Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Once again, I prove myself to be the unluckiest traveller in the world, or, why DIA is the greatest airport ever

I feel like it's one of those times when the Universe is piling on.  I'm doing OK, but I don't think I've ever been so emotionally or physically tired, and the stress of the past few weeks is starting to take its toll on my body.

Last Thursday, my dad came into town for a visit/business trip.  Zeke is completely enamored of his grandfather, exclaiming "papa!" in a voice full of love whenever he sees him.  (Of course my dad eats it up, saying things like, "I love you too, Zekey, and the pony will be delivered next week.")  Jason came home for the weekend that night, and we were planning on a nice weekend, meeting up with some friends from Atlanta who were coming through town, taking Zeke to the park, and just generally relaxing.  

Then my mom called on Friday afternoon to tell me that my Grandpa Leo had died.  He was 93, still in full command of his faculties, living alone after my grandmother's death, volunteering at a hospital 3 days a week.  He wasn't sick at all.  

But I think he was tired and lonely.  Tired both because he was old and slowing down, but also tired of being the one to outlive his wife and most of his friends.  And lonely from missing my grandmother, to whom he was married for 65 years and whom he cherished and adored until the end.

Friday he went to the pool in his apartment complex to read and sit in the sun.  Sometime in the afternoon, he went back to his car.  And he just died in the car (not driving it, but while he was sitting in it).  I'm assuming it was a stroke or a massive coronary or something.  And that was it.

The troops rallied and started making plans to head to Detroit for the memorial service.  My entire family flew in on Saturday, including Zeke and my dad and me.  It was nice to have my dad with us while we were travelling, because navigating airports and airplanes with a toddler is challenging.  Not because Zeke is difficult or ill-behaved, because actually, he was awesome.  But because there's so much goddamned stuff involved.  The stroller, the car seat, bags full of diapers and butt paste and snacks and extra clean clothes and truck books and toys.  

Saturday we parked at the Denver airport, and made our way to the elevator to go up to the ticketing area.  I was lugging the carseat, the diaper bag/carry-on, and a suitcase.  Dad had the stroller and his big duffel bag.  We got to the elevator, and I held the door open so Dad could get the stroller in.  

I was still holding my car keys in my hand - the hand that was on the elevator door to keep it from closing.  The door moved a little bit, and my hand jostled, and the keys fell.... between the inner and outer elevator doors, down down down the elevator shaft.  I heard a "plink" as they hit metal and then the floor, stories below us.  

It was like I was watching it in slow motion, a feeling of horror spreading over my body.  "This isn't happening.  No way did that just happen," I thought to myself.

Dad got down on his hands and knees to try to retrieve them, as if they were simply stuck an inch or so below the door opening.

"Don't bother,"  I said.  "They're gone.  I heard them fall down the elevator shaft."

And of course, as I've explained in the past, my car key isn't just an ordinary key that I can take to the hardware store to have copies made.  It's a Mercedes "smart key" that synchs up with the car via laser or some such shit.  And it's the only one I have.  And the only way to get it replaced is to take proof of ownership and ID down to the Mercedes dealership so they can order a new one.  And it costs over $200.

All I could think was, "Motherfucker.  If I don't get the key back, I can't retrieve my car from parking when we come back into town.  I'll have to rent a car and keep incurring $18 a day in parking fees.  Plus once you order the new key, it takes them like a week to make it and send it out.  Shit shit shit shit shit shit."

So then the question was, what to do?  We had a plane to catch in an hour, security lines to get through, and somehow figure out who in the airport we could talk to that might be able to help with the key situation.  

We figured we'd check in and get our boarding passes, and then deal with it.  We asked three different airport employees what to do, and finally the last one took down my name, my number, a description of the keys, and the number of the elevator shaft where they had fallen.  She assured me that the keys would be retrieved.  I was dubious, but there was nothing left to do.  We went through security and caught our plane.

The flight was uneventful.  Zeke played with trucks and looked at his books and charmed our seat mates.  When we got to Detroit and went to get our luggage, my suitcase and Dad's duffel made it, but the carseat was nowhere to be found.   It hadn't made the plane.

"Of course," I thought to myself.  "Why shouldn't this trip be a total fucking nightmare, rather than simply somewhat hellish?"

But, United Airlines gave me a loaner carseat, and brought me mine when it made the next flight.  The next few days were difficult and tiring, but it was good to see my family and celebrate my grandfather's life.*

Of course, in the back of my mind, I was thinking about my car keys.  I was convinced that I was totally screwed and that I would never get the keys back.

But sure enough, when Zeke and I got off the plane yesterday, we made our way over to the Denver airport's lost and found.  And there were my keys, with the key ring itself slightly mangled, but otherwise no worse for the wear.  

Maybe my bad travelling mojo is changing.
*I'll write about it another time.  


  1. Wendy,

    I'm sorry about your grandfather and sorry for the mishaps along the way to Detroit, but so happy for you that you had a pleasant flight and you got your keys back!

  2. Thanks, Dawn. I'm still in shock that the keys were recovered.

  3. Oh Wendy, what a trip, but so good that your dad was with you to help...I want to hear all about it...And again, I'm really sorry about your grandfather, but you know, I can understand that about him being lonely and outlving everyone especially your Nana was never the same after Papa died and little by little she was the last one and was just not happy about it....
    And your keys recovered! Your mojo is on the upswing...

  4. I read your post with bated breath...did she get her keys? Did she? WHEW! YAY! She did!

    I lost my grandma this year too, Wendy. I was sad, but like your dear grandfather, she went the way she wanted to go. And like you, I'm sad, but happy she never had to spend time in a nursing home or elderly facility. Last Christmas she actually said to me, "I didn't even want to live this long."

  5. Elizabeth and Anne -- He was definitely ready to go. A few months ago, my cousin was in Detroit for Passover, and talking to my grandpa about how healthy he was and how he would live longer than his father did (my great grandpa lived to be 101). Leo said, "God, I hope not."

  6. Oh, Wendy, I'm sorry about your grandfather. I think he was lucky in that he'd lived a long, full life and was ready to go. But still, it's hard.

    Also, remind me not to travel with you. Happy ending - they found them down the elevator shaft! - but still!

  7. Deena and I will never forget dancing with Leo at your wedding, it was among the many highlights of the day. My grandmother, in perfect health, had a heart attack exactly a week after my grandfather died. She lived 7 more years in excellent health but was never the same. I'm sorry for the drama of your trip but am glad that your dad was with you....and am glad that Leo can be content- dancing with his bride again.

  8. Lisa -- you definitely don't ever want to travel with me. I'm bad news.

    Andrea -- When I think about my grandpa, one of the things that always gives me a chuckle is how much he loved women, and how much he loved to dance, and how those two things were so much in evidence at my wedding. Deena's reaction to him holding her a little too close -- "I didn't have the heart to tell him I play for the other team" -- was priceless. And you're right, he is dancing with his bride again, which is as it should be. xoxo

  9. Wow, when it rains, it pours, eh? Well, I hope things get better and I am sorry for your loss, Wendy...