What happens at Denver airport, during the holidays, after 130+ flight cancellations, with two kids, a tired mom, and no checked bags – stays at Denver airport.
Our most recent jaunt through Denver International was an experience to say the least. Hubby had driven back a day earlier (his work schedule is pretty tight). The kids and I headed back to the airport the next day. We had been visiting my dad in Arizona. It was a great Thanksgiving. Lots of food and family. We were in the holiday bubble, completely unaware of the events taking place in Colorado. Little did we know there were mass flight cancellations and delays happening due to intense fog as we laid our heads down to rest that Black Friday.
We flew out of Tucson early Saturday morning. The thought of checking in on Denver’s status had not remotely crossed my mind. As the first leg of our long flight home landed, I turned my cellphone back on and one of the many missed messages was a notification that our half hour layover had become a 2 hour layover. No biggy, or so I thought. I actually like a little bit of a wait. It gives me a chance to grab a coffee, get the kids a snack and potty break, and we don’t need to feel rushed.
As we looked around us, we saw a number of people sleeping in corners, nestled up atop their bags… It just barely made me wonder – but I quickly moved on from any thoughts about “what if” or “should I be concerned”. We hadn’t checked any bags, so the three of us were lugging one carry-on and one personal bag each. We were getting hungry and I needed a coffee bad. When one of the kids noticed the train below us, I explained it was like a subway to get people from terminal to terminal.
I had not expected the kids to get SO excited at the thought of going on it. We didn’t even need to. We were already at our terminal. Then my phone dinged – another delay. So I said why not. We literally have NOTHING else to do and I need these kids occupied. So we hopped on a train and just rode it to the end of the line. It was not a far trip, but the kids were eating it up.
Normally, if hubby had been with us, he would have had us all hunker down at our gate (which was a fluid concept at the time) and just sat in the one spot until our flight was ready. I, however, love airports and since our kiddos had only flown once before, it was still magical to them. So we rode the trains. We had a blast. I used the opportunity to have my son (oldest) tell us which train would take us where and find it on the map. My daughter just loved watching all the people, a number of which had dogs with them. They were both getting a controlled and safe experience with independence in a setting I could manage – or so I thought…
At this point, our half hour layover had become a four hour layover. It was to the point we had stopped laughing about it. I knew the train thing would only last so long. But, then, we did the unthinkable and we did it completely by accident. We got on what we had decided would be our last ride until we got some lunch. Whoops. We accidentally took the train that really did take us to the end – I mean outside of secured areas kind of end. A massive pit formed in the bottom of my stomach.
Oh shit, I thought to myself. Keep calm. Don’t freak out the kids… Keep it together.
I kid you not – the line to get through security surpassed ANYTHING I’d EVER seen at Disneyland, anything I’d seen ever. It was easily a four or five hour long line to get through security.
I felt light headed all of a sudden as we wound our way around the building and still never saw the end of the line. This beast had multiple intersections. There were security and police roaming to keep everyone in order. Even with our delays, we still wouldn’t make it through that in time for our flight.
I’m not going to lie – I was sincerely starting to panic. I started kicking myself, this never would have happened if hubby had been with us.
I stopped. Pulled it together. I KNEW there was a solution here and dammit I was going to find it. We passed the TSA Approved line (it had maybe ten people in it). I tried to ask the security guy guarding it if, in our exact predicament, we could go through. Before I could get anything out, he barked, “Have you had the background checks done already?” I didn’t want to lie, so he quickly pointed us back the other way. The scary way…
I was determined to find a way into that line. I started feeling like a woman from steerage on the Titanic trying to get to a life boat. Then! My eyes crossed paths with a guy – no idea who he was. He just had an airport shirt on with a question mark. I had a question. A desperate, pleading, dyer question that I hoped he would answer the way I needed him to.
He must have sensed the panic brewing in me because he took me right to the TSA line, told the guy I was clear and we were on our way. I swore to him we had already been through security and just got on the wrong terminal train. He was SO understanding.
I truly hope that guy had a beautiful Christmas/Holiday season.
As the kids and I sat and ate our lunch right after that, safely near our gate, we laughed about how wrong that could have gone, what we learned, and what we enjoyed. I tried to explain how we could have had a fixed mindset which would have led us down the path of waiting in that HORRIBLE line. Instead, with our growth mindset, we were able to find a solution. Yes, we had to try a few times, but we didn’t give up. We made it work. It worked because we tried, we stayed calm, and we focused on the solution instead of the problem.
After all of this, our flight was delayed a total of seven times. We waited in the airport at least nine hours. The kids were champs. We agreed never to speak of our near “death” experience. But as I’ve thought about it, it seems like a story that needs to be told. We loved the adventure. And, despite the momentary scare, we lived, we learned, we grew and bonded. Overall, it’s a happy ending to a long, long day.