Wheels Up Wheels Down Part 1

We made it to Brussels. The flight itself was uneventful–which is exactly what everyone always wants a flight to be. I watched Argo, which was tons of fun (I mean, how a propos)–recognizing the cameos of the HST building we had just left earlier in the day and remembering my opportunity to see other important buildings and thinking about being in an embassy (but hopefully not in those circumstances)–until Randy decided to watch it too, which just fueled his fire…oops. Bad call.

(If you haven’t already seen Argo, you can read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argo_(2012_film))


And to my PCSing colleagues, if your flight has the option to upgrade to Economy Plus (United) or its equivalent, I highly recommend it. It’s cheap and worth the four extra inches and the fancy way the seat reclines. We took a gamble and booked an aisle and a window hoping no one would upgrade to a middle seat, and won. I slept all night all stretched out on our three seats all to ourselves. Thanks for the tip, Missy and George!

The 24 hours leading up to the flight and the check-in process, however, was decidedly NOT uneventful. First of all, I left way too much to accomplish in the waning minutes–I don’t know how this happened–It’s never happened to me before. OK, maybe once. OK, maybe every time I ever have to pack anything and I experience the standard Stay Up All Night Packing and Organizing The Night Before A Trip; I did just that. In the end, my suitcases are a jumble of bleach and Easter candy next to my best suit and overweight to boot. Oh, well. Does anything ever change?

And then there was arrival at the airport.

(Warning: this is an elongated and elaborated version of my recent FB post for those who aren’t on FB.)

So after working very hard to make sure EVERYTHING was totally in order for Quandary to fly United’s PetSafe overseas, and reading EVERYTHING we could get our hands on, and asking EVERYONE EVERYTHING we needed to know to pull this off, we arrive and the ticket agent tells us that his kennel is not airline acceptable and it HAS to have holes on all four sides. This is the brand new kennel Randy purchased just for the flight–all airline certified and all, the same one he he had just flown from Denver to DC in…

So this is how it went down: the ticket agent kept saying things like “There is no way we can accept the dog for flight in this kennel” and “Do you want to go home and buy another kennel and try again tomorrow?” and “Do you want to try another airline?” and I kept saying things like “Are you kidding me?” and “May I speak to a supervisor?” (very diplomatically of course, without raising my voice or anything) and “Can I see that policy in writing?” All the while, Randy was silently checking his suitcase for his leatherman, which he located, and diligently cutting six holes in the back of the kennel. You can see his handiwork here:


MacGyver wins.

If you look closely here, you can see Quandary all happy in his newly vented kennel, waiting to board. Those are the holes Randy cut in the back.


And for all those who made smarty pants remarks about him having a blade in  the airport, this was at CHECK IN, PRE-SECURITY; it was in his CHECKED BAGS.

Needless to say, it was quite the scene. I can just imagine my three children reading this now. Megan is smiling and thinking how cool her parents are and is probably going to share the story with everyone. Ian is laughing his head off at the hilarity of it all and enjoying the story for all it’s worth. And Adam is sadly shaking his head, with equal parts pity, shame, and relief that he wasn’t there in the midst of it.

On the bright side, there was so much commotion during this two hour check-in debacle that they forgot to charge us their exorbitant excess and overweight baggage fees. Score. Saving the government money. I might get a medal of honor.

So after all that, as I said earlier, we arrived in Brussels, reunited with Quandary right there at baggage, took a VERY LARGE VAN taxi to our hotel with our four large suitcases, four carry ons and one large kennel, and were able to check in to our hotel at seven in the morning. Gotta love Europe. We slept until it was about seven AM body time, then headed out to explore my favorite city. First stop: beer at a sidewalk cafe, enjoying a beautiful sunny day. Depending on how you look at time–body time versus local time, I guess you could say we had beer for breakfast.


Followed by moules and frites:


Then a little exploring of Grand Place IMG_3501

and some of the other things Belgium is famous for besides moules, frites and beer:


And of course, no visit is complete without the mandatory photo in front of Mannekin Pis


Clay and Megan, we thought of you often with such fond memories of our first visit to this marvelous city, famous for beer, french fries, mussels, chocolate, waffles and an 18 inch high statue of a little boy peeing in a fountain. What’s not to love?

Before heading back to our hotel to crash for a good night’s sleep before our last long leg, we had a little dessert:


Kwak, in its infamous round bottomed glass, in memory of my first ever beer in Belgium. Thanks for introducing me, Clay.

So in closing, a few tips for my soon-to-be PCSing colleagues:

  • Remain flexible (and creative). No matter how hard you try to be thoroughly prepared, things are bound to go awry. Keep calm and carry on.
  • Upgrade to Economy Plus if its an option.
  • If your flight is over 14 hours long, take the layover you’re eligible for. When else is someone going to pay for you to spend the night in a European (or wherever) hotel? We weren’t planning to, but in hindsight, we’re glad we did. I think we’ll arrive that less tired and jet-lagged. Plus the Kwak was delicious.
  • Even if the airlines tell you to arrive two hours ahead of time, three is not a bad idea. After our kennel-cutting check in fiasco, we arrived at our gate just as our plane was boarding. Go ahead, Randy. Gloat in your Always Arrive Ridiculously Early Policy. I’ll give it to you this time: it was a lifesaver.
  • Oh, and if possible, take along someone as resourceful as Randy. 🙂

Next stop: life in Bujumbura!



7 thoughts on “Wheels Up Wheels Down Part 1

  1. So many things to love about the post!! Beer, waffles, knives, and your wonderful wit…thanks Babette! Glad leg #1 went smooth!

    Sorry I didn’t make it out to see you in DC… We come in tomorrow night!

    Enjoy the rest of the trip and can’t wait for the posts to come!
    – Jared


  2. Nice posting, hopefully all remains calm on leg #2 and beyond. And Randy…… I am proud of you. Those holes look factory made.


  3. This is sooo Babette! I wish you and randy much joy and happiness in Burundi!
    Be safe my friend!
    P.S. you are right about the upgrade on the airlines. That’s the only way we fly!


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