At the very moment that we learned that Courtney was accepted into the study abroad program at her university and that she would be living in London from January through June of this year, I began to worry about her feet getting cold and wet. I come by my fears honestly because (a) I’m her mother, and (b) she’s lived most of her Southern-California-born-and-raised life in flip flops. In fact, even on the rainiest days Courtney prefers flip flops because then, she says, you don’t have to worry about your shoes and socks getting wet. But what I tried to tell Courtney, and correctly so I might add, was that London weather, and London rain in particular, is different from Southern California rain.
Courtney was not worried about her footwear. She planned to take UGG boots, one pair of UGG boots. Arghhhhh! I knew that those would get wet on the first day and then she’d have nothing dry and warm for the second day and then by the third day she’d catch pneumonia and then on the fourth day, unable to breathe, she would not be able to call home and then on day five she’d croak off all alone in a foreign country.
So I wanted her to take at least one pair of Land’s End All-Weather Mocs, the warmest, driest, most comfy shoes on the planet. Courtney pronounced them ugly and said she would not take a pair with her even if they were free, which I told her they were because I’d buy them for her. She flat-out refused them, even when I offered to throw in the UGG boots. She argued fashion and I made excellent points about function over form. I even bribed her with new sweaters if she’d to go with me and try on a pair. When it was clear that she wouldn’t listen to reason, I enlisted Kristen’s help. Kristen enlisted Adam’s help, and when none of us was making any progress, I called out the big guns: Trish. Trish knows England well, and Courtney loves Trish. Surely, Trish could convince her, I hoped. I was wrong again. Courtney prevailed. She packed up her UGG boots and off she went. I am guessing there were flip flops stowed away in her bags, but I preferred to remain in denial, so I didn’t ask.
Now it doesn’t take a degree in psychology to know that I was transferring my feelings of worry over Courtney traveling and living overseas all by herself to simply worrying over footwear, but still. However, it turns out that not having the proper shoes upon arrival was the least of Courtney’s problems. Courtney had no shoes or anything else upon arrival.
Courtney’s connecting flight in New York left without her due to a ten-minute delay at take off. The American Airlines agent at JFK scolded Courtney for booking her flights with too short of a layover, which flights Courtney PURCHASED ON AMERICAN AIRLINES’ WEBSITE AS A PACKAGE from San Diego to London. American could not get Courtney out on a flight to London in this decade, so they booked her on British Air (in business class!) for the following night. Then they gave her a voucher to a Best Western in the dodgy end of town and a $5 meal voucher (she was delayed for over twenty-four hours). The next day when Courtney arrived back at JFK to check in for her British Air flight, British Air would not honor American’s business class voucher. American Airlines blamed British Air and British Air blamed American Airlines. Tom was on one phone with British Air and I was on the other phone with American, and despite our best efforts for over an hour, we could not get either airline to budge. British Air said it needed a hard copy of a voucher with certain precise wording on it, and because American had already provided a hardcopy voucher with what it thought ought to be sufficient precise wording, American thought British Air should accept any revised precise wording by computer, fax, or telephone, which it would not, and British Air told us she was lucky to be on the flight at all. American allows one carry-on and one personal item, but British Air made Courtney check her carry-on suitcase, and so off she went with everything checked but her backpack.
When Courtney arrived in London there was nary a suitcase waiting for her. And guess what? American Airlines blamed British Air and British Air blamed American Airlines. Courtney filled out a lost-baggage report and headed for her dorm to check in quite late, only to open her backpack and find her laptop broken. Still, this self-sufficient survivor managed to get to the last thirty minutes of her day-long orientation with no sleep, no change of clothes, and no computer. I took out a second mortgage on our house and overnight shipped Courtney a box of her contact lenses, and told her to go buy the essentials she needed while she waited for her luggage. When Courtney went to purchase a change of clothes and what not, the credit card company’s fraud protection unit immediately placed a hold on our account because I forgot to call ahead and tell them there would be charges on it from England.
Throughout this debacle, I was on the phone with Courtney around the clock, and I mean around the clock. My eyes felt like sandpaper, as I know did hers. Courtney left on Saturday morning. On Tuesday afternoon, I had this conversation with her:
Mom: “Courtney? Are you okay, Baby?”
Courtney: “I’m okay.”
Mom: “Do you have your luggage yet?”
Mom: “Have you called the airline?”
Courtney: “No. I filled out a report at the airport and gave them my dorm address.”
Mom: “Courtney, you have to follow up with them. It’s Tuesday. The last time you saw your bags was Saturday. The longer the bags stay lost, the less chance you have of ever seeing them again.”
Courtney: “I know.”
Mom: “Would you like me to call the airline for you and see if I can track it down? You can give me the number from the report you filled out and I’ll see what I can find out.”
Courtney: “I left the report at my dorm.”
Mom: “Where are you?”
Courtney: “At someone else’s dorm.”
Mom: “When will you be back at your dorm?”
Courtney: “I don’t know.”
Mom: “Well, what are you doing Honey?” [Thinking: “What are you doing that could be more important than finding your luggage?”]
Courtney: “We are going to go see Buckingham Palace.”
Mom: “Aaaaah. Well, when you get back to your dorm, you can call me with the report number if you want, and I’ll try to help you.”
Courtney: “I’ll call you later, Mom.”
Mom: “Okay, but Courtney, as soon as you can, please try to find out what’s going on with your missing bags. You’re not going to go back to your dorm and find that your luggage has magically appeared in your room.”
Three hours later my cell phone rang.
Courtney: “Mom, guess what?”
Courtney: “When I got back to my dorm just now, my suitcases were in my room waiting for me!”
It turns out that it isn’t any easier to be a mum than it is to be a mom.