So, it’s Independence Day at 7:10 am and I’m sitting in the airport with my wife and two sons, ready to go to Summer Nationals. I am sure I packed everything (you may recall my previous article concerning packing for Reno). We’re carrying most of the fencing equipment with us on the airplane (except my son’s lame’ and, I thought, both of their knickers – more on that later). I purchased a new hybrid golf bag to carry their weapons and had no problems checking it with the other four pieces of luggage containing all our clothes. I booked a Southwest flight that stops in Las Vegas and continues on to Reno – no airplane changes. I calculated every angle to not lose our luggage and packed every conceivable item required for the tournament. The kids got up in time (even though it was 5:00 in the morning!) and the airplane is at the gate ready for us to board within the next 10 minutes. T-minus 40 minutes and everything is going smoothly. 7:11 am, Columbus airport, my wife asks, “Did you remember to pack their passports to verify their ages?” Houston, we have a problem!
I am obsessed about having proof of my kids’ ages for competitions. My wife is not, but at some point, I helpfully read the rule to her out of the USFA Athletes’ Handbook. I’m sure she thought, “There is no way that he could have forgotten to pack either the kids’ passports or birth certificates.” Well, I forgot. I felt like Jimmy Stewart when he thought he was spiraling to the ground in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. My mind raced through my options. Could I make it home and still be in time to board? Could I get a later flight? Did I have a copy of the passports with me? Would the bout committee even take a copy of the passports? Could I get someone to find the passports and fax them to the Reno hotel? Could I use faxed copies of the passports? Could I call Julia or Tim at 4:11 am, Reno time, to find out? My wife decided to call our friend (the only one with a key to our home) who was to feed our pet birds to try to have her fax copies of the passports to our Reno hotel. After a frantic call to our friend and an abbreviated description of where to look for the passports, we boarded the airplane at 7:20 am. I’ll check with Julia and Tim at a more reasonable time during the layover in Las Vegas. The flight is still a go.
We land in Las Vegas and I can finally check with Julia and Tim about the fax copies acceptability (I have been worrying about this for the last five hours). But wait, the flight attendant announces, “All the passengers going on to Reno should remain on the airplane.” After everyone else is clear of the airplane the flight attendant calmly states, “This flight to Reno has been cancelled; you have 15 minutes to go to the other end of the terminal to get your connecting flight.” Forget about my call to Julia and Tim, we will be lucky just to get on the connecting flight and I don’t even want to think about our checked baggage. However, we make the connecting flight, I make the call and Tim tells me I don’t need the passports, and we get to Reno and so does our checked luggage. Things are looking up.
Skipping ahead to July 5th we all wake up early due to the three hour time difference. The fencing tournament’s check in is 11:30 am for my youngest and 12:00 pm for my oldest. It’s now 8:00 am, we all have eaten and we might as well have the kids get on their uniforms so we can go over to the venue, to just hang out before they fence. “Honey, didn’t I give you two knickers to pack?” I ask my wife. “No, you only gave me one,” she responds (a little too quickly, I think) and she has that “don’t blame me for this” look on her face. Just to make sure there’s no doubt, she adds “I packed everything that YOU gave me.” I told her that I wasn’t blaming her (yeah, right). I’m getting the Jimmy Stewart feeling again. I frantically search through all our luggage. No luck. My wife is reliving in painful detail the moment when we packed the uniforms. “And then you gave me that ONE PAIR of KNICKERS and I PACKED THEM, remember. . .” she says.
Nationals require the fencer’s name to be on the uniform. Of course, I had it printed on both my kids’ knickers and, just yesterday, had it printed on the back of the new lame’ for my oldest kid – just to be safe. I didn’t put it on my youngest son’s new fencing jacket I just bought him a month ago for his birthday because it was on his knickers. Guess which pair of knickers I forgot to pack? Yup, it wasn’t my eldest with his name on the lame’, no it was my youngest whose name was only on the missing knickers. It’s time to formulate a battle plan.
We get to the venue at 8:30 am. My wife will take the kids to the vendor to buy my shorts-wearing youngest a new pair of knickers and have him change into them. Meanwhile, I will go to the vendor that stencils on the names to see if he can put the name on my youngest child’s fencing jacket before his 11:30 am check in. Well, everything worked out and my youngest not only got a new pair of knickers but a fencing jacket with his name on the back (he also got two new tips on his broken epees’ but that’s another story).
Suffice it to say, the least stressful part of Nationals for me was when the kids actually fenced!