Where real moms tell it like it is.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Traveling the Highway to Hell

As the holiday season approaches, the media is already doling out advice to weary, travel-bound parents. This particular Illinois newspaper offered sensible advice such as feeding the kids when they are hungry and taking naps whenever possible. Sure, it sounds like common sense, but it is amazing how a mother who has traveled as often as I have -- with my two-year-old son -- still has a hard time keeping it together on the road.

My most recent trip to Chicago is already riddled with so many disasters -- except, thankfully, losing my son -- I am wondering if we should ever leave this apartment for the remaining four days of our trip.

My husband and I thought it would be a great idea to surprise my brother-in-law -- in (burr) Chicago (burr) -- for his birthday. After forgetting to pack books and toys for my son, we still managed to make the 3-and-a-half hour flight from Oakland, California, with minimal screaming (only 15 minutes worth), get our luggage and rental car and make dinner reservations at 7 p.m.. There was no time for a nap. But apparently Mommy needed it more than toddler.

The next morning (today) for breakfast, I loaded up the stroller with hats, mittens and way too much baby gear. Once outside, snowflakes fell (the first snowfall we have witnessed this year!) and the wind cut through our faces. My toddler whined. I took out my wallet and placed it in a cubbyhole on top of the stroller. I adjusted my son's wooly hat and put on his mittens. I put on my own coat. (It was warm inside of the apartment so I did not put one on.) Once at the restaurant, I realized that my wallet was missing. It must have fallen off the stroller! I left my screaming -- and hungry -- toddler in the restaurant as I ran out to the sidewalk to take a look. Nothing.

We returned to my brother-in-law's apartment. My husband scrounged up a banana and some applesauce for our son while I called my bank to cancel my credit cards and even the social security office. (I foolishly placed my social security card in my wallet.) The California Department of Motor Vehicles told me I had to pick up my new license in person. Now I have no photo identification for the airport. Maybe we are being naive, but my husband and I figure many people lose their wallets on vacation. We plan to arrive early enough to get me patted down, my luggage searched, and, hopefully, on the plane back to Oakland.

I was on the phone for at least an hour. I even had to call my health insurance company to get my policy number in case of an emergency. Yes, my family's life was in that wallet. I completely feel violated as I remember seeing a scruffy-looking man (probably homeless) with something in his hand, pass by the restaurant. There is a good chance I will never see that wallet or its contents again.

Like a hungry dog, I waited for my brother-in-law to come home from work to drive us -- and pay -- to go to a restaurant. Once we ate, I tried to withdraw money from an ATM machine, using my husband's debit card. The machine credited my account for the money, but did not dispense the cash. Once again, we returned to the apartment so that I could call the bank in Chicago and my bank back home in California. At least that ordeal ended. After battling my son for some time -- I coaxed him and read him the books I bought in Chicago -- he, finally, went down for his nap. The Windy City is so cruel.


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