It had only been a few months since September 11th happened. Flag day delivered the news that The Netherlands would be our first post. SWEET!
We planned, we packed, we got excited! We also were very adamant that we would not be THOSE UGLY AMERICANS flashing diplomatic passports, asking for perks, being loud, being bossy. Post September 11 made traveling feel a bit scary and for some reason we felt that making our first international move with an infant and a 6 year old should be smooth and understated. We should in no way attract attention to ourselves. Besides, we were now ambassadors of America and felt the full weight of this responsibility!
Reality caught up fast in the form of eight huge overpacked suitcases, a stroller, two car seats, a diaper bag, carry ons, and cold weather clothes. Just getting to the airport and through to the departure gate was a sight to behold.
We got on our flight and settled in. I got to hold baby Jackson on my lap most of the way for the seven hour flight. Seven hours felt like forever between spit ups, feedings, clothing changes, diaper changes, entertaining a small one and the mounting excitement that our Foreign Service life was about to begin for real!
We landed and waited patiently for all the others to get off the plane. Not only was that good manners, but we really needed some extra time to just get off the plane. Jackson went into the car seat balanced on the stroller. I carried three carry-ons and the diaper bag, held my daughter’s hand, and pushed the stroller while my husband loaded down a push trolley with our luggage which all made it! YAY!
As we worked our way out of baggage claim our sponsor appeared, welcomed us, and beckoned us to follow him to the waiting cars.
And darn if he didn’t walk super fast. We struggled to keep up. My daughter’s feet were tired. The baby was fussing. Bags kept slipping off my shoulders, promising to dislocated my elbows.
Remembering to be low-key, I caught my husband’s attention to motion to him to hurry. I was lucky even to get his attention because he was struggling behind a super stacked trolley that didn’t want to move well and that he couldn’t really see over. So we scrambled, trying to blend in, trying to keep up, as our sponsor disappeared into the crowd on an escalator walkway. It was REALLY crowded, but we jumped on, sighing in relief to take a moment to regroup bags.
I glanced back at hubs as the moving walk way climbed steeply. He was tipping the cart back and holding it in place. We smiled at each other in that happy, smug way that you smile when you are accomplishing something important like arriving in Europe without standing out as Americans because you are blending in. Sort of. He was the only huge cart of luggage. The crowds of people around him, with just their one medium non-decript pull bag, were in full commute mind set.
While grinning we rounded a sharp hairpin style curve. I adjusted the stroller to make the turn and noticed that I no longer saw the sponsor in the crowd ahead. Slightly panicked, I turned back to see my husband struggling to adjust the trolley on the turn. In fact, a bag had caught on the bumper. The bottom bag, which caused the cart to tip more precariously. He leaned into it with all his might to keep it on track. Those around him started looking nervous and started pushing, either back to give him a bit more space or forward to help brace him.
The next moment was a blur of a toppling cart and a husband getting buried. I heard him scream, “GET THE KIDS OUT OF HERE!! GOING DOWN!!” as
people nearest him began to also fall and shout and cuss. (On a side note a lot of Dutch sounds like English cussing, and the English cuss words that they also used were quite clear) From there it was a domino effect of bags and travelers and total chaos took over.
But that wasn’t the only spectacle to watch. There was me, now sure my husband was severely injured, running up the ramp escalator, bumping people out of the way, hollering at the top of my lungs for the sponsor or somebody to come and help. As we neared the top some man came flying top speed at the moving walkway, leapt into the air, and slammed the little red ‘STOP’ button.
Anybody on that walkway that had still been fighting to stand was now down.
MAJOR SCREAMING. MAJOR CUSSING. People were rushing the scene, grabbing bags and hurling them top speed through the air onto the main floor. It rained luggage around us like bombs and I took cover with the kids. When I recognized our luggage kabooming on the shiny marble floor I ran out to haul it aside to our little huddle sanctuary.
Hubs survived with a bruised ankle. In fact, amazingly everyone walked away without life threatening injuries. They also walked away knowing exactly who was the catalyst.
So much for our low-key arrival and our misguided ideas of blending in on an overseas move.
——————————————————————————Planes, Train, and Automobiles