We crawled out of bed later on our final day in Anchorage than we had at any other point in the trip, and possibly later than either of us had gotten out of bed in our entire lives. Which makes sense, since we had also gone to bed later than usual the night before and, more importantly, we had become a couple of wimps in the years since the days when we routinely stayed up late.
It’s not as if we intended to stay up all night and sleep all day. In fact, neither of us even realized how much midnight oil we were burning each evening until we woke up the next day and wondered why we were so damned tired. And so, each day, we would wake up a little later than we had the day before and stayed up a little later than we had the night before until, by the end of our trip, we were going to bed at dawn and getting up at dusk.
It’s easy to let that sort of thing happen to you when you’re on vacation—especially if you’re on vacation in Alaska in August, where it is still a bit light out after your normal bed time and the sun starts to come up again around three in the morning. It’s even easier to let that sort of thing happen when you’re an insomniac who needs a pitch black room filled with white noise in order to fall asleep, since it requires you to wear an eye mask to block out the setting sun and to run a fan to block out normal household noises, which subsequently prevent you from noticing the rising sun and hearing the sound of other people getting up in the next day. So, you continue going to bed and sleeping increasingly later in the day until you eventually wake up with the day more than half over.
Of course, the foregoing does not apply to the Jarhead, who can fall asleep at the drop of a hat in any position and on almost any surface, and could sleep for more than a week if he had nowhere to be and didn’t have the bladder capacity of a much smaller mammal. Although he would wake with the sun like he does at home, he took advantage of my heretofore undiscovered ability to sleep during the day by popping across the hall to the restroom and hopping back in bed to catch a few more z’s until my own bladder decided it was time to wake me up.
As a result of all of this, we didn’t have time to go poking around any hills, rivers, or golf courses looking for bears before it was time to meet LaVon for dinner and head to the airport. This bothered me a bit since the Jarhead is so keen to see a bear, but at least I didn’t have to fret about whether having slept in that morning would keep me from getting to sleep that night. Since our flight was a red eye and I can’t sleep without my CPAP, fan and eye mask anyway, I had planned to read though the flight back to Minneapolis. The Jarhead, meanwhile, had planned to sleep through the flight and then awaken bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to drive home in the morning.
It was a great plan, and it would have worked out perfectly, were it not for the toddler in the row immediately behind us who seemed bent on getting into the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest sustained screaming fit in the history of mankind. I don’t fly a lot—maybe once or twice a year—but NEVER in my life have I had such a terrible flight. On some flights I’ve taken, a child has cried as the plane took off but would stop once we hit our cruising altitude and his or her ears popped. Other times a child or two has fussed a bit here and there, but even if it happened more than once—and even if the sound was ear-splitting—you at least could count on it being brief and, therefore, not likely to drive you to the brink of madness. This child—I kid you not—literally screamed through the entire flight and at the highest pitch in the history of human vocalization, and—in case you missed it earlier—was seated immediately behind us.
Now I like kids. And under almost any other circumstances, I would have been the first to offer my assistance to the poor thirty-something dude who had to misfortune of having to travel solo with that child and his or her slightly older sibling. But after the first hour, I was ready to pull my hair out by the roots and stop that screaming by any means necessary.
I won’t go so far as to say I almost killed him, but it nearly killed me to resist the urge to kill SOMEONE. In fact, it is fair to say that, were it not for the unlimited quantity of free alcohol we received from our incredibly sympathetic flight attendant things would not have turned out so well. Because if we would have had to deal with that kid’s screaming without the aid of liquor, I would have lost my mind, the plane would have been diverted to Seattle (assuming we got THAT far) and the Jarhead would have spent the last day of his vacation trying to get me out of police custody (or not, depending on what I had done, how much sleep he’d gotten beforehand, and how much it cost to get me sprung.)
The flight attendant’s strategy to deplete the airline’s liquor supply for the sake of my sanity, while noble, generous, and one hundred percent effective, was a risky one. Especially given how belligerent and/or violent someone people become while under the influence of alcohol, the plan may have backfired, and she may have found herself not only helping her passengers cope with a screaming child, but also managing a hot, blonde mess in a murderous rage.
Fortunately, I’m a happy drunk and the Jarhead is a sleepy drunk. That, combined with the complimentary personal entertainment devices we received and the flight attendant’s willingness to let us move to a pair of empty seats three rows forward, made the situation more tolerable if not better.
The singular benefit of having not slept a wink all night was that I was dead on my feet by the time we got to the car the next morning. This, along with the power outlet that allows me to use my CPAP in my car, made it possible for me to doze all the way home without worrying about how fast the we were going or wondering which of the various lakes, rivers, hills, valleys, and buildings we might crash, smash, or splash into along the way. This, in turn, gave the Jarhead the rare opportunity to drive as fast as he wanted from Minneapolis to Oshkosh without interference—at least from me.
And so, roughly four and a half hours after leaving the airport, I awoke in front of our house and only steps away from my beloved bed. Upon parking in the garage, we ditched our bags and the car, and dragged our butts, my CPAP, and my eye mask up to our room. Not wanting to sleep through the entire day again—and risk not being able to sleep that night—we set the alarm for twelve thirty, threw off our traveling clothes, and fell into bed.
Maybe it was the booze talking. Or maybe it was the fatigue. Or maybe it was an alternate personality that had grown out of the trauma from suffering through all that screaming the night before. Whatever it was, for a few short hours, in that room in our empty old house, I was glad our kids are grown and that I didn’t have to feed, bathe, burp, look after or listen to ANYBODY under three feet tall.
It was short lived, of course. I’m already back to privately imagining the various names my babies will give their babies. But for that brief moment, I was footloose and fancy free—and I liked it.
In fact, the only lasting effect I’ve observed from that trip is the impact it has had on our plans for future vacations. At the moment, anything involving air travel is out, as is any activity that puts us at risk of being in the immediate vicinity of a screaming toddler. That’s going to make all three of my dream vacations a bit tricky, of course, since you can’t exactly walk, drive, or ride a bike to Australia, Hawaii, or Puerto Rico.
One solution to this dilemma might be for the Jarhead to get his pilot’s license so we can fly wherever we want without having to deal with screaming children. It’s an interesting idea, but I doubt he’ll go for it. Not only would getting a pilot’s license be a fairly complicated—not to mention expensive—approach to managing a relatively infrequently occurring issue, it’s likely to lead to other more serious problems for both of us. After all, as nuts as I get riding along as he drives a car through mountains and around and across large bodies of water, one can only imagine what a nightmare it would be to have me riding shotgun as he pilots a plane high in the air above them.
So maybe we just need to wait and let the memories of that horrible flight fade with time. Perhaps after a while we’ll be game to fly again without fear that we’ll wind up seated in front of another screamer. That sounds a lot less expensive and dangerous than buying a plane and arranging for the Jarhead to learn how to fly it. Unfortunately, given how long it might take for me to shake my memories of that kid’s spine-rattling scream to fade, the pilot’s license might be the faster option.
Well, that’s it for the latest road trip. Thanks for tuning in and playing along. To paraphrase the airlines, I know you have a choice when it comes to your personal entertainment, and I appreciate your patronage. So, enjoy your day, and have a fabulous Thanksgiving!
P.S. Be sure to check back in the coming weeks for the next wave of rants, raves, and riffs, including the “The Rest of the Story” (where I’ll provide updates on some previous posts, like “On the Fence,” “A Very Special Cat,” and “Product Liability”) and my tribute to George Thorogood entitled “One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Beer (or, How I Survived the Holidays.)”