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Everyone of us will be able to relate to this hilarious extract from Adrian Phillip’s short story, Early Birds, taken from Kidding Around, the new anthology from Bradt Guides. This engaging and entertaining compilation of 37 stories lifts the lid on the perils and joys of travelling with babies, toddlers and teenagers in locations spanning five continents.
Unless you’ve had to rush to meet an airline’s final call with four year-olds in tow, you can’t fully appreciate how short their legs are. I was well into my stride before I realised that Twin 2 was dragging behind me on his stomach like a waterskier who’d taken a tumble but forgotten to let go of the rope.
‘Come on, quick, quick!’ I said, stopping briefly to heave him up in my left arm before continuing the chase. His head was now next to my ear, which suited him far better because he could ask me all the questions he needed answering about the current situation.
‘Yes, we have to run to catch the plane,’ I huffed. ‘Yes, you are heavy,’ I puffed. ‘Yes, the bag is heavy too… Yes, even though it’s on wheels,’ I wheezed.
I slalomed through an endless crowd of people who seemed to be taking part in some sort of slow-walking competition.
‘… I’ve no idea whether the pilot has finished his lunch… No, he’s not angry with us… Yes, I think mummy might be a bit angry with me… No, she’s not a faster runner than me – it’s just that her bag is lighter. .. Yes, I’m sure my face is going red… No, Peppa Pig won’t be on the plane… No, I can’t drive a plane… Well, bully for Miss Rabbit… ‘
I don’t know whether Usain Bolt has ever run between Benny’s Diner and Gate 5 burdened with a wheelie case and an inquisitive child, but if he has then I bet he didn’t do it much quicker than me. But it wasn’t quick enough. My wife was already at the gate (her bag was definitely lighter than mine), and her expression told the story. Gate closed. ‘I TOLD YOU WE SHOULD HAVE GONE TO THE GATE EARLIER!’ she thundered. Clearly now was the time for recriminations. ‘You’re ALWAYS leaving things last minute and it’s 9 p.m. and what will we do about the hotel and the hire car and the kids and what are we going to do?!’
‘Errrm’ was all I could muster as I bent over, hands on knees, gasping like a beached fish.
Once I’d gathered enough oxygen to speak, I decided to plead our case to the remaining representative of the airline standing at the gate. But the representative of the airline (which, to preserve its anonymity, I’ll call Iron Stare) was not a person to be pleaded with.
‘You are advised to arrive at the airport in good time for your flight, sir,’ said the representative of Iron Stare.
‘We were here four hours early,’ I countered. ‘There must have been something wrong with the board.’
‘In good time for your flight, sir,’ she continued, as if I’d not spoken. ‘Our website makes it very clear, sir. Very clear.’ And then she stood stock-still and silent, gazing blank-eyed at a point somewhere above my head, like a robot on standby.
‘Well, what now?’ I asked glumly. ‘We’ve two young kids.’
‘Once your luggage has been removed from the hold, it can be collected from the carousel in arrivals,’ she resumed, rebooting herself briefly. ‘You can get there through the door next to Sunglasses Palace.’ Then she powered down for the night.
The door next to Sunglasses Palace turned out to be invisible. Of course it did. We walked back and forth and roundabout, looking one side and the other, and even around the back. It was 10.30 p.m. before a washroom attendant took pity on us and showed us a door that wasn’t invisible next to a different place called Sunglasses Shack. Through the door, we joined a gaggle of miserable miscreants who’d also missed their flights, before our passports were checked and we were ejected through another door.
The definition of travel purgatory is queuing to drop off your luggage and then queuing to collect your luggage without enjoying a holiday in between. It was made worse by having to stand in a throng of suntanned holidaymakers returning from the place we were meant now to be jetting towards. The kids were happy enough, of course; for kids, there’s no better playground than a luggage carousel.
Extract from Adrian Phillip’s short story, Early Birds, taken from Kidding Around, the new anthology from Bradt Guides.