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"Hurry, follow us, and this woman can get you on a bus to Leon!" Those were the words I heard when Ann Dunn and her husband Mark hurried by with their luggage in tow, making their way through a very crowded Mexico City airport. My own entourage slowly came to a halt behind me, as my wife Jan, six year old son Matthew, and a skycap pushing an overloaded cart of our luggage successfully navigated amid the chaos of the airport lobby to reach the spot where I stood.
It was time for a split-second decision about our travel plans. With little time to weigh the consequences, my instincts would have to suffice. Still, I had to have a little more information before deciding. I stopped Ann just long enough to ask "Which woman?". She pointed to a woman in a blue AeroMexico uniform and a bright red bow in her hair. With that single piece of additional information, I decided this was the best development we'd had in hours. I tried for a moment to remember the Spanish word for 'follow', but failing that I pointed toward Ann, and told the porter in English "Follow the red-haired lady." I'm sure the words were meaningless but our actions weren't, as we headed back into the crowds, unsure of our destination but glad to at least be moving again.
By that time, our travel day was more than 12 hours in progress, and nothing had been easy yet. We left our home in Mississippi around 7 AM, headed to New Orleans where we were to board a Delta airlines flight to Dallas. Then, from Dallas to Mexico City, and on to Leon/Guanajuato (pronounced lay-ON, and gwana-HWA-to) airport. Our scheduled arrival was 6:30 PM.
Trouble started early. Upon arrival at Delta's check-in, the agent advised us that our initial flight was delayed for an hour, and the delay would be a big problem for our connecting flights. After some wrangling, she managed to book us on an American Airlines flight just to Dallas, where we could resume our original flight plans. Of course, that wouldn't be easy. The American flight left a little earlier than our Delta flight, so we were already running behind. We rushed through the New Orleans airport, wrestling enough luggage for our planned 19 day trip to the American Airlines counter. We arrived just in the nick of time, checking our bags with less than 5 minutes to spare for the flight. We rushed through the security checkpoint, and straight onto the awaiting plane for the first leg of our journey.
The flight itself was uneventful, and provided a brief respite from the already hurried pace of our travels. However, once we landed in Dallas, we were off to the races again. Our airline switch in Dallas required changing terminals. We left the secured area in the American Airlines terminal and caught a bus to the Delta terminal. Once there, we had to go back to the ticket counter to be checked in for our international flight. As the minutes until our connecting flight ticked off one by one, we encountered another hurdle for the day.
Mexican authorities are very strict about children traveling into the country. For example, if a child is traveling into the country with only one parent, the other parent must provide a signed and notarized document proving that the travel is permissible. We were aware of that, but we knew it didn't apply to us since we were both traveling with our child. What we did not know is that a passport is not considered sufficient documentation for the child. Since a passport does not indicate who the birth parents of the child are, the airline wanted a birth certificate in addition to our son's passport. Of course, we didn't have that with us. Upon discovering that, the Delta agent frowned for a moment and disappeared into the offices behind the counter for a while. After about 5 minutes, she returned, and called our son over. She asked: "Matthew, who are you traveling with today?" Our son pointed to us and said "These guys." She asked "And who are they?" To our great relief, he said "My mom and Dad, silly!" Having our entire vacation plans hinge on the correct answer of a six-year old boy was an interesting feeling. Knowing our son, he could have just as easily answered something silly, like "I don't know, I met them this morning."
Finally cleared by the airline, we were off to the races again, having to clear security once more, and of course, our layover time wasn't calculated for that extra process. Nonetheless, we made it safely aboard our scheduled Delta flight from Dallas to Mexico City, a flight actually operated by AeroMexico. Upon boarding the plane, we were greeted with "Buenos Dias", our first indication that we were on our way out of the States.
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