I have a shortish bucket list of places to visit in my lifetime, because I’ve read about different corners of the globe and I’ve always had a hankering for seeing them up close. Patagonia. Paris. Senegal. Lebanon. Hawaii. The trick is, getting there takes some doing. I imagine that for millennia, most people stayed pretty much where they started, with some nomadic peoples making long treks, or some specific folks earning a reputation for exploration and such. Perhaps there’s a wisdom in nesting, because with all of our technological prowess and transportation advancement, venturing from Point A to Point B is still a total pain in the keister.
Ever since we moved to Walla Walla, one of our quieter gripes has been that it takes 2-3 flights and 12 hours or more to get to the East Coast, usually at an expense of $500+ per traveler. At some point Susanne and I toyed with the idea of going to Hawaii instead of making multiple trips home for the holidays. Once we assessed that the prices really were similar, coming here shifted from a tongue-in-cheek thought experiment to a plan. And because we’ve struggled with getting in and out of Eastern Washington so many times now, seeing a three-legged airplane journey didn’t feel like a big deal. What price to pay for paradise, we asked ourselves.
Turns out, a 6-hour flight is no small feat for a toddler. The entire ride, we listened to wailing like I’ve never heard come out of any human being, much less a small child. Thank goodness it wasn’t Emile having the extended purple scream. Sure, he fussed, asking for “down,” and saying “all done” with the jaunt just 20 minutes after takeoff. But he held it together for the most part. Getting to the big island, Emile notched his 12th, 13th, and 14th flights in his new existence. A couple of bouts with turbulence notwithstanding, Hawaii Airlines gave us a smooth ride and a strange meal box. But hey, they have a meal box. It was a step up from the pretzel bag from Delta, and 10 light years better from the three sips of flat cold soda that they serve on United. (I think we all know I will never again breathe a friendly word about United Airlines.)
I say “strange” to refer to the meal box because well, Hawaii Air saw fit to supply passengers with small, sweet, untoasted hot dog buns, a rectangle of cream cheese, a teaspoon of guava jam, a chocolate chip and macadamia nut (what other nut is there down here) cookie, and a cracker snack mix. If this box is supposed to represent the culinary aspirations of the island chain or the Polynesian people, I would be in full support of a protest. It would be like having New Jersey Airlines offering riders a slice of cold pepperoni pizza, corn nuts, and a hothouse tomato, and having that represent what people in the Garden State eat on a regular basis.
We were seated one row ahead and two aisles over from the Purple Crier, a girl not much younger than Emile, and incidentally dressed in purple, but such distances matter not when one is contained in the same metal container hurtling through the air at 500 m.p.h. Emile looked at the baby in some amount of wonder, then noticed that there were two older kids seated in front of him, and forgot all about her and her misery. Now he could converse with the neighbors in Row 37.
“Hi,” he said. “Emile.” A thoroughly proper greeting, if ever there was one.
To the children ahead, they heard:
“Hi. A meal?” Thus they assumed the toddler behind him was simply a moocher. His tarnished reputation aside, they were content to commiserate with him, mostly via sticking their hands between the seats and tickling each other.
A few mai tais later (mine, plus most of Susanne’s, plus my mother-in-law’s, plus some of my father-in-law’s), we were ready to land. I’d gate checked the stroller and my roller bag, as I’ve grown accustomed to doing since moving the the Pacific Northwest where the planes are often much smaller. There’d been some confusion in Seattle about my final destination (death, according Nietzsche) and that had made me nervous about handing off my luggage, but I did it anyway because I don’t know, tired, ready for vacation, take your pick.
Landing in Honolulu, we had one last short flight left to the big island. I saw the stroller folded up in the jetway. But not the bag. Oh no. I asked the gate agent, who told me it would be in the baggage pickup. I didn’t have time to get back in through security, so I figured I’d have to call the airline and have it sent. And then I wondered how much that would cost. Several silent swear words later, we got on the flight to Kona.
Seated behind the engines, we didn’t get to see anything outside the aircraft, so I was even more amazed when I walked out into the sunshine and the outdoor facility. It looked a lot more like the National Zoo with its wooden outbuildings than an airport terminal. Susanne and her brother went to rent the car, and I headed to baggage claim to get our checked bag, looking for the Hawaiian Airlines counter so I could file a claim for my roller bag. And there it was, the little silver tag I’d so lovingly clipped onto it 12 years ago in order to distinguish it from the other 10,000 black roller bags crowding every conveyor belt it found. Eureka!
We waited, with purple and while leis around our necks, for Susanne to show up with the minivan, and then we made the 45-minute trip to Captain Cook where the legendary sailor met an untimely end. It was a 20-hour journey from the desert of Walla Walla to the tropics of Hawaii, and I am still enjoying listening to birds I’ve never heard before.