Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Rory Daddy Adventure Trip

So I am doing my quarterly blog post in Erica's Blog.  I wrote this yesterday but turns out I am posting it today.  Hope you enjoy!  TJH

I’m back out on the road, a short 3 day trip to Denver.  Started with my 4:45 AM wake up, at the airport by 5:30 AM, cleared security by 5:50 AM, breakfast at French Meadow CafĂ© done at 6:20 AM, boarding started at 6:40 AM for my 7:15 AM flight that was wheels up by 7:20 AM.  In my world, this routine is as mundane and nondescript as brushing teeth or driving to work the same way every day. 

Rory and Emerson
But today as we took off, I missed Rory.  And not the normal “miss Rory” but “especially miss Rory”. 
My last trip before this was the “Rory and Daddy Adventure Trip” to Chicago for my niece’s Christening and family time with the Husted clan.  Erica took her own adventure trip to Nashville to run a half marathon.   Both trips were successful. 

Rory and I had a blast hanging out with my siblings and their kids as well as Grandma and Pop.  We ate Dunkin Donuts, Combo (Sausage and Beef, who could go wrong?) and Deep Dish Pizza.  We went to baseball practice with Annie, tickled Alex and gave lots of hugs and head kisses to Emerson.   As for Erica, she set a personal record and finished in the top 50% of her division; a huge accomplishment for which she trained hard to achieve. 

But today as I got on the plane, I had to laugh thinking about my trip with Rory.  For me (and Rory) it was our first trip on a plane with just the two of us.  Rory has flown a decent amount with Erica, and since she was a young age so she isn’t too unnerved by the process.  For me the adjustment was to add someone to the routine which for me is a very solitude based routine; for all the traveling I do, I rarely have co-workers with me and even when I do; we generally don’t sit together on planes etc.

I’m not one who believes Dad’s should get a handicap when it comes to parenting.  A parent, male or female, has the same ability to be a good parent; but you have to be willing to work at things.  I’ll give you an example; I can carry Rory a lot longer than Erica can even with the disadvantage of flat hips.  But Erica also carries Rory when it is needed.  Erica has years of experience dealing with long hair; for me it is a new challenge but one that I take on with energy and humility. 

So my first success was when 2 different Moms complimented me when I was asked to put in two pony tails and pulled it off in the security line.  That gave me confidence! 

Speaking of the security line, that was our first challenge. 

The best way to describe my approach to airport timing is simple, “just in time”.  I show up, get through my gold status security line and move quickly through the airport most days when I don’t need to catch a meal before I fly.  Rory and I were on a 8:30 flight on Delta where I have gold status – so we showed up at 7:00 AM to find the status bag check line was going to be 30-45 mins and the status security line was going to be 15-30; the airport was a total mess 

Delta was handicapped with a large group of 15 travelers who all had 17 pieces of luggage and what from my experience says was a staffing shortage (guessing someone called in sick).   My handicap was going to be the 2nd set of short legs and the fact that our flight was taking off from the furthest gate possible without the benefit of the tram.

Rory was awesome in the lines, she followed the person, put on chap stick, took many compliments from others in the line about her awesome Owl Bag and in general asked questions.  Her favorite part of the line was the fact that while sitting on the “Sky Priority” rug she found that she could spell her favorite word “R-O-R-Y” and the letters were “in line” which I think she meant in order!

The security line was quicker than we thought which was needed since the bag check line was longer and Rory enjoyed the sticker she got from the TSA office which his actually a genius way to get a 2.5 year old to walk by herself through the security gate; to her she was walking to get a sticker!   We grabbed our stuff, packed our bags up, strapped on the owl bag on Rory’s back, my normal bag on my back and we did our own race to the gate.  Rory asked a few times why we were running and why I was holding her like a sack of potatoes but in general she enjoyed the walk/run laughing a few times in the process.

As we walked up to the gate they announced our boarding group 1.  Rory and I would be enjoying our Economy Comfort seats but since we were on a 2-3 configuration and all the 2 seats sides were taken we’d be joined in our row by another lucky passenger.  When we got to row 7, we met our row companion who I felt horrible finding out had just gotten in on the Delta Red Eye from SFO and was heading to Chicago for a weekend with old college friends.  I was sure he would want to sleep so Rory took the window seat and I took the middle. 

Rory asked for the air blowers, opened and closed the window shade a dozen times and smiled at the people boarding the plane in Zones 2, 3 and Stowage.  But in general she was totally cool with the entire thing.  She was fairly focused on the seat belt sign once I showed her how it worked but somehow believed that when it was on it needed to be on and when it was off it needed to be off – we worked through that issue a few times on the plane (mostly cause she likes doing the buckle herself).

And this had me thinking, Rory didn’t watch the safety demonstration in any form, she is a normal average 2.5 year old girl.  Yet she was able to figure out the lap belt without any issue/hesitate or confusion.  She just put on her seat belt; so who is the person who needs that part of the FFA safety demonstration anyhow? 

Take off was fun for Rory but quickly she asked to watch Mickey, put on my big white headphones since we could not find her personal headphones and plugged into my iPad to watch 2 episodes of Mickey on the short 48 min flight.  We got to Chicago and of course as a non-Hub for Delta we were at the furthest gate from the elevators.  At this point I was still tired from the Americans Strongest Man competition human carry run I did at MSP and Rory was NOT interesting in being carried through the airport so we embarked on the longest walk in the history of ORD.  It took us what seemed like 40 mins to get to elevator. 

