Why did I pack my ruby slippers?

Bottom half of Dorothy wearing ruby slippers with magic wand

There’s no place like home.

I’m having a good hair day, but I look like I have leukemia because of a stressful return voyage. But first the vacation in a nutshell: it was heaven. J. and I delighted in the beautiful oceanfront setting, the sea lions, the sun, and the fish tacos. But we were both missing home by the time of Sunday’s departure.

Our trip there may have been a comedy of our errors, but the trip home was a comedy of the airline’s. Because there are no direct flights, we connected through Denver with a one-hour layover. We knew we were in trouble when our first flight was delayed. Divine intervention could not have gotten us to our second flight; we could only hope the connector would depart late.

Did you know that the Denver airport is 1-1/2 miles long? Our first flight was arriving at one end, and our connector leaving from the other. Moving walkways aside, my cancerous body wasn’t up to running 1-1/2 miles. But able-bodied Judy’s was. She arrived at the gate to find that our second flight had just departed. With no outbound flights to Calgary, we’d be sleeping in Denver.

Ironically, our customer services assistant at the United desk had recently left a position at a cancer centre to deal with grumpy people who’d missed their flights. How could working at a cancer centre be more stressful than dealing with the angry masses all day? From this woman, we learned that all flights to Canada had been oversold for days. She suggested itineraries with connecting flights in various cities that were farther from our final destination and had lengthy layovers. Eventually she issued us boarding passes for an oversold direct flight the following morning, telling us we’d have a 50/50 chance of getting on. She also suggested we leave our luggage at the airport, where it would be redirected. (Yes, this is foreshadowing.)

I can’t tell you whether Denver is a nice city. We rode for 1/2 an hour down a dark freeway, where we were put up in a hotel with other disgruntled travellers. We dragged ourselves back onto that shuttle at 5:30 the next morning so we’d be first in line at our gate. When the agent arrived, we were informed that we would indeed have seats on the flight because we had boarding passes. Big sigh of relief. We didn’t realize until later that this agent also threw out our baggage claim stickers. (More foreshadowing.)

And so we arrived in Calgary a day late, exhausted from stress and sleeplessness but no worse for wear, only to learn that our bags had asserted their independence and flown to Chicago. I guess they weren’t ready for the vacation to end. But we are now home, and guess what just showed up? Our adventure-seeking bags that we couldn’t prove were ours. But the nice woman gave them to us anyhow.

I have failed this latest test on letting go of the things I can’t control. I was utterly panicked by this turn of events, and my exhaustion amplified my stress. I was especially overwhelmed by the possibility that I would run out of my medication, chemotherapy included, since I had only one extra day’s dosing with me. I never miss a dose.

We had a great trip but I’m glad to be home. We’d had a busy week by my standards, and I wasn’t up for this last adventure. Next time, direct flights only. Oh, and we won’t forget our passports.


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