I haven’t had a chance to write about Johnny’s return trip from Texas. Good stories seem to follow this kid wherever he goes.
As well as a bit of chaos.
Last month, Johnny enjoyed a 10-day visit to Dallas to visit my folks. He attended a week-long basketball camp, enjoyed lots of time with extended family, and managed to catch a few fish. From a pond. Located on a golf course.
Uncle David was in charge that night.
The return trip was pure chaos.
Moments after my folks and Johnny passed through security, a 37-year old woman emerged from a bathroom and began firing shots into the air. Thankfully, no one was hurt and the police response was swift. She fired the shots in the area that my family had literally just walked past.
Dad and Johnny were in the restroom at the time. Mom was trying to figure out why so many people were running frantically through the terminal. Her only assumption was that an awful lot of people were late for their flights.
It took some time for the news to travel to people on the other side of security. Mom called to update me on the situation, ensuring me of their safety. But she had no idea what was going on. My friend Carol, who lives in Indianapolis, was texting me more information than my folks had on the ground at Love Field. During that time, they were watching Johnny eat.
Mom told me that they were sending Johnny home just as they had received him: After a decent cheese pizza. For the record, the Mountain Dew was a highly questionable decision. Just look at that face. Even Johnny knows he probably shouldn’t be drinking a beverage with 65 grams of sugar and 55 mg of caffeine. I had to look that up.
Eventually, the authorities cleared the entire airport and funneled people outside. Into the comfortable 100+ degree July morning. Surveying the scene, my parents decided that there would be significant delays for the rest of the day. They called me from the car as they began driving home.
Now, at this point, I’m receiving texts from Southwest Airlines that Johnny’s flight was going to depart at 3:00pm. My parents didn’t believe it. They were heading home for a nap. I found myself in a difficult situation. I wanted to trust my folks. But, it was clear that things were moving again at Love Field and they didn’t have the most updated information.
When I disagree with someone’s course of action, I find it best to begin asking questions.
Me: “So you are really heading home?”
Mom: “Absolutely. There is no way Johnny is getting on a plane anytime this afternoon.”
Me: “That’s interesting, Mom. Because Southwest Airlines really seems to think the plane will depart soon. By the way, where is his luggage?”
Mom: “Oh, it’s at the airport. We’ve got it all figured out. If he ends up staying, we’ll just run a load of laundry overnight. By the way, Johnny is suggesting that we head to Legoland. Your father thinks we should stop for Mexican food.”
Me: “That’s sounds like a better idea. The Tex-Mex. Is the restaurant near the airport?”
Mom: “Yes, dear. Just across the street.”
While Mom, Dad, and Johnny headed for some grub, I stayed glued to my computer. I feared if he missed his flight, there might be some difficulty with a rebooking. I waited impatiently as the 3 o’clock hour approached. I eventually received another phone call from my mom.
Mom: “You won’t believe this. But Johnny’s flight is leaving at 3:00pm.”
Me: “Amazing, Mom. Um, where are you?”
Mom: “Well, we managed to get Johnny to the airport in time. Your father kept watching his phone. And we decided to head back to the airport. We got him there in the knick of time.”
The details emerged later.
While my parents and Johnny were enjoying chili rellenos and chicken enchiladas, Groups A and B were actively boarding at the gate. Because, despite my parents’ assumptions, the re-screening process went lightening quick. Eventually, they settled the bill at the restaurant and headed back to the airport. But in no apparent rush. Dad parked the car. And the three of them casually walked back into the airport.
By this time, Group C, the final boarding group, was settled into their seats on Flight 235. But the expected unaccompanied minor had not been accounted for. Because they were taking their sweet time on the other side of security. Not a care in the world.
Let’s just imagine what the crew of Southwest Airlines Flight 235 might have been thinking: We’ve had an active shooter near the ticket counter. Everyone inside has had to leave the airport and file through security screening points again. Travel out of Dallas Love Field is chaotic at best. And now, we can’t find a 7-year old unaccompanied minor who is roaming somewhere with his grandparents. Seriously?
As they passed through the TSA checkpoint, it became apparent that the 3:00pm flight was going to actually leave at 3:00pm. It was time to kick it into high gear. Which, for my dear parents, sticks a bit these days.
Johnny must have sensed the urgency. He looked at my mom and said, “You move pretty good for an old grandma, but we’ve got to book it.” Johnny had judged my dad as the speedier of the two geriatrics. They were off.
As they arrived at the gate, Johnny’s name was being paged over the terminal loud speaker. The gate agent allowed a quick side hug and then snatched Johnny. The door slammed behind them as they jetted down the jetway. He had just made it.
I was waiting in Chicago as Johnny’s plane pulled up to the gate. I anticipated that he would be the first person off the plane. He was.
Just behind the gate agent, Johnny emerged beside the flight attendant. She wore a radiant smile. I assumed that meant things had gone well.
She told me Johnny had been an absolute gem, endearing himself to several women sitting in the first three rows of the plane. Apparently, as the plane idled at the gate, he taught several of them how to play The Catan Dice Game. He even offered strategic advice and encouragement. But he was somewhat miffed when the seatback tray had to be returned to its upright and locked position. It was no longer possible to shoot dice.
Shortly after take-off, the woman sitting next to Johnny gave him an iPad. Loaded with a movie. Johnny said, “Mom, it was probably a movie that I shouldn’t have watched. There were ghosts everywhere and they were as big as real people.”
After a few probing questions, it turns out he watched a Scooby Doo movie.
All things considered, I am grateful that Johnny returned home safely. He enjoyed a memorable week and made lasting memories. I still have some lingering questions about the golf course fishing excursion, the selection of a Mountain Dew, and the timing of the Tex-Mex.
But, honestly, that’s par for the course for my family.