Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Don't panic

Arriving back in Stockholm this past Friday, after a short flight from Copenhagen, I was reminded again of all the impossible situations I put myself in, traveling alone with Zoe but also just living the lifestyle I do. Situations where I almost panic, loose it and do something I know I should not do. This time I ended up in the arrival hall with three roller suitcases and an overtired toddler. And because Zoe had to use the bathroom the minute we got out of the plane and it was a major traveling day, there were no more luggage carts available. Apart from the big ones that the staff use to transport bags out to the plane and which Zoe so happily likes to play with. Asking the staff for luggage carts, I got the lovely Swedish answer: "nej dom är slut" [literally 'they have ended', more like 'there are no more'].

So there I was, two hands and three suitcases. Plus Zoe's little play suitcase which she had insisted on carrying herself onto the plane, after the check-in guy had refused to check it in (yep, she asked herself, the word 'check-in' is an integrated part of her vocabulary), but which now was "too heavy". After waiting to see if something would happen in terms of luggage carts I decided that we couldn't just wait aimlessly. I hauled two suitcases to a point, then asked Zoe to stay with them while going back for the last one. That worked until we got to the big sliding exit doors that people are not allowed back through. How would I be able to get out and back to pick up the last suitcase? I decided that there had to be nice people leaving the airport who had one hand free to pull my last suitcase. I asked the first people I saw but they ignored me. They just walked on. I heard them speak Danish to each other and I approached them in Danish. That's when I decided that people would be able to see how I needed help.

I started dragging the two suitcases together, one of them obviously flipping around and sliding over the floor rather than rolling. That way I very slowly got through the sliding doors without anyone even looking at me, out to a staring crowd with tags, looking for other people. I finally eyed two abandoned luggage carts ahead of me and asked Zoe to go get one. Unfortunately they were stuck together and my 2 and a half year old could not take them apart. I left all the luggage on the floor for a second and got the luggage cart. I was shaking at this point. Wondering what kind of things other people were thinking. "Why is she that stupid to travel with so much luggage on her own?" "Why didn't she just take a luggage cart?". I guided Zoe to the elevators down to the train and we barely made the next one with me dramatically throwing all the luggage into the train while instructing Zoe not to walk into the train unless with me. My biggest fear on these journeys is of course that we get separated, her on a train, me outside or vice versa. Luggage, I couldn't care less about. Except when we sat down and the train took off, Zoe looked at me and asked: "Zoe kuffert?" [Zoe's suitcase]. Shit. Her little suitcase was somewhere between the arrival hall and the train platform.

But the moral of the story is that we survived. We did fine and I did much better than I have done many other times, I didn't loose my cool at any point. And all these situations help me realize that it is doable. And I don't even try to pretend that I know what it is like to travel with more than one child or that I know better than any other parents. But these impossible situations are what helps me realize, in retrospective, that I don't so so badly. And yes, my new years goal is to be more calm and not panic. This was a good beginning.

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