The rest of our final week in NY was relatively uneventful. The movers loaded all our stuff up on the truck the next day and later that evening someone came to pick up our cars. We spent the two days after that giving our house a deep clean so it'd be all nice and presentable for potential buyers. My neighbor was even nice enough to watch T for us so Chriss and I could go see The Hunger Games (which I loved). Before we knew it, we'd said goodbye to Chriss' family, our friends, and our house and it was Friday. Moving day.
The plan was to spend the morning packing up all four of our suitcases and rounding up the cats so we could put them in their carriers. Then we were going to head for the airport around 1p.m., return the rental car and check in and buy the cats' tickets (we took them in the cabin with us and kept them under our seats). Our flight from Syracuse was supposed to leave at 4:15 and we were supposed to arrive in Detroit and hour later. Then we'd make our connecting flight to San Francisco at 7:30 and get there at 9:00 CA time. We'd pick up one of our rental cars at the airport and drive to our new home with plans to go shopping the next day and buy what we needed until our furniture and cars arrived two weeks later.
But you know what they say about plans. Especially the best laid ones.
Instead what happened was we left half an hour later than we were supposed to. Then we got stuck in a traffic jam because of an overturned semi on I-90. We were so worried about getting to the airport with enough time to make our flight that we forgot to fill up the rental car. So we were charged $90 to make up for it. (Fortunately, the relo company is reimbursing us for that). We rushed to the Delta Airlines check-in counter where we stayed for half an hour.
Even though we'd already reserved a spot on the plane for all three cats, it was a bit of a hassle to buy their tickets. I'm not entirely sure what the problem was, I just know it took about 15 minutes to finalize their tickets. The other 15 minutes we spent trying to repack our suitcases because two of them were over the weight limit. Once we finished with that, we were informed that our smallest suitcase could actually be taken as a carry-on. We'd never planned for that because we were told when we first made our reservations that the cats counted as our carry-ons. Remember this. It's important later.
Finally, it was time to go through security. We'd already had a dry run of getting T and all his diabetic supplies through security when we went on our house hunting trip in February. So we already knew to inform the TSA agents ahead of time that he's type 1, tell them what they'll find in his bag, and that he's wearing an insulin pump and a sensor. We also knew to empty all our pockets, take out all our electronics, take off our shoes and jackets and the whole mess. We also expected that we'd have to take the cats out of their carriers and walk them through the metal detectors one at a time. What we didn't expect was the circus that came next.
They had T walk through first and then step off to the side because they wanted to check out his pod and sensor. Then I walked through with Pumpkin, leaving Chriss on the other side with Stormy and Chloe. Once through, they made me wait so they could swab my hands for explosives. Apparently it came back positive and I was herded off to this little quarantine area. I could still see T and Chriss, but I couldn't get to any of them. Also, they wouldn't let me put Pumpkin back in her carrier at first. It wasn't until she started fighting to get down that they finally let me put her back. I was told to wait there until they could get a second female TSA agent to help with further screening.
Meanwhile, T is still standing off by himself (but within sight of me), starting to get upset because he has no idea what's going on. Chriss is still on the other side with the two other cats because he can't take them both through at the same time, but the TSA wouldn't let him leave one and come back for it. So he had to wait until they could get another TSA agent to wait with Chloe while he took Stormy through.
Finally, another TSA agent had T touch his pod and then his sensor and then they swabbed his hands. He was cleared and sent to wait off to the side until Chriss could get to him. Chriss took Stormy through the metal detector, passed the swab test, then went back for Chloe. Over 30 minutes had passed by that time.
While Chriss was putting Chloe back in her carrier and joining T, another female agent finally arrived and I was taken into a private room. I tried to tell Chriss, but they wouldn't let me. Once inside the room, I could hear him, on the verge of panic, asking where his wife and other cat was. It was then that I realized they'd brought Pumpkin in with me. It took the other TSA agents a minute or two to figure out the answer to his questions and put him at ease.