So once we caught up to my baggage I needed a solution; and then it hit me; Rory could hang on to my bag as I pulled it.  Although lower on the safety scale than Erica likes it is way high on the Rory fun scale that Rory likes and Erica was no where to be found – so I asked Rory if she could hold on to my bag and she said “yes”.  So as we now moved quickly through the baggage hall heading out to the pick up circle; Rory got to enjoy a ride hanging on the back of my wheel luggage with an owl bag on her back.  And as she laughed, people looked at us and in my head I assume they either saw me as a modern day genius or simply laughed at the sight of a 2.5 year old laughing while hanging on for dear life on the back of luggage. 
It was awesome to spend time with our family; come Monday when it was time to go home we were both bummed and ready to see Mommy.  We were also fairly tired from a long weekend of activities and a rough night sleep that included falling out of Alex’s bed in the middle of the night. 

(Aside story:  When I went in at midnight to check on Rors I found her laying on the ground, so I did what ANY good parent would do and quickly went and found my cell phone to take the picture.  That picture was quickly shared to Mommy via text and then we put Rory back in bed.  The next morning we debriefed the night which had me up 3-4 times and an earlier wake up than we wanted and I asked her if she fell out of bed which to my shock I was told “No” a few times.  So after being confronted with the picture, Rory simply had one question for me “why is my head under the bed Daddy?”.)

So we had an 11:15 AM scheduled flight home.  That said, my job gave me the experience to know that we were in for a potential of flight delays based on visibility and the need to increase the flight buffer on the ground at ORD.  But Chicago traffic is hard to predict and so we ended up at the airport fairly early 9:15 AM and turns out security with a 2.5 year old in ORD has a separate line and process (expedited security/TSA precheck) which keeps all our items in our bag, keeps our clothes on us and gets us past security by 9:20 AM.  With the announced 1 hour flight delay; me and the TSA ID check agent knew I was in for a long 3 hours in the terminal.  I was impressed with the TSA ID check agent who let me know that there was a kids play area just to the left of security and that it locked on both sides to keep the kids in there and safe. 

So we went to the play are where Rory got to fake fly planes, run around, knock over a boy who had to be way older than him but only spoke Italian and generally get some energy out.  She had fun till she had to go potty and we left for the bathroom in a hurry.  With a line 7 families deep in the family bathroom and the chaos of the men’s bathroom in the terminal , Rory was not going to find a place to go potty I feared till I remembered that I could take a guest into the Sky Club.  There were no rules about the agent of said guests and they had nicer bathrooms that Rory could probably relax.  (first world 2.5 year old problems I know). 
As we walked into the Sky Club, we were greeted by a “big time big shot” business man who was demanding using the F word that he be allowed in since he was flying domestic business class.  The Delta agent was being polite to him till the minute she saw Rory and heard the next F bomb – she immediately admonished him for using bad language around children, asked him to move the slide and came over to get my ID and boarding pass. She took enjoyment as she welcomed Rory to the Sky Club.  It was probably over the top as we walked down the hallway and the guy started yelling again and Rory turned back and looked at him with a smirk that probably didn’t mean anything but in my head was Rory telling “big time big shot” where he fell in the world pecking order or at least of airline affinity programs!

She did notice the nice bathroom and then we found our seats which she loved the cool moving table.  We got to eat all the free raisins, baby carrots and muffins we wanted; Dad had OJ and Rory had water.  She put on her headphones, watched Mickey and got lots of looks from the business travelers who were not used to see a 2.5 year old who was acting like one of them.  Some laughed, others said they were impressed but since Rory had my headphones on, she was oblivious to her success in this adult micro-world.  I worked some email and we hung in the Sky Club for about and hour and half before it was time for us to head to our gate. 

A slight extension to our flight delay and then we were ready to get on the plane.  This time it would be just her and I in a 2x2 configuration.  She spent time looking out the window, talking about a the different types of trucks she saw, asked about various things that I’m not sure are possibly explained to 2.5 year olds and then we took off.  Again I had advanced warning but the flight was as bad a flight as I have flow in the past 6 months, the cabin crew was asked to stay seated the entire flight. Rory did not really comment on it once which shocked me considering the middle aged woman in front of us and the nervous 22 year old Chinese national next to be seemed to talk about it the entire flight.  Rory read me a book (Good Night Gorilla) and then watched her Mickey. 

We landed and parked again way out but now Rory would get to ride the “airport train” which is fun and soon we had our baggage and a quick baggage ride over to the parking lot and we were strapped in and ready to head home.  Rory buckled her own car seat BEFORE I could do the safety briefing and we headed down Rory’s favorite part of the entire experience, the circular ramp of the parking garage. 

After I paid for parking, I looked back to check on Rory and I was reminded how tough and tiring it is to travel, she was already fast asleep in the time it took for me to find my credit card and pay the parking tab.  She was a trooper all day and realized she could now just relax which resulted in her very late afternoon nap. 

I miss Rory today, she made flying so much more fun and adventurous.  Today’s flight is boring, mundane and routine.  I wish I could take Rory on all my business trips; although I’m not sure my PowerPoint presentations and audit document can beat Mickey on my iPad.

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