We'd come down off the high of knowing that Abe, in the eyes of the Ethiopian courts, was finally ours and had managed to celebrate and buy plane tickets and reserve a guest house in Addis Ababa and packed our many bags, thanks to the generous work of our friends Carolee and Pattie, who Ted nicknamed "Radar O'Reilly." Really not sure what I would have done without these friends, the same ones who threw us the amazing Welcome Home, Abe party a week after we got back.
I'm a pretty fastidious traveler, having done a lot of it in my lifetime, on planes and trains and buses and ferries across the Nordic seas, many times totally on my own. This was both of our first times to Africa, so we were pretty excited about that. We were flying out of LAX, which is typically an hour long drive from our house through harried traffic in downtown L.A., so we decided the easiest thing to do would be to have a friend drive us to Union Station (only a ten minute drive) and then take the $2 Flyaway bus to LAX.
We had it all planned perfectly. I'd showered at the very last minute, knowing that it'd be a pretty long time before I'd get the chance to do that again. I'd put on my brand new black stretchy pants ("yoga pants" for those more hoity-toity than I am), pulled my hair back in a bun, and only moisterizer on my face since traveling with mascara is the worst. I had my carry-on stocked with all our important documents, including both our passports, as Ted has misplaced his on occasion.
We unloaded all our bags at Union Station with plenty of time for the flyaway bus. We were so giddy and excited and eagerly answered people's questions about where we were going with all that luggage. We even took a photo with this kind fella who was working the station that day:
Can you believe this guy? He was awesome! Just as giddy as we were! We gave him a generous tip for helping get all our bags on the bus, and we smiled the whole way to LAX.
We jumped off at our terminal, unloaded our bags and set up a 'home base' near the electronic ticket check-in where I waited with our stuff while Ted went to check us in.
He stood about 30 feet away at the kiosk for what seemed like forever. I was starting to grow a little anxious. All I could see was him shaking his head back and forth, trying over and over to move things ahead. He must have put our credit card in and out of the slot 50 times. I had no idea what was going on.
Finally, Ted slowly put the card back in his wallet and walked slowly towards me, his head hanging in what I can only guess was shame. He approached me and slowly looked me in the eye. I asked quietly, "Um, what's going on?"
"It keeps saying we are not allowed to check in more than 24 hours before our departure time."
The neurons in my head started misfiring. I stared at Ted blankly. It started to make a little bit of sense. We stared at each other as we figured it out. We pulled out our itinerary and saw the proof of our idiocy.
We'd arrived to the airport exactly one day too early.
Both of us had lived alone in foreign countries. We'd both managed to keep ourselves alive and fed and clothed and relatively safe for years in foreign countries, even going so far as to make friends and travel to other foreign countries with these friends. So how did this happen?
And more importantly, what were we supposed to do now? We were too embarrassed and ashamed to call anyone to come pick us up. So we got on hotels.com and tried to book a room close to the airport with a shuttle service so that we wouldn't have to face the embarrassment of going all the way back home. After the shock of our oversight had worn off, we spent the next two hours sitting in the airport trying to figure out what to do.
We finally sucked it up and called our friend Susan, telling her the truth, and asking for a ride back home from Union Station. She laughed and laughed and laughed, and I'm pretty sure I could hear her laughing on the entire bus ride back to the station. As she pulled up to pick us up, the laughter got louder and as we loaded all our luggage back into her car, all the while avoiding the confused gaze of the friendly station worker, she kept saying, "You have to blog about this! You must! What an incredible chapter of this story!"
Except I couldn't. I was too embarrassed. We made it back home in time to go to bed. I woke up the next day and took another shower and put on the same clothes. I sat in front of the computer, completely unsure of what to do with myself and read the comments left by the kind people cheering us on the day before, the wrong day. I felt like such a loser. So did Ted. He piddled around in the yard until it was time to go.
I don't remember a whole lot about the actual day we left. After the day before, it felt pretty anti-climactic. I think I just felt relieved to finally have our boarding passes in hand and to be allowed onto an airplane, the actual right airplane taking us to bring home our son.