I was quite upset at this point. I didn't really know what was going on, I hated that they'd separated me from my son for so long--even though I could see him until I was taken to the private room, I couldn't get to him and I didn't like it one bit--and I was worried we were going to miss our flight. Plus, I wasn't at all looking forward to what the TSA agents called an enhanced pat down. Let's just say that for the next five minutes, I was subjected to a search that could only have been more thorough if they'd asked me to strip. It was very awkward and embarrassing. At last, Pumpkin and I were cleared and allowed to return to Chriss and T only to discover that our suitcase had been flagged for liquids.
Remember when I said that we'd never planned to take any of our suitcases as carry-ons? And that we'd had to repack them all because of the weight limit? And that it wasn't until after we finished that we were told to take the smallest one with us? Yeah... we were so focused on everything else we forgot to make sure it didn't have any prohibited items. It did. The pheromone spray I'd used on the cat carriers to calm the cats down and 4 cans of cat food. (Pumpkin and Stormy have very strict dietary needs. They can't eat dry food without getting sick and they can't have any corn or gluten which, disturbingly, is found in way too many brands of cat food). I didn't care if I had to toss the spray, but I was really upset about the idea of having to leave the cat food behind because that would mean Pumpkin and Stormy wouldn't have anything to eat until we landed in CA and could get to a PetSmart.
Fortunately, because of all the other hoopla we'd already been put through, the TSA manager decided to let us keep it all and go. All of this had taken so much time that we now had only 10 minutes to get to our gate before it was time to board. And Chriss still had to repack the suitcase. T and I went on ahead so we could use the restroom and then he met us on the way to the gate. We got there just in time to learn that there was severe weather in Detroit, resulting in a full ground stop and our flight was delayed until further notice.
An hour after our flight was supposed to have left, they announced that anyone with a connecting flight before 8 p.m. should speak to someone at the gate. We went up and were told that unless the ground stop was lifted in the next twenty minutes, there was no way we'd make our connecting flight. There were no other options available to us that day, but they would get us a hotel and book us on a flight to Altanta and then San Francisco at noon the next day. In my mind, there were several things wrong with this scenario. Can you guess what they might be?
1) There was no way on earth I wanted a repeat of that security fiasco.
2) Even if they got us a hotel, we still had the cats with us and no litter box.
3) We had no car at all and they weren't willing to provide us with one so how did we get food for ourselves? Especially for T?
4) The power company was supposed to come by the next day and hook up our gas and needed us to be there for it.
5) Our rental car reservation for CA was for that evening.
We weren't happy about it, but we told them to go ahead and make the reservations, but that we still wanted to see if there was any chance of making our original flight. 15 minutes later, the ground stop was lifted and we were allowed to board.
As soon as we got seated, the flight attendant told us we could only have 2 pets on board, not 3. We told her that we already bought their tickets at the gate and were told it wouldn't be a problem. She said she'd have to talk to the captain, but if he didn't agree, we'd be kicked off the flight. I wanted to scream at this point, but I forced myself to remain calm and this time, luck was on our side.
The flight was pretty uneventful and the cats had resigned themselves to their fate and were quite well behaved the whole time. Then we arrived in Detroit. Because the airport had been shut down for so long, it was a free for all at the gates. We sat on the tarmac for an hour and a half before a gate opened up for us. The guy sitting across from us had an app on his phone that let him check the status of his flight and he was kind enough to check our connecting flight. It was delayed too. We had a chance of making it.
We were finally allowed off the plane just as our connecting flight started boarding. We raced from one end of the airport to the other to get to our gate and arrived just in time to see them close the door. Even though the bridge was still connected to the plane, no amount of pleading would get them to budge and let us on. They claimed the flight was already late enough and they couldn't wait any longer. T declared it the end of the world. That would not be the last time he made such declarations that night. Dejected, we made our way back to the other end of the airport where we were told we could speak to someone about getting rebooked.
We waited in line for two hours only to learn that not only were there no more flights to San Francisco that night, but according to their records, we weren't even supposed to be in Detroit because the computer showed us booked for a flight from Syracuse to Atlanta to SFO. Remember how that one happened? So we had to explain the situation to Delta guy and it only took 3 attempts before we got him to understand. Then he told us that he could confirm us on a 4 p.m. flight the next day and put us on standby for an 8 a.m. flight. As for a hotel, because it was weather related, they weren't putting anyone in a hotel. (T again declared it the end of the world).
