Our first week in Ireland has been a WHIRLWIND.
Apparently, the motto in our house is “hit the ground running.” Just once I’d like to try dialing it back a notch to see how “hit the ground after this Netflix binge” feels. I’ll bet it feels nice…and not jet-lagged.
Jet lag aside, I don’t want to give the impression that this week has been without any bumps in the road. Every good adventure has a few of those. However, as I keep my eyes focused on the big picture, I can’t help but feel I’ve seen the kinder side of humanity this week.
Surprising? It sure as heck surprised me! In a world full of strife, I feel pretty darn blessed to have encountered so many kind individuals this week.
Here’s how it all began…
Our journey to Ireland started in Portland, Oregon. I explained to my children multiple times our flight itinerary. Emphasis on the multiple. There are no direct flights at this time from Portland, so we were set to fly from Portland to Los Angeles and then to Dublin.
I’ve flown through every major airport in California except LAX. I’ve done a fantastic job of avoiding it – until Monday. As our wheels touched down in Los Angeles after a quick 2-hour flight, my son turned to me and said, “are we in Dublin now?”
Sometimes I just shake my head.
We had less than 2 hours to change planes and get new boarding passes in Los Angeles. To make the most of this time, I checked out the map of the LAX airport before we landed. After landing I asked 3 different airport workers how to get from point A to point B. Signage where we deplaned in Terminal 6 was pretty much nonexistent, so I really was relying on those workers/gate agents for help. They were all super nice.
As it turns out, I picked exactly the three wrong people to ask for help at this airport.
That’s okay. That mad dash lugging our three carry-on bags through 4 terminals and the 80-degree heat while yelling at my children to put some pep in their step was good prep for my Amazing Race audition.
I felt like we were running around in circles to find the single Aer Lingus counter – kind of like this Irish merry-go-round, but not as fun.
Thankfully, I eventually found the counter and no one else was in line! Score! How often does that happen?
Turns out, no one was in line because all the passengers had already checked in. No biggie. I was sweaty, a little frazzled, but by golly, I was there! And my children straggled in too. We were good!
Since I was a “little late” checking in, the agent told me my bags might not make it on the plane, but she radioed down to Harold and Harold replied back in the affirmative that he was ON IT. I was really feeling a lot of affection for Harold at the moment.
The baggage situation was a little confusing to me since I was told our bags (aka all my earthly possessions that aren’t on the slow boat across the Atlantic) were checked through to Dublin. I understood this to mean that I didn’t need to worry about my bags. Even if I didn’t make my second flight, my bags would. I didn’t have time to discuss the finer nuances of “checked through,” though because 1) Harold was ON IT and 2) we still had to go through the security line to get to our flight.
The TSA agents at LAX were super kind and chatted us up about Ireland, which took my mind off why so many people think the “shoes off” or “laptop in its own bin” rules don’t apply to them. Plus, it was refreshing to NOT encounter rude, inconsiderate TSA agents for once. Kindness for the win!
We made it to the gate 5 minutes before boarding began, which means we probably could have done a little less mad dashing and a little more fast walking through LAX.
Mad dashing while carrying 2 unreasonably heavy backpacks and an overnight bag is a bit like doing Crossfit while running a 5K. It turns out that in addition to the back-up hard drives and personal documentation that cannot leave our possession, my kids also packed only the absolute necessities in their backpacks.
Like a wood treasure chest filled with pottery, a harmonica and emojis. Not the emojis I was feeling at the moment, but whatever.
It’s no wonder I had to take a paper towel bath in the airplane restroom. Treasure chests are heavy, people!
As I was stowing our precious cargo away for the flight to Dublin, the ticketing agent (the one who contacted Harold) tapped me on the shoulder and returned my baggage claim receipt that I had left at the ticketing counter. I was so grateful for her kindness. It turns out that claim receipt would come in handy when neither of our checked bags made it to Dublin.
Where’s a good poop emoji when you need it? That was the one thing NOT in my kids’ backpacks. I checked.
I didn’t know luggage-apocalypse was going to happen though and we actually had an awesome 10-hour flight to Dublin on Aer Lingus. The plane wasn’t too full, so we could stretch out. When we landed, my son was passed out across the aisle from me. My daughter and I were sharing a row of 4 seats. Since we had also been stretching out, we were on opposite ends of those 4 seats.
In the final moments of our flight, I was sitting there thinking about what a relief it would be to see my husband after 6 weeks. I could hardly wait for the wheels to touch down.
Finally I felt the jolt of the plane making contact with solid ground when out of the corner of my eye, I see projectile vomit spewing out of my 9-year-old daughter’s mouth.
Now, this is one of those times in life when everything happens in slow motion. It’s like I could see the little particles of puke launch themselves out of her mouth and toward the guy sitting ahead of her. I could see her hands reaching up to try and catch the next wave of puke that was coming up her throat. My arms are reaching out to help her, but I realize I’m still buckled in and 4 seats away, so I’m actually not all that helpful in those long 2 seconds.
In a stroke of luck, my daughter had the airline blanket mainly across her lap, so what puke didn’t land on the wall and people around her, landed on the blanket. The kindest flight attendant on the face of the planet jumped out of her seat and ignoring the other passengers, got wet paper towels and wiped the vomit off my daughter’s face. Wiped. It. Off. Her. Face.
I’m just keeping it real here. I’m her mother and in that moment, I definitely would have gotten her the paper towels, but I might have made her wipe her own face clean. I certainly would never, in my wildest dreams, expect a complete stranger to be that compassionate when it comes to puke. Faith in humanity was restored right then and there.
After all of that, I really was extra relieved to see my husband. I’m sure he felt the same.
While that was probably the pinnacle of human kindness we experienced this week, we’ve been blessed countless times by people in Dublin.
There was the man who got up from eating his dinner on a park bench and walked out of his way to ask if we needed directions. There was the lady who got in line at the government office at 5 a.m. so that we didn’t have to be there until 7:15 a.m. Sure, that was part of her job, but she didn’t have to greet us with a cheery smile and offers for coffee. Another lady came to our door to welcome us to our temporary neighborhood and told us all sorts of useful tidbits about the neighborhood. On Friday a train ticketing agent left his desk to find us on the platform to tell us he noticed we were using adult train cards for the kids and we could save half of the fare by switching to child cards. And I’ll never forget the gentleman who offered up his umbrella to us in the middle of a torrential downpour.
Small things. Chance encounters. I don’t know if Dubliners are kinder than Americans or if I’m just more receptive to it this week since I’m a fish out of water. Either way, I’m so happy to have experienced the power of human kindness and I hope I can return the favor ten-fold.
P.S. Our bags showed up two days after we arrived in Dublin. And all was right in the world again.