GUEST BLOGGER: ERIKA RAUER (Craig’s wife)
The week before leaving New York for Norway, I did an exact count of how many diapers Grace uses on a weekly basis. The number was 49: 7 a day. So, for 11 days, I packed 95 (just to be safe) plus an extra few in the diaper bag. I also calculated 3 outfits a day, 9 “binkies”, two changing pads, baby carrier, car seat, stroller, two giraffe teethers… the list goes on. I researched weather in Norway, sleep accommodations, flight bassinet, and infant jet lag. I began packing in earnest a full three days in advance, adding little things as I remembered them. Norway was to be our first trip as new parents, and with Grace just under 6 months old, we are still getting the hang of, well, everything. Travelling with NYP was new, too; I had never been with the guys on a trip further away than Greenwich, CT.
Craig and I calculated that from our home in Jackson Heights, Queens, the trip to Newark International would take (with traffic) 90 minutes. To give ourselves plenty of time, we decided to leave at 2:30pm for our 7pm flight. In the morning, Grace had a last-minute photo shoot with Sing for Hope on the pop-up piano in Jackson Heights. We still managed to board our dog, pack the car, and get on the road on time. We left at 2:42 with a brief stop for a poopy diaper three minutes down the road.
As we got on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) and headed toward Brooklyn, we had to make a decision: take the Williamsburg Bridge to Manhattan and the Holland Tunnel (definitely shorter on the map) or take BQE around Manhattan through Staten Island and up 95N to Newark. Craig hates the BQE; he opted for the tunnel. I had misgivings, but I figured, it’s still early– let’s go for it.
We got into Manhattan easily but things slowed as we reached Soho and headed to the tunnel. Then they slowed some more. Then they stopped. I mean, they really stopped. We were in the middle of a block of traffic, and the lights were cycling through and no one was moving. Over and over. This was frustrating at first, then annoying, then, as we watched minutes tick by, absolutely maddening. 4:30. 4:38. Nothing, with cars stopped as far as we could see. I called the airline. We had to check in by 5:30. The call service was located in Estonia; they were no help. We moved one car length. Ten more minutes went by. When we were finally the ones approaching the box, I told Craig to gun it. The reason typically aggressive New York drivers weren’t going through the intersection? Two cops on every corner. I had missed them. They approached our window and I literally burst into tears. “We’re going to miss our flight! We’re travelling with an infant.” The officer looked amused– “I’m just doing my job.” $115 later, he informed us that it was still another 30 minutes to the tunnel. “What were you thinking, the Holland Tunnel on a Friday afternoon?”
I called the airline. Changing our flights: $762 each. I wouldn’t be able to go. Craig would have to go without me and Grace… on our first post-baby vacation. I cried some more.
I called the airline back and spoke with a slightly more helpful Estonian. If we could check-in online by 5:30 and ask Craig’s bandmates (the other 3 NYP guys had taken the train to the airport) to speak with the airline staff on our behalf, they MIGHT make an exception for us. So, with reservation numbers in hand, I tried to use Craig’s smartphone (I’m a technology Luddite) to check-in online in the remaining minutes. As I was absorbed in this task, we somehow got through the tunnel. It was 5:08. When I’d finally figured out the online form, (feeling like I was working on a ticking bomb) it was rejected.
Suddenly, the pace of traffic started to pick-up and we were faced with make-or-break decisions about which way to go. It was 5:18. We decided that the best plan was to bypass parking and drive straight the terminal. Craig would then race in with all of our big bags, beg their mercy, and try to check us all in. Meanwhile, I would take the baby, park the car and race back to the terminal to meet up with Craig. 5:24.
I circled the airport three times to find the long-term parking (cleverly marketed as Economy parking), parked the car, and ran to the 1980s-era bus sign where I waited for the bus. It started to rain. No bus. It started to pour. Still no bus. I reached for my phone to let Craig know I was delayed… but I couldn’t find it. Did I leave it in the car? How would I find him in the airport if he needed to board the plane without me?! No choice, I had to get back to the car before the bus came. For the trip, we packed an older stroller, because we didn’t want to damage our new one. Good thinking except that the older stroller is impossible to maneuver, doesn’t fit between the cars, and can’t be pushed with one hand…which, since I was also lugging a suitcase I had forgotten to leave with Craig, made things much worse. So, I made a panic-induced decision to leave Grace in the stroller at the bus stop and turn back to look at her every ten seconds while I searched for the car. I found the car. No phone. I gave up and ran back to Grace. I was losing it.
After fifteen minutes of waiting for the bus, I saw a bus approach the Air Tram but then stop and go no further. I made a run for it in the rain. A weird crying-wheezing sound was coming out of my mouth. When I asked if she would take me to the terminal, the bus driver looked at me like I was absolutely crazy. The Air Tram. I was supposed to take the Air Tram. Yes, it turns out they’ve updated the Newark airport transportation system, but neglected to let anyone know this, leaving travelers to figure things out for themselves. I got on the Air Tram with Grace and suitcase. At this point, Grace was whimpering so I pulled it together and talked to her in a happy voice. I got off at Terminal B. It was 6:15.
Then I heard my phone ring….in my purse? Craig was in the check-in line in the terminal. Apparently, there had been a computer glitch, so no one (not even the pilot) was able to check-in. Soaking wet, I found the guys, calm as cucumbers. Craig was never so happy to see me. We sped through priority security, got on the plane as it was already boarding, and sank into our seats. It was 7pm.
On the plane, we had everything we needed for a comfortable flight, due to my impeccable planning. Grace slept like a baby.