What did I do? Well, I was so stressed out and exhausted and worried about T and my cats that I kind of pushed my husband aside and just managed not to go completely crazy mama on the Delta guy. I told him my cats had been in their carriers for over 16 hours with no access to a litter box and that my son was diabetic and other than lunch 10 hours ago, he hadn't had anything more than the biscuits and pretzels we were given on the plane and he desperately needed food. Now. Also, it was our moving day and everything I owned in the world, save for my checked baggage which was who knew where and the things we carried in our hands, was on a truck somewhere between NY and CA. And just what was he going to do about it?
He blinked at me for a moment, cleared his throat, then offered me vouchers for a hotel that would have knocked $20 off the price but would have required us to go through security again. Needless to say, I wasn't thrilled with that idea. Then he said that if we spent the night in the airport, they'd give us pillows, blankets, and access to water/soda/and airplane snacks. Plus, he'd give us meal vouchers and that if I hurried, I could still get something from the only restaurant that was still open. I heaved a very heavy sigh, told Chriss to finish up with him, then ran over the to restaurant. Without looking up at me, the waitress said they were closing their kitchen.
On the verge of tears, I said, "Please."
She looked up and I guess I must have looked as awful as I felt because she softened a bit. I told her we'd just arrived and were stranded and my son was diabetic and needed food before his blood sugar dropped too low and she relented. Told me I could place an order really quick but that we'd have to find somewhere else to eat it. So I asked for three orders of fries and chicken strips (the one thing I knew T would eat). But by the time I got them, I was so stressed and exhausted that my stomach churned at the smell. So I didn't eat mine.
We took the cats into the family bathroom and put those changing table liners in the bottom of their carriers just in case. Then we found a place to hunker down for the night and put food and water bowls in the cat carriers (although the cats were so upset about everything that they wouldn't eat or drink at all). A couple of other families joined us. T fell asleep pretty quickly and Chriss and I took turns dozing.
At 6 a.m., we went to the same place we'd waited in the night before so we could activate our standby status for the 8 a.m. flight. Then we walked to the other end of the airport to wait and see if we'd get on it. Nope. Turned out that flight was so full that they were asking people to give up their seats. And honestly, by that point I wasn't surprised. Nothing else had worked out for us, so why should that? So we walked back to the other end of the airport where the 4 p.m. flight's gate was and settled down to wait for the next 8 hours. Chriss and I napped a bit and we all got lunch and then Chriss and T made a video on the iPad to pass the time. The cats still refused all attempts to give them water, but were still being really good.
At last, after 22 hours in the Detroit airport, we finally boarded a plane that would take us to San Francisco. We arrived around 8:30 and our checked baggage was in a roped off section waiting for us. However, while exiting the elevator on our way to the air train that would take us to the rental car station, Pumpkin's carrier got knocked against the door hard enough to scare her and she peed all over her carrier, the top of Stormy's, and down my leg. So I reeked of cat pee the rest of the night. At least it didn't happen until the home stretch of our very long journey.
As for the rental car, even though our reservation had expired 24 hours before, all it took was explaining what we'd been through and they quickly found a car for us. We drove the hour and a half from the airport to our new home in San Jose where our realtor, bless her soul, had set up air mattresses for us and left us cereal, almond milk, and fresh fruit. (At our request when we told her our situation with our flights, she'd left a note "signed by me" for the power company, granting them permission to enter even though we weren't there so the gas was still able to get hooked up. Otherwise we'd have had to wait 3 weeks for the next available appt. slot). T fell asleep the second he walked into his room, and after confining the cats to our room, setting up their litter box (which we'd had shipped to our realtor along with a few other things we'd need that first night) and feeding them dinner, we went to bed too, so grateful for something other than an airport chair to sleep in.
But that didn't mark the end of our "adventures." Oh no. Stay turned for the tale of our first few crazy weeks in CA.