, his 8th, is The Best of Marty Nemko.