Friday, February 4, 2011

Travel Time, Part 1

It was 4:45 am when the cab pulled up in front of the condo.
Positive that all the stuff I was taking with me for two weeks outweighed myself, I was frantically shoving things into bags at the last minute - including Mel.
Much thought had gone into this process.  The night before I set up her soft carrier with towels and sprayed it with "Kitty Calm" - an overly priced supposed mixture of "calming" herbal water.  I was skeptical that I had spent $24.99 on a bottle of plain water, but I was desperate.
There were no tranquilizers in sight - Kitty Calm was my only weapon.
Now I have to admit too, I bought her a pheromone collar - also touted to calm her down.
In between frantically trying to pack (last minute of course) and realizing that I needed to take twice as much stuff (I normally travel with one backpack and everything fits in that backpack), I attempted to "collar" Mel with the pheromones.

I have news for the manufacturer, 'Happy Cat:'  Your calming collar doesn't work and my cat wasn't happy.

In fact, my cat nearly hung herself by jumping up on the dining room chair and somehow getting the collar stuck on a wayward heavy duty staple holding my table together (yes my table is from Walmart, will I own anything nice as long as I live in Mel's house? That's correct).
Slow motion unfolded as I saw Mel fitfully dangling, squirming and finally sliding through the collar to the floor, only to give an indignent shake, glare at the piece of metal and collar that had held her captive and begin a immediate process of sterilizing herself from head to toe for the next hour.
I was now convinced that the "Kitty Calm" spray was pure water.  I'd been hosed.
But enough, I had to get in some sleep.
My suitcase lay half packed on the floor.  Mel worked at unpacking it all night, one pair of socks at a time.  Which she would then delightfully chase around the room at maximum volume.  One of her favorite past times, though I don't think attacking socks has been covered yet in the blog.  It's especially fun when she attacks them while they're on your feet.
By the time 4:45 am came, I was (still) wide awake and couldn't wait to shove her in that carrier for the next 12 hours to get her back.
Now you have to take a minute to think about this process.
My suitcase was 49.7 pounds - I barely made it under the weight limit.
Then I had my laptop.
Then I had my purse.
Then I had Mel's delightful self.
I'm less than twice my suitcase's weight.
So first was the suitcase, down the stairs, then the laptop, then Mel and my purse.
The cab driver came to the door and generously helped me load my luggage (at two dollars a piece).
I held onto Mel and put her in the backseat next to me, hissing and growling and being her usual self.
The cab driver got in the car, "You haff dog wit you fo holeedays?"
"Oh cat. Charming cat."
She never stopped the whole way to the airport.
Well in all of this, there was no way to bypass checking in at the desk.
Health Certificate in hand, I waited in line behind the overly-made-up-at-5-am college chick, the couple who looked like they were not just going on a holiday trip but moving to wherever their (temporary) destination was, that couple's four children who were running around and rolling on the dirty tile floor like hoodlums (I didn't even want to put Mel on the floor - oh the loss of dignity), and the old man behind me who, when I finally gave up and did put Mel on the floor, was nice enough to tell me "Your bag is moving."
Aye aye, thank you very much Captain.
Finally I, Mel, the suitcase, the purse, the laptop, the photo ID, and the health certificate made it to the counter.
"Please check in on the computer," said the desk attendant in monotone.
"Hi, I'm traveling with a cat.  I've already checked into the computer from home and it directed me to come to the desk since I'm traveling with a pet."
"Please check in on the computer," the monotone responded.
So I did, "you are already confirmed on this flight."
"Fabulous, would someone like to see the health certificate for my cat?"
"Please take your bag down this long hallway, the length of three football fields to check it in."
"Right, but would you like to see the health certificate for my cat?"

Purse and laptop went back over one shoulder, Mel went over the other shoulder and somehow I managed to pull my suitcase along behind me (though I'm half convinced it pulled itself because I still can't figure out how I made it through the airport with that much stuff).

Next challenge: TSA.

As I approached agent number one I declared (as though declaring a gun in my glove compartment to a cop who just pulled me over) - "I am traveling with a cat!"

The agent didn't blink.

"What would you like me to do? Would you like to see her health certificate?"
"Get in line."
Into the line we went.
Agent number two: "I am traveling with a cat.  Would you like to see her health certificate?"
"You have a cat?"
"Yes sir."
"You are going to have to take her out of the bag."
Tempted to make a bad pun about letting my cat out of the bag, I refrained and explained that I wasn't entirely sure that was possible.
"Just let them know up there."
"Would you like to see her health certificate?"
"No, that's okay."
I wanted to say, "Yes you do. Somebody better ask me to see the gosh darned health certificate!"
In line.  Sans suitcase, but still with laptop, purse and Mel.
Out come liquids first in bin one.
Then shoes in bin two.
(No one is going to steal my shampoo or shoes, at least I hoped not, so they went first and yes, I think about these things, and yes I'm particular about which order my stuff goes through the machine.)
Bin number three was my laptop case.
Bin number four was the laptop.
Bin number five was my purse.
That left Mel and myself.
Again I declared my cat, the health certificate in my pocket.
"You gonna have to take her out and walk through with her."
"Uhhhh I don't want to hold up the line, but is there another way to conduct this? I'm not sure she's going to go for that."
"Just hold her tight."
"Uhhhh...... yeahhhhh???? Uhhhh she doesn't um......."
"Are You Telling Meeee, that You Can't Hold That Cat?!"
"Uhhh.l... okay.  Well, can we at least make sure her carrier gets through quickly so she doesn't remove my arm while it's being scanned?"
Crap. I was stuck.  All I could do was hope that she wasn't going to flip.
A moment of calm descended upon me.
In fluid movements, I unzipped the carrier.
I grabbed the cat.
I shoved her head into my armpit.
I ran as fast as I could on my tip toes (no shoes = gross) through the metal detector.
TSA Agent #5 met me with the carrier, which Mel gladly jumped into.
Still in fighter mode, I got my liquids back in my bag, my shoes back on my feet, the laptop back in the case, Mel was back in her carrier - and then I swore there were angels singing somewhere and a bright white light descending upon Reagan National Airport.
Mel, I, and all the TSA agents had survived Mel going through security in my arms.
Cue overture.
Now I just needed someone to look at the coveted health certificate that I, the tech, and the vet had nearly spilled blood for.