Here’s a top travel tip. When a city has two airports, like Dallas, go to the right one.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I was on the way to pick up my daughter at the Dallas airport to spend the weekend with me, my two nieces and her boyfriend who was driving up from Houston. I was staying with them while my brother and sister-in-law were in Italy. That’s the best of times.
After her flight was delayed 90 minutes, pushing her arrival to almost 1:00 AM, I kept myself awake in the usual way — making fake intestines out of knee-highs, spaghetti and red food coloring with my niece Claire. She was in charge of a room of the haunted house at her school that weekend and had chosen the theme of cannibalism. So real-looking intestines that she could gnaw on were a must.
At midnight I set out for the 15-minute ride with plenty of time to spare. I even took my iPad so I could relax and read while I waited for Catherine. My trusty GPS lady on my iPhone would guide me to Love Field.
As I approached one of the four gates leading outside Hackberry Creek, the huge subdivision where they live, the trouble started. The gate was locked. Slightly panicked, I tried to navigate to the front gate, the only one open after midnight, but all my efforts led me again and again to the same locked gate. It may not have been the GPS lady’s fault but that didn’t stop me from speaking very harshly, okay cussing loudly, at her.
As I tried to navigate through the dark, eerie streets that form the maze of their neighborhood, the formerly cheery pumpkins and whimsical Halloween inflatables became increasingly menacing. It may have just been my imagination but the smiles on the pumpkin faces seemed to turn to grimaces and the giant spiders hanging from trees loomed larger and closer to my car each time I passed. I swear the inflatable monster lifted his ax and leered at me each time I passed.
I found myself in an existentialist nightmare, a modern take on a “Twilight Zone” episode where a middle-aged white woman is doomed to travel forever within the confines of a suburban maze.
I was finally able to reach Claire on the phone, and she calmly navigated me to the front gate. By then I had major trust issues with my former friend, the GPS lady, but I still quickly punched in Dallas airport and set off on the deserted highway.
But as I made my initial approach, the horror increased. I saw the sign for the airport: DFW. And my daughter was at Love Field. In my panic I had typed in the wrong airport, a realization I came to just as I approached the toll booth heading into DFW.
Now one may think that as a travel writer I should be able to navigate myself to an airport 15 minutes from my brother’s home. And I should be able to handle the resulting stress, especially as my home airport is the world’s busiest. And one would be wrong.
Practicing deep breathing techniques to ward off a major freak-out, I calmly, well as close to calm as I could get, turned myself around and headed back the other direction to Love Field. As GPS lady continued to direct me around the ridiculously confusing highway system in Dallas, I could hear the double beeps on my daughter sending me texts but was unable to respond.
I finally found my way to Mockingbird Lane and called my daughter to inform her on my pending arrival. At 1:30 AM she got in the car. And to quote Charles Dickens again, “The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again.” Fortunately I navigated us safely back into the front gate of Hackberry Creek, where the pumpkins were now smiling at me again and the spiders had retreated to a respectable distance.
We had a wonderful weekend and even enjoyed the haunted house at my nieces’ school. Although all the kids did a fantastic job, I wasn’t scared. I knew all of that horror was fake, while those menacing Halloween decorations in Hackberry Creek earlier in the week? Those were real.