I arrived safely in Newark, meandered through Immigration and Customs, and made my way to the gate of my flight to Indianapolis. I got to be the B*&%h who opted out of the scanning machine on the way to my gate, and the TSA agent reminded me several times that it might take a while to get someone to do the required groping if I opted out. I told him I had plenty of time to wait, and was happy to let all the passers by see me being groped by the nice lady who was almost as uncomfortable as I was with the whole thing. (side note: Do you feel safer knowing I got a thorough groping?) It could have been worse. Some poor Pakistani guy with a 16 letter long name was standing there getting berated and interrogated for the entire time I was in line and waiting to get groped, all because they had cut off part of his name on his printed ticket. Neither of these are good jet-lagged surprises.
Little did I know that once I got through security ridiculousness, I was actually entering the 1st ring of HELL. The entire gate area was filled to the brim with people sitting in every possible empty space on the floor and lines streaming out of all the food kiosks. I found the departure monitors and quickly figured out what was going on. Cancellations and delays were the order of the day, due to the ongoing sequester-induced furloughs of the air traffic controllers. (Funny enough, I read that the Senate "fixed" this problem the very next day. I wonder how many people called their Senator from the airport?) My flight was delayed for 2.5 hours, making my total waiting time 5 hours in the hot & cramped staging area. I found an open seat with a nice neighbor. He was traveling from Kenya and had my traveling time beat by a good 10 hours already. I impressed him with my knowledge of African geography and ability to sing the Jambo tourist song in Kiswahili. (Anthropologists are serious travel dorks!) The next guy that sat down next to me was a Merchant Marine Union Representative full of travel stories and working on a speech he was to give the next day. We chatted. I watched Inception on my iPad. We waited. Much frustration surrounded me, but I tried to remember how lucky I was to be traveling by myself and not having to deal with figgety kids.
When I finally got on the plane to Indy, it was full and everyone was in surprisingly jovial moods considering the circumstances. The flight attendant cracked jokes and we all laughed at the ridiculous situation we were in and how it was congress' fault instead of the airlines for once. I slept. I slept that kind of sleep when you aren't even aware of closing your eyes and somehow wake up because the plane has started its final descent and your ears are popping. I chugged a cup of coffee.
I deplaned. I did a zombie walk to baggage claim and my suitcase actually came out 3rd in line.Scenes from the Indianapolis Airport Baggage Claim:
I found the van to take me to my car that was waiting for me at a nearby hotel. I paid for my extra days (since I missed my earlier flight), and got in the car. I filled up the gas tank, got a gigantic coffee, and started on my way home to Evansville. It was 11:15pm in Indianapolis and my body had NO idea what time it was. I arrived in Evansville 3 hours later at 1:15am (having gained an hour when I crossed the invisible line into central time). I laid down in bed exhausted and struggled to fall asleep. It was 9:30am in Berlin after all.
4:30am arrived, and I was WIDE awake after a short nap. I read until 6am and then I listened for the sound of rustling kids in the morning. That familiar plunk, pitter patter pitter patter didn't come for another 1/2 an hour and I layed there listening like a kid on Christmas morning. Andy had told the girls I wouldn't be home until Friday afternoon, which had been a possibility. They had no idea I was there.
Mayzie came in first. She squealed, "Mommy!" and then ran to come give me cuddles in bed. Annika heard her, and exclaimed, "Mama!!!" She came running to join the cuddle puddle in our bed. She crawled in my lap and promptly chastised, "Mama, don't you ever leave us like that again."
"I won't sweetheart. I won't."
Those cuddles were the best surprises a jet-lagged mama could have ever asked for after such an exhausting journey. Berlin was amazing, but home is where my family is.