Saturday, May 26, 2012

Subway panic

It was a very strange day because both Mark and I had late afternoon meetings and after some discussion I had agreed to cancel mine and go pick up Zoe from daycare. However, as I was preparing to leave he walked past my desk (we work on the same floor a few days a week) and said cheerfully that he would be happy to pick her up since his meeting had ended early. I considered going back to my student assignments for a quarter of a second but then suggested we go pick her up together. We have only done this once or twice, when Zoe started daycare 6 months ago.

Zoe was squealing from joy when she saw the both of us and we were all happily chatting on the subway back. At one point Mark suggested that we should go to an outdoor cafe not too far away from us, to celebrate the nice weather and that we had picked her up early. This meant that we needed to board a different, more populated train, at the central station where we changed. It was packed to the last square inch and as I squeezed into one compartment, Mark took Zoe in her stroller through another set of entry doors to the train. Or so I thought. As the train left the station, I saw Mark and Zoe standing on the platform mouthing to me that they would see me at the next station. Note that I always put my bag into Zoe's stroller so I now had nothing other than a lip balm in my pocket. No cell phone, no wallet. No problem, I thought, and got off at the next station so I could wait for them. Here I watched a mother with a toddler in hand and a pram trying to enter the now even more full train. Suddenly the train doors beeped and the doors closed WITH HER PRAM INSIDE THE TRAIN. The mother started screaming and as I was the first one to understand what was happening, I ran over to knock on the doors, mouthing that they should pull the emergency brake. Luckily the people inside did after a couple of seconds' driving and the train came to a halt, the doors opening so the mother could go inside to her pram. At this time I had noticed that she had her baby on her chest in a carrier. Thank god.

When the emergency brake is pulled on a train it takes a while before it can leave again. This was 10 very long minutes where I waited for the next train to come in. I boarded but couldn't immediately see Zoe and Mark. Then I saw a green stroller canopy and pushed myself through to the next compartment. Zoe was distraught and had cried ever since she realized the train had taken me but not them. Apparently they had experienced exactly the same thing except Mark had been able to pull Zoe out: the driver had closed the doors right on the stroller, scaring Zoe. She lightened up fairly quickly and we went to the cafe and I had two glasses of white wine. I can't wait till August where we will have a place in a daycare two blocks from our house. No more strollers in rush hour subways. Oh, and Mark called the subway security next day and reported the driver.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

How do I get to Berlin?

With Zoe being two, I have not flown by myself for two years apart from the occasional short trip (I can count them on one hand) and then of course the big conference trip two weeks ago. Today I flew down to Berlin for a 4-day research meeting and some differences in flying habits became apparent.

When traveling with Zoe:

  1. I leave on time with a plan for how to get to the airport and who can help me. I have bought the airport train ticket online the day before.
  2. I know exactly how long the flight(s) are and the duration of the the layovers. 
  3. I know how to get things out of my bag quickly for security and I wear shoes I can take off without hands. 
  4. I know what is in my bag. 
  5. I have a window seat so Zoe can't get out. 
  6. I turn off my phone before I board.
  7. I know how to get from the airport, that being train or a taxi that I know has a car seat.

This is how I traveled today:

  1. I left and realized as I boarded the subway train that it would have made more sense to take the "pendel" train because the platform is much closer to the airport train platform.
  2. I knew when my flight left and what airline. I had no idea when I was arriving.
  3. I had to drink half a bottle of water in front of the security guy to get my bottle through (I religiously recycle bottles because I am a firm believer in the ecological value of tap water). I had to rummage through my bag to actually find my computer.
  4. I managed to sneak in toothpaste and lip gloss that I had left in my bag (this happens a lot though, I believe airport security is actively ignoring small liquidy items to save time and because we all know there is no actual danger in liquids like this)
  5. I was surprised to find that I was actually in economy extra where I got a meal, wine and help with placing my carry-on suitcase. The travel agency had booked my ticket according to my inflexible time requests and I hadn't noticed before I boarded.
  6. The stewardess (not the nice one) had to tell me to turn off my phone because I was still texting a friend while we taxied out to the runway.
  7. Last, but not least, I had no idea of how I was getting from the airport to the hotel. All I had was the hotel name and a firm belief in public transportation. I found a friendly face at the pharmacy where I bought a pair of nail scissors (that I couldn't have flown with due to no checked in luggage) and he pointed me to a bus that took me straight to the Zoo, 200 meters away from my hotel. Only with a little help from my iPhone and my Danish sim card that gets me online everywhere in the world for no subscription fee.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Calming down

Things are calming down after the conference trip that I looked forward to and dreaded at the same time. Zoe of course did amazing at my mom's place for a week and we celebrated her (belated) birthday at a brunch party when I got to Copenhagen. The flight home was a breeze and Zoe is now such professional traveler that she takes off her coat when she sees the security line and waits patiently for me to be padded down and turning around before going through the metal detector. Did I say she is two? She continuously surprises me with how much she understands especially because her spoken language is still rather garbled and it is a hit or miss if I understand what she says. Today she had a rant at Mark who dared to ask her if she wanted to go for a walk with him, a rant that none of us understood any words of but one where the meaning was crystal clear (and hilariously funny). We both had to bite our tongues not to laugh at her "ba de hu bachi jubu NO da da", all said in a very loud, serious tone. She is a kid with stark opinions about things, that's for sure.

After coming home last Sunday I have tried to catch up having a normal life, taking Zoe to daycare and going to work. It is nice having a normal everyday life again but of course it is only for a short time, next week I am going to Berlin for 4 days for a review meeting. Zoe is staying home with Mark and this will be the first several nights she is alone with him. I am confident they will have fun but I will miss her terribly. So much for calming down. At least we should be used to it by now.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Traveling sans baby

So one thing I learned today was that the only thing more difficult than traveling with a baby is traveling without your baby. Zoe and I had spent the night with my best friend who is to look after Zoe for 3 days until my parents are back from the US (where my dad has been at an arctic research convention) and can take over looking after her. We had a relaxing morning with breakfast, gourmet coffee (because my friend is like that) and my friend's 9 year old daughter had bonded with Zoe, chasing her around the house and letting her draw with her best coloring pencils. I went down on her level and explained to Zoe that I was going, that she had to say bye bye to me but that I would be back in a week. She started crying and hugging me and tears ran down my cheeks too. I handed her over and left hurriedly. I cried all the way to the station. My friend called when I was on the train and said she had stopped after one minute and was now jumping on the couch with her daughter.

It is strange traveling without Zoe now that I am so used to it. I was seated next to an extended family with a 2 year old girl, her parents and the mother's parents. I made sure to tell the mother that her daughter was adorable and she did really well on the plane. I got a lot of work done on the trip, slept for a couple of hours and got reminded just how bad airplane food actually is. I could not even finish it and when I got to Houston for my last connection I was starving, yet not wanting to eat any of the American airport snack food that is so disgusting I rather go hungry.

I was excited to see one of my close colleague friends on the last plane ride and she switched seats so we could catch up. We babbled the whole 30 minute connecting flight to the conference city where we shared a taxi to our close but separate hotels. When I was finally in my hotel room past midnight I called my friend to hear how Zoe was. "She is such an easy kid", she said and apparently they had had a wonderful day, she had only been sad when she had to sleep, but now they were all ready to bake chocolate muffins and celebrate Zoe's second birthday. As I hung up I finally felt ready to enjoy myself here, knowing that Zoe is not only in good hands but also happy being where she is, surrounded by nice people.