The Journey to No Man’s Land

“Life is a journey, not a destination.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson really whacked the nail on the head with that one, didn’t he? The mere experience of relocating to No Man’s Land is indeed a journey.  A journey that conjures up images of the treacherous voyage to Hell!

An unexpected job transfer has my family packing up and moving to a place with cows and cornfields, without the knowledge of where exactly we would live or even where the boys would go to school. We did manage to book a hotel for one week, so that’s a promising start.

Traveling as a family is notoriously dangerous territory, especially at the airport. We’re all hauling hefty carry-on bags, while I’m also loaded down with a large purse that could easily fit a small whale, and the zipper is about to bust right off the jam-packed suitcase.

When it’s time to check in the baggage, it’s discovered our suitcase is 15 pounds over the 50 pound weight limit. Paying $75 in overage fees? Not going to happen.

After 20 minutes of chaotic rearranging, the 9 year old now totes around a 45 pound carry-on of coloring books, shoes, bras, superhero action figures, underwear, crayons, and other random goodness.

Our sulking preteen child, hauling a backpack crammed with his nine pairs of Converse shoes and six electronic devices, sets of the metal detector.

A TSA agent glances at him, gives him a once-over with the wand, and sends him on through.

Guess which bag gets flagged in the x-ray scanner for search? That’s right, the 9 year old’s backpack with Batman and all the underwear.

“Is this your bag, sweetie?” the TSA agent asks. Seven different times. You know, because there’s the possibility it’s actually daddy’s bag, loaded with cocaine and explosives.

After confirmation that bag does in fact belong to the child in question, a search ensues.

Out comes underwear of every size, shape, and color.

Out come Batman, Hulk, and Captain America.

Out comes a dog-eared comic book with what appears to be teeth marks at the top left corner.

A shoe flies out, along with a handful of sea shells.

As the bewildered TSA agent continues rummaging through the bag, the child grabs his Hulk and Captain America action figures and engages them in a disturbingly intense battle, complete with self-generated sound effects. Hopefully from the mouth and not from his other end.

Then he turns to the TSA agent and asks, “My daddy said we can’t say the word ‘bomb’ at the airport. Why can’t we say the word ‘bomb?’ Is it like a nuke?”

The TSA agent is now frantically searching the backpack, puzzled by the odd looking Minecraft toys- tiny swords and a small plastic box labeled TNT.

She pulls out her walkie talkie and quietly asks for “assistance.”

The child is sent back through the metal detector, and he asks one last time, “So, why can’t I say the word ‘bomb?’ Have you ever seen a real nuke?”

After my husband’s brief detainment by the TSA, we are permitted to board the plane.

With the security fiasco behind us, one might think the rest of the trip ought to be smooth.

The three hour flight is mostly uneventful, until we are close to our destination.

“Good evening, passengers. A severe storm is preventing us from landing at this time, so we’ll be circling briefly until conditions improve,” the flight captain announces.

And so we circle. And circle. And circle.

A full hour passes before the captain’s voice booms through the aircraft again, notifying us that the plane is running out of fuel.

There’s none of that “fasten your seat belts and prepare for landing” nonsense as the plane plunges from 30,000 feet onto the runway in record time. Of course, we land at an airport that’s not even our intended destination.

Maybe we should have hung out at the airport with the TSA, discussing bombs and having our bags searched just a tad more thoroughly.

The Death Tube eventually makes its final descent into No Man’s Land and we all hustle off the plane like a pack of feral beasts.

The entire family is hungry, tired, and disgruntled enough to use nukes on each other.

But hey, there’s only a 10 minute ride to the rental car depot and another 30 minute ride to the hotel. We can do this!

I should know better by now.

As we drag our beaten and overloaded suitcases outside, the shuttle pulls up. Between the confused look on the young gum-chomping driver’s face and her abrupt curb-hopping stop, my gut tells me we probably should have waited for the next shuttle.

U-turn after U-turn, we are clearly going in circles. The driver stops on the side of the road and stares blankly out the window. It could easily be her first day on the job, or perhaps her goal is to ensure the boys hate us for the rest of our lives for dragging them out to live in the middle of nowhere.

A passenger marches up to the front of the bus.

“Why don’t you just follow the signs that say, “Rental cars, this way?’ ”he snarls.

A lightbulb seems to go off in the brilliant girl’s head, and within five minutes, we arrive at the rental car depot.

We are off in a nondescript rental car shortly after, rocketing down the freeway with a GPS that doesn’t seem entirely convinced itself which way we need to go. It’s tempting to enable the off-road option so we can plow straight through yards, cornfields, and lakes to get to the hotel faster.

Perhaps we should have.

We find ourselves at a complete standstill on a backed up and construction-heavy freeway. I glance out the window and notice a 1,000 foot drop into oblivion on one side of the road, and a concrete barrier on the other.

A sudden sensation of crunching metal jolts me from my drifting thoughts. It takes a minute to realize we had been rear-ended, and the same jerk who hit us is now trying to push our rental car out of his way so he can keep going.

The kids are screaming, my husband is screaming…or was that just me?

The police finally show up, after passing us twice on an adjacent freeway and then getting stuck in traffic, but at least we are back on the road again.

We arrive at the hotel after midnight, only to discover that we’ve been deemed a no-show and the staff had rebooked our room. There’s only one room left, with a double bed and a pullout sofa.

We enter the room and flip the light switch.

Holy crap! Had this room recently been the scene of a horror movie or satanic sacrifice?  I’m far too exhausted to determine whether it’s actually Heinz ketchup or blood splattered all over the wall.

Well, this will have to be dealt with. Tomorrow. Or rather, later today.

The boys are already asleep on the lumpy double bed, so my husband and I wander downstairs to the restaurant.

Who am I kidding? We’re practically galloping to the hotel bar.

A few lackluster drinks later, we head back to the room. At least the boys are managing to get some rest.

No Man’s Land, it’s me, Quirky Girl. It sure doesn’t seem like you want me here any more than I want to be here. You’d best bring me a better day tomorrow, or be prepared to face the wrath of my 9 year old and his imaginary nukes.