Bah humbug to holiday travel

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Jolie, our middle child, lives in New York City. She recently had some knee surgery. She couldn't fly until her knee healed, so she couldn't come home for the holidays.

"I've been thinking," Annie chirped.

"That's too bad," I said.

"We should go to New York for Christmas."

"What?"

"Otherwise Jolie will be all alone. We'll keep her company and lift her spirits. Just think, honey, it'll be soooooo much fun!"

Annie bounded around the kitchen like the Energizer Bunny.

"Not a good idea," I said. "Traveling on short notice is expensive. And holiday travel is a disaster. It's always a disaster. We'll end up stranded in a noisy airport with thousands of grumpy people. It'll be a nightmare ... "

"Lordy, Lordy, Lordy, Sam. You'd let your very own daughter spend Christmas Day alone, watching "Friends" reruns and eating kidney beans from a can, just because you've got a screwed-up, bad attitude about holiday travel?"

"Don't even start," I interrupted. "There's nothing screwed-up about it. Remember Thanksgiving?"

"One miserable trip and you decide every trip's gonna be miserable."

"And the Christmas trip we took two years ago."

"Goodness, Sam. That was two whole years ago. You can be so pessimistic sometimes. Well you can stay here if you want, but I'm not letting Jolie spend Christmas alone in New York just because you're fretting about a little inconvenience. I'm not so frail that I can't stand a tiny bit of holiday travel hassle to be with my very own daughter who is all the way over there in New York, in that big city all alone, struggling to get along as best she can, hobbling around on crutches in her tiny little kitchen, trying to open a can of kidney beans with a screwdriver."

"A screwdriver?"

"A little hyperbole, Sam. You know very well what I mean."

That conversation took place a week or so before Christmas. You may remember that it was kinda foggy here in Walla Walla for a few days leading up to Christmas.

"Foggy?" Annie quips. "Like dog-paddling through nonfat milk. Couldn't see your hand in front of your face."

The lines at the airport were long.

"Long?" Annie says. "Out the door, across the parking lot, into the wheat stubble. I thought I was gonna freeze out there."

When we got inside the airport building, we heard the loudspeaker announcement that our flight was delayed.

"Delayed? Hah! I knew that was a lie. We shoulda gone straight home."

We hung around in the noisy departure area with a lot of grumpy people for a few hours before the flight was cancelled.

"Departure area? That place was a cage. I felt like a zoo critter behind that glass. And grumpy! You mean RUDE, honey. You remember the old lady in the Santa hat? The old witch who whacked me with her cane just because I stumbled over her dog crate? I didn't mean to. I didn't hurt the dern dog."

We picked our way home through the fog, ate a sandwich, regrouped, and trudged back to the airport where we waited for the afternoon flight to Seattle--hoping to get a seat.

"STANDBY!" Annie says. "We were there first. We already had one flight cancelled. Wasn't fair to make us wonder whether we'd get a seat. Gave me a full-blown anxiety attack."

Luckily, we got the last two seats on the plane.

"Next to the bathroom," Annie says. "Smelled like a sewer back there."

It was a bumpy flight to Seattle. We waited eight hours at SeaTac for a flight to New York. The place was bedlam.

"Can you believe they ran out of clam chowder? All I wanted was a measly cup of chowder. You think that was too much to ask?"

We ended up on an overnight flight to JFK and finally arrived in New York about 12 hours later than we'd planned--just ahead of a blizzard that shut the city down for the next 48 hours.

We spent most of those 48 hours in Jolie's tiny apartment, watching "Friends" reruns, looking out the window at snow coming down sideways, trying to open cans of cold beans with a screwdriver.

"It was a nightmare," Annie says.

If you'd like to read more of Sam's musings on life, visit his new and improved website at www.sammcleod.net and get yourself a copy of his latest book, "Big Appetite."

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