It's the same reason I get so far behind on my friendly correspondence. The longer you go without saying anything, the more there is to say! John C. Reilly at the Mercy Lounge! Book club Christmas party! Scary travel to snow-covered Kansas! Christmas! Four days in a cabin with my family! New Year's Eve! Louis XIV at the Wildhorse!
The truth is, I laid low in December. Real low. I almost completely cut off communication with anyone I am not related to (or, you know, sleep next to at night) and just took some time off from Social. My niceness was wearing thin. So while everybody else was moaning about how Busy December is, how many Presents they had to buy, how many Parties they had to go to... I didn't do that this year. I stayed home, and cooked a lot of dinners au deux, and didn't buy a single gift. I was off the hook.
But the thing I really wanted to tell you about was Kansas. We got to the airport over 2 hours early for our flight to Kansas City on the 22nd. I wonder if I ever told you about the Time Austin and I Almost Broke Up because I made us late for a flight. It was really bad. So now, we err towards early. It works. Except this time, when our flight was delayed for four hours because of a half an inch of ice and then four subsequent inches of snow in Kansas City. Four hours of sitting on the floor, trying to focus on my guilty Scottish historical novel or forcing Austin to play Paper Rock Scissors. I'm not good at waiting, particularly where it involves traveling. I am a Nervous Traveler. I started calling Brian in KC, saying, What is the weather like there, what is happening? He comes back with horror stories of 40 car pileups on the very same interstate that we should have been traversing at that EXACT MOMENT if our flight hadn't been delayed. First person reports of brand new Audi wagons careening backwards into stationary fire engines. Scary stuff.
So then we had to get on a plane. Here is where Antsy Nervous Traveler turns into Basketcase Nervous Traveler. It is a short flight from Nashville to Kansas City, usually pretty painless. This time, our plane had to circle around the city for an interminable amount of time (in retelling, it has become hours, but Austin the Calm and Patient Realist usually corrects me and says it was about 30 minutes). There was no open landing strip for us to put the plane down on; they were all too icy. Note to all pilots and air personnel out there: DON'T TELL US WHEN IT'S TOO ICY AND WE'RE GOING TO LAND ANYWAY! Jeez. Finally a runway opens up, and we begin the most terrifying descent I've ever experienced. Plane tilted at crazy angles, where all we can see out the window is white, white ground. The wind causing us to jump and bump in the air. The engines kicking into reverse to slow our downward spiral. The passengers were silent, and the man seated to my right was doing origami in his lap. I kept getting distracted from my panic by watching his hands, the soothing motions of folding, pressing, turning squares of milky vellum that he kept extracting from his coat pocket.
On a perfectly normal, predictable flight, I still kind of freak out at the landing. I make Austin hold my hand and squeeze my eyes shut and don't open them again until the plane has come to a stop. On this particular landing, I had been squeezing his hand since the circling started, and I'm surprised he has any bones left. When the plane finally skidded to a halt on the ice-covered runway (nearly sideways), I leaned over, put my head between his back and the seat, and burst into tears.
Then we sat. No gates could open up because the trucks that push the airplanes backwards out of the gate couldn't drive on the ice. The wind was blowing the snow across the ground in waves. When I looked out the window and pretended everything that was white was actually water, it was easy to pretend we were stranded in the middle of the ocean.
Finally we pulled into a gate, crawled off the plane, headed towards baggage. Which was a mob scene, as we were among six or seven flights that had all been granted entrance to the airport at once. And the overhead announcement system was broken, so one poor schmo was leaping back and forth between the (two) baggage carousels, bellowing, "SALT LAKE CITY! BAGGAGE CLAIM ONE" I went and sat on the floor in a corner, and met a nice dog who had been locked up in her cage under the plane for 5 hours. Her owner let me pet her while I decompressed and Austin went baggage hunting.
Originally the plan had been (when our flight was supposed to land at at 6:30) that we would pick up our rental car and drive straight through to Hays, home of Austin's brother and maternal grandparents. This was scrapped by the time we left Nashville, and rather than even attempting to get out of Kansas City, we just called the first hotel listed on the big screen at the airport and luckily got a room. I would say it was 5 miles from the airport? Maybe less. It took us forty-five minutes to get there, forty-five painstaking minutes of creeping along on roads that were so snowbound that you couldn't tell where the asphalt stopped and the shoulder started. The Courtyard by Marriott finally appeared, shining like a beacon of king-sized beds and mediocre hot breakfasts.
We took our time getting out of KC the next morning, giving the road crews time to get everything clear. By the time we crossed over into Kansas proper, it was smooth sailing and sunny skies for the drive to Hays, and we made great time. I saw 27 hawks, which is my own superstitious way of passing the time in the midwest. They make me feel lucky.
I think that is going to be Part 1 of my Holiday Recap. Sorry for being so wordy, after being so absent. I have the office to myself this week, coworkers are all at a conference, so hopefully I'll have some more time for catching up over the next three days. Happy 2008, even if I'm the last person to tell you.