No lesson this week—just hilarity.
The setting: a moving sidewalk leading into Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport from short-term parking.
The characters: myself (laden with a children’s carseat, a pink backpack, and a rolling suitcase), my sister (encumbered with the same array of baggage), my nephew (six years old and wearing a backpack), and my niece (four years old, tiny for her age, wearing a unicorn backpack and carrying Pandie in her arms).
What could go wrong?
This was the very beginning of a several-days-long trip to Houston, Texas to visit my youngest brother, who had been away and mostly inaccessible for two years. My sister’s husband was on a business trip, and so she and I had planned our flights together, thinking life would be much simpler for everyone with one adult per child.
We knew once we’d checked the suitcases and carseats, wrangling the children would be much simpler. But at this particular moment—the journey between the van and the check-in counter—the voyage descended into low-grade bedlam. No free hands for the adults. Very limited visibility below the belt. My niece took a carseat to the head almost immediately upon entering the parking structure’s elevator, and she could not comprehend how managing her own personal space could be any business of hers. She was so offended that she didn’t even realize her brother had pushed two elevator buttons in a row.
Once we exited the elevator, my sister took the vanguard position, ordered the children to hold each other’s hands and to follow closely behind her. I took up the rear of our hullabaloo parade, making sure I could see where the children were at all times.
This scheme succeeded for approximately twenty seconds.
When we came upon a moving sidewalk, my sister (and I, in the back) thought nothing of hopping aboard. Standing stationary for a moment seemed a promising solution to the current chaos. My sister and I grew up traveling. Neither of us could remember the first time we’d encountered a moving sidewalk.
So my sister strode aboard the sidewalk, stopped, and turned back to regard her children. Only then did she realize that neither child had been prepped for this sort of conveyance.
Both children, still hand-in-hand, stopped short at the end of the sidewalk.
“Jump on!” my sister called, as I stopped behind my niece and nephew. “Go, one-two-three, jump!” She was being swiftly carried away from us, towards the airport doors. “One! Two! Three—!”
My nephew jumped. My niece did not.
Twisting around, and still obediently holding his sister’s hand, my nephew began tread-milling to avoid falling down. “Jump!” he said to his sister, with all the melodramatic urgency he’d learned watching children’s cartoons. “Jump! Jump!”
For her part, my niece leaned backwards, still clutching her brother’s hand, unwilling to be dragged aboard an unfamiliar mechanism on such short notice. “Noooo!” she wailed, and my nephew kept up his topsy-turvy sprint, yelling his sister’s name with his arm stretched to its full length as though the fate of the universe hinged on the success of this endeavor. My sister was now halfway down the sidewalk.
“Let go!” I said helplessly. “Both of you—let your hands go! Let go! Let go!”
My nephew released his sister, who stumbled backwards into my suitcase. The sidewalk pulled my nephew backwards, away from us, and he stared at his sister as though they might never see one another again.
Thank goodness no one was behind us.
“Okay—” I said to my niece, fully intending to walk around the sidewalk instead of boarding it. But at this instant, she screwed up all her courage and leapt aboard. “Oh no,” I breathed, and joined her.
Such hesitation works well enough at the beginning of a moving sidewalk. But at the end of one? Not so much.
My sister had collected her son by this point, and was explaining to him the proper method of disembarking from the sidewalk. But my niece was standing stock-still just in front of me, panting hard from the exertion of successfully confronting this technological marvel.
“I’ll carry you off,” I said to her, moving my suitcase directly in front of me. “Come here. Come here. Honey—!”
My niece wriggled her way past my suitcase and underneath the carseat dangling precariously from my right arm. I bent down sideways and pulled her one-handed onto my left hip as the end of the walk approached.
Meanwhile, my sister and my nephew had jumped off at the other end. “Out of the way, buddy!” my sister said, getting clear of the sidewalk. My nephew had turned to check on his sister, and in so doing had parked himself directly in the way. “Move! Move! Move!”
“Back up, buddy!” I said, and as my suitcase reached the edge of the walk, I kicked it hard at the base, trying to send it flying off the sidewalk. It stayed aboard the sidewalk, instead leaning backwards and smacking my niece in the knee. She objected profusely. I kicked the suitcase again, trying to right it and dislodge it at the same time, but the wheels kept it cheerfully skidding along at the sidewalk’s terminating lip.
I crashed into the suitcase, which fell the other way and sprawled itself across my exit. I kicked it once more, jogging backwards, teetering with a squirming child on one hip, a carseat swinging from the other arm, and a heavy backpack upsetting my center of gravity. My sister lunged forward, having released her own suitcase, to pull my suitcase aside, but she stumbled under the weight of her own carseat. I got one more kick in. My nephew’s hands covered his cheeks and ears.
And finally, I blundered haphazardly around the suitcase as my sister yanked it away. The carseat jammed sharply against my right thigh, and I took several seesaw strides away from the sidewalk before squatting down to release my niece.
“Wow, Aunt Crystal!” my niece beamed, as I straightened and accepted my suitcase from my sister. “That was fun!”
“Yeah!” my nephew said, giving a little jump.
I glanced at my sister, who looked vaguely shell-shocked.
“I didn’t think to warn them—” she started to say, but I was already guffawing. In fact, I realized I’d been laughing somewhat hysterically since I’d begun kicking my suitcase.
“Let’s get checked in,” I chortled, shifting the backpack’s weight across my cranky lower back. “Kids, hold hands again. Follow your mom.”
“Are there gonna be more of those things?” my nephew asked as the procession got started again, my sister in front, myself in the rear. The children’s little steps bobbed along cheerfully, and slowly, behind my sister’s determined paces.
“Might be,” I said, still giggling as I passed into the air-conditioned terminal. “We’ll see inside, won’t we?”
“I hope there’s more!” my niece announced. “That was intense!”
This incident occurred this past Tuesday, and I returned to Las Vegas late last night (Saturday), which is my explanation/excuse for this week’s entry’s tardiness. We all had a great visit to Houston. By the end of the trip, both children were accomplished riders of moving sidewalks, though my niece will still have nothing to do with escalators.
Have you ever had a hysterical, sitcom-worthy event while traveling with children? Tell us about it in the comments below!