How I made it to 29+ without ever having to travel by myself is a good question. But there I was, signed up for a work conference located about as far away from Alabama as you can get in the continental US: Everett, Washington, roughly 40 minutes north of Seattle. After briefly considering taking the hubs along, we decided that it was time for me to put on my big girl panties and figure out how to travel on my own (that and..you know, asking the parents to watch the kiddos again, cost of the extra airfare, etc.).
I know for some of you, this is not a big deal at all. Heck, I’ve got friends that are in different locations every time they make a Facebook post. They just hop on a plane and go. But I also know there are others of you out there like me whose extent of travel by plane includes a couple of school trips back in the day, your honeymoon, and possibly an anniversary vacation if you could manage to squeeze it into life. There’s probably another handful of you who, also like me, have always had the travel arrangements handled by someone else. I’m actually not sure how this happened in my case bc I’ll be the first to admit I’m a bit of a control freak. But hey, a little delegation done right never hurt anybody.
Once I read through our company’s travel policies and gave up on trying to pick the perfect departure and arrival times, actually making the arrangements wasn’t so terrible. (But for those of you who have never booked a flight before, just a heads up: there are 18 million possible ways to get there, including different airlines, different connections, different airports, different seating classes, etc. And that’s not even getting into the struggle of picking the aisle or window seat (Notice I’m completely leaving out the middle bc, seriously…WHO??) Just know that going in. Expectations and all.)
Just a Lazy Sunday Drive to the Airport
So the day finally gets here, I say tearful goodbyes to my sleepy headed children, and scoot out the door. Of course it decides to pour during the entire interstate drive to the airport. And of COURSE my low tire pressure light cuts on five minutes into the 45 minute drive (This is a frequent issue and has to do with a valve cap that someone forgot to put back on *ahem*).
The entire “getting to” the airport consisted of me squinting through the rain with the wipers on high, white-knuckling the steering wheel to keep my tank on the road, and going over the procedures for high speed tire blow outs in my head over and over (just in case). And to top it all off, my SUV scraped the clearance bar as I pulled into the airport deck, so I was convinced that at any moment I was going to be permanently wedged into a concrete beam. If the rest of this trip went anything like the opening number, I might as well head on back to the house.
The Crap Shoot of Airplane Seating Arrangements
Fortunately, hubs had prepared me well for what to do and where to go when I got inside (and BHM is a pretty simple airport so that helped). Checked my bag, made it through security (you do NOT have to take off your jewelry, btw. Huh.), and found my gate all without incident.
That doesn’t mean I wasn’t uncomfortable though. I’m pretty sure I must have a touch of social anxiety. For example: I hate accidentally making eye contact with a stranger. Do you smile? Look away? Glare?? And can we please discuss the boarding process. If they weren’t so stinkin’ expensive I would totally buy the seat next to mine just to prevent the terror of not knowing who you’re going to be crammed beside for the duration of the flight. Am I the only one that tries to make sure there’s absolutely no body contact? Brushing arms and legs with strangers? No.
Let’s not even get into the horror of having to sit beside someone that wants to small talk. Other than mumbling a thank you under my breath when she let me into my seat, the woman beside me on the first leg of the trip fortunately didn’t peep the entire way. We both had our books out and that “not interested in being social” vibe successfully going. The four hour trip from DFW to SEATAC though? Home grits had no problems with the chit chat no matter how high I held my book or shifted my back to her. But, as it usually goes, after I relaxed and realized that I had no actual obligation to keep the conversation going or interesting, it wasn’t so terrible (sidebar: why do we put undue pressure on ourselves to force conversation? Am I the only one that does this? It literally stresses me out to be in a conversation that isn’t flowing naturally. As if I have some obligation to be witty or something. The more confident I get over the years, the more I accept that if the dialogue peters out, I’m gonna enjoy the quiet and rock on.)
I made it through both flights (and YAY for adequate airport signage that enabled me to not only pretend that I knew where I was going, but also kept my eyes focused upward and prevented any of that accidental eye contact we talked about earlier), got my luggage, found the tram to the rental car facilities, and then things got a little dicey.
Clown Cars and Blinkers
We’ve rented cars before; infrequently, but I’ve watched as it went down with the hubs. We’ve even rented cars from larger airports with those massive thousand acre parking lots. I have NOT, however, ever rented a car from an airport with an entire parking deck of rental cars. All of the agencies were on different levels, but I’m pretty sure the escalator system also doubled as some sort of IQ test and y’all, right then I wasn’t feeling too bright. I needed to go down one level. One.level. No problem, right? I hopped on the escalator and the next thing I knew my level is slowly passing me by with absolutely no way to exit. For some ridiculously unknown reason, these escalators went two levels at a time. (And no comments on how I could’ve made this work bc at that moment I was still in “all by myself I hope I’m doing everything right have to stick to the itinerary” mode.) It was like a mean joke. I could SEE the level I needed to be on but couldn’t get there. I finally gave up, found the handicap elevator, got my rental, activated Siri, and drove like a kid with a learner’s permit (no joke) out of the deck.
This brings me to my next issue when it comes to rental car agencies in general. Why in the WORLD would they spit you out of a parking deck and almost directly onto interstate traffic in a car that you’re unfamiliar with?? I drive a tank each day. Not just an SUV, but an extended length SUV (it was totally necessary with all the car seats and baby gear back in the day and now it’s just paid for so….). What did Enterprise issue me? A Corolla. Y’all, it literally felt like a clown car after what I was used to. I thought my butt was gonna scrape the road if I hit a pothole and that the entire car was about to be sucked under every semi I passed. (In all honesty, I fell in love with that little car by the time the trip was over. The PARKING abilities alone you guys.)
There seriously should be parking lots set up somewhere by the rental agencies with practice courses and cones. Heck, even just the “oil change check” would have been beneficial (blinkers, wipers, brakes, honk). I’m not kidding. Trying to find these things going 70mph in crazy traffic (Birmingham makes me nervous so you can imagine what Seattle did to me) was probably not one of my brightest decisions. But then again, I had trouble figuring out the escalators so….
You Have Arrived at Your Destination
To say that my day of travel included a few learning curves is probably an understatement. Fortunately, after a not so jolly jaunt through Pike’s Place Market which included another genius decision not to stop and eat or hydrate (I’ll have a separate post about my (mis)adventures exploring alone later) I made my way to the hotel, forced myself to grab a bite to eat, and promptly went to bed.
Flying alone? Check. Getting my own rental car and not crashing? Check. Checking into a hotel by myself like a big girl? Check check. Like I said earlier, none of it is a big deal unless you’ve never done it. Then it’s a ginormous deal and all the little details can be overwhelming. But there’s a first time for everything I guess. Glad to be able to check these particular firsts off my list. And mad props to Siri. Her and her iPhone might be getting a bad rep these days, but that chick knew where to go and how to get me there.
Next up I’ll be recapping my lack of social and navigational skills (that sounds pathetic). How about, check in next time as I give you the inside scoop on how to rock Seattle solo?
Until next time,