Atlanta: Chapter 8

Our last morning in Barcelona comes early. We are up by 5 and on the bus by 6:30. Our flight is to leave at 10:30.

Bad traffic all the way, but we make it to the airport. After checking every one in, we wait in line at the security checkpoint. As my bag rolls through the scanner, the security “expert” at the Barcelona airport keeps repeating “battery” to me and makes me unpack my suitcase to show him my first aid kit and books he somehow suspects are batteries.

Then there is the customs checkpoint, which mercifully does not take long. We finally make it to our gate with a few minutes to spare. I am then informed that the US TSA has randomly selected me to be further searched. So again, I unpack everything and am found to not be a terrorist.

Our flight leaves on schedule, and about 90 minutes into the flight, an ominous message comes from the captain–he asks if there are any doctors on board and if they’d kindly head to the rear of the aircraft. About a dozen men and women head to the back. A few minutes later the captain announces we’d be making an emergency landing in Madrid. Our plane quickly descends and lands. We are on the tarmac for nearly two hours. I don’t know what happened to the passenger who had to be taken from the plane, but I hope he is okay. It is an unsettling situation.

Once airborne, it dawns on us that we will most definitely miss our connecting flight home from Atlanta. Alex works with a flight attendant who is most helpful in dealing with Delta, and when we land in Atlanta we are told we’d all be on a flight home tonight.

This isn’t exactly the case.

The priority has to be to get the kids home, and the ticketing agent at the gate is able to get them all a seat and one kid on standby. And fortunately, he gets a seat on the flight. That leaves three of us in Atlanta for the night. It is after 11 pm. More than 24 hours after we’d woken up in Barcelona.

Luckily, Alex has a brother who lives near downtown Atlanta, and he graciously welcomes us.

Alex, Brian, and I are on a 3:15 flight the next day, so in the morning we tour the amazing Georgia Aquarium, one of the most remarkable aquariums I’ve seen–Whale sharks! A manta ray! A sea turtle! Dolphins! Beluga whales! Free Swedish Fish!

We arrive at the Atlanta airport over two hours before our departure time, and quickly realize we’d be in a rush. Our boarding passes can not be confirmed and we cannot check-in. Alex spends a lot of time on the phone, and we spend a lot of time standing in a line. Finally we have boarding passes in hand. We arrive at the gate about 10 minutes before boarding.

In some ways, this overnight layover was the perfect ending to a trip that went otherwise flawlessly. Nothing truly bad or unexpected happened in the 10 days touring Europe. Our kids were awesome–well-behaved, punctual, respectful, energetic, and kind. We could not have asked for a better group for young people. And the time spent in Atlanta with two great people and friends, while not what we had preferred, was time well-spent.

I came home to my animals, a crazy and excited dog, an indifferent cat, flowers and a card from my very thoughtful Sarah, who also bought me beer and wine and made a welcome home banner in French and everything. She will be back Sunday, and I get to bore her with days and days of stories and hours and hours of pictures.

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