My husband's boss paid for us to take a tour of the Grand Canyon. I want to lay out really explicitly that I am so grateful for that opportunity. I had a lot of fun, and it was an amazing experience.
But I'm not me unless I have a laugh at my expense, so I'm going to talk about the really shitty parts of the tour.
First off, let me set the scene: To start with, the trip began at eight on a bus that took us from Las Vegas to Boulder City. From there, we hopped on a plane to an airfield near Grand Canyon West, then got on a helicopter, which took us to a boat on the Colorado River, and then back to the helicopter, then onto a shuttle that took us to Sky Walk, then to Guano Point, and then back to the airfield where we took the plane back to Boulder City. We're a group of six adults, one five-year old, and a very small infant. I say "very small" because all infants are in fact very small.
I don't know much about babies. I don't want one. They seem like a lot of hassle, they don't have a whole lot of personality, they don't do much besides be small and constantly in need of care, and there's something a little horrific about always having a tiny person wanting to latch onto your nipple.
This baby in particular was just not having a great day. He cried a lot, and to be honest, I don't really blame him. It was hot, his schedule was jacked, and on the boat they put a life jacket on him. I suspect if I had a limited vocabulary and an inability to comprehend the situation into which I'd been placed, I'd be fucking done, too. Social anxiety disorder being what it is, I can completely understand the desire to cry when I'm uncomfortable.
Of course, I'm a person who doesn't like or want kids, so it was pretty trying. I suspect it was trying for his parents, and they probably did want kids. Don't get me wrong: this isn't me throwing shade on the baby or the parents. (Who throws shade on babies? Who does that?) I get that there are babies in the world and they cry, and I need to suck it up. It's just a stressful thing and an important factor in the story.
I mention this baby specifically because he is a major player in the events of the day.
Okay, so the trip:
I have never in my life been on a Cessna. This one was an eight-seater plane that made me very dubious just looking at it. I was more dubious when I got on, hit my head, and had a panic attack during take-off. Now, I'm not an infrequent flier. I've traveled a lot for work reasons. I've never gotten sick - in fact, the only time I've ever felt queasy is on a catamaran out on the Pacific Ocean. But man, this plane fucked me up.
I did not want to do that again. I managed to keep it down, but spent some time bent double and deep breathing when I disembarked.
The helicopter was amazing. I have never been so stoked to do anything in my life. We got up in the air and I was literally the smiley emote, humming the Jurassic Park theme, just having a blast. They could have left me in there for the rest of the trip and I would have been gold. I don't know how much helicopters cost, where I would keep one, or who would fly it, but I want one.
So we get off the helicopter at the bottom of the canyon and I see stairs. Lots of stairs. I'm admittedly not great at thinking ahead, but at this point my spidey sense is tingling. We have to go down those stairs to the boat. It is 109 F outside. I don't think that helicopter lands anywhere else.
Well, it'll be fine, I think to myself, and skip down the stairs because damn if I don't like boats.
We get on the boat and the guy running the operation offers a life jacket for the baby. I'm thinking, "Oh, this is going to go great." This kid's already pretty pissed off and now they're going to put a tiny, bulky life jacket on him in this heat?
I was right. They put it on him and the baby's world ends. He is done with this shit. It's hot, he's cranky, and now he looks like Fester Addams. He screams until they finally break down and decide the potential risks are outweighed by everyone's sanity, including the baby's. They take off the life jacket and suddenly it's a peaceful boat trip again.
And oh my god, it's gorgeous. The canyon's towering over us, the sky's blue, the water is...well. Brown. There's sage growing along the banks, we're snapping photos, it's great.
And then we get back to the dock and I remember the stairs.
Have you ever seen something loom? Because these stairs loomed. We have to climb them to get back to the helicopter, and I'm thinking...maybe I can just live down here. Maybe I can be that weird tourist who just decided to build a little lean-to at the bottom of the stairs and never left.
By a small margin, returning to civilization wins out and I make the climb to the top again. Barely. Miserably.
The helicopter ride back is a little less enjoyable because the poor infant is still in a haze of misery. We did betray him, after all, by putting that life jacket on him.
His brother, however, seems remarkably chill. He's just letting it wash over him as though he mastered the art of Zen. Five year olds are pretty cool people.
We get on the shuttle, get to the glass bridge Sky Walk thing, and that is where I have panic attack number two for the day while simultaneously discovering I am terrified of heights. But I walked it. I don't remember much about it, but I did it.
We had a very brief lunch at Guano Point and had to hurry on to get back to the airfield for our return flight, and I do have a lot of complaints about how the tour company planned that, but it's not really that big of a deal. The important thing to focus on here is how fast we had to move to finish the tour, and how stressed out everyone was getting between having to hurry and trying to keep the baby calm. All this kid wants is to be with his mother, which is stressing her out because carrying a kid for hours in the heat isn't fun, and it's stressing the baby out because as much as he wants to be cuddled, it's hot and he doesn't want to be touching her.
And the only thing he knows how to say to convey what he wants when he's unhappy is "Up, up, up," which is probably not going to get him whatever he's hoping for. He's smart enough to be really frustrated with his inability to communicate. The baby is having a horrible day.
So eventually we get back in the plane, and by this point I'm hot, I'm tired, the baby is crying, and this one guy in our group has not stopped talking and ramping up my anxiety past the breaking point. I could deal with the crying baby. I understand the crying baby by this point because I've watched the progression of his day and seen just where we adults failed him.
But I can't deal with people who talk through their anxiety. I can't deal with adults who can't shut the fuck up.
So. I'm done, and I have to get on this Cessna that has so far not been my friend. I know as I'm getting on the plane that whatever happens next, it's not going to be pretty.
I was right. Ten minutes into the flight, I feel It. You know that feeling. The sides of your throat feel like your rectum. Everything on the inside sort of slides down like it's winding up to throw a fastball. By this time, I kind of want everyone to stop talking and just let me try to talk my body into calming its tits, but my husband's boss is a really loud man, people are still amped from the trip, the baby is crying and repeating "Up, up, up," and the only chill person on this flight seems to be the five year old.
I start hurling.
For a moment, there's silence on the plane with the exception of me, upchucking into a paper bag. Then shit goes nuts.
Bossman scrambles for a plastic bag and has a second paper bag ready when I inevitably fill the first one (props to him). He takes the baby from his wife while she goes searching for wet wipes and tissues because moms have everything in those diaper bags...
The infant starts screaming. Whatever is happening to him, he doesn't want it to be happening. All I can think - as I'm bent double, trying to aim into the tiniest barf bag in the world while the tiniest plane in the world bounces its way across miles of n o t h i n g - is, "This thirteen month old kid is voicing my innermost feelings in a really spiritual way. I can relate to the baby. I, too, want to scream."
This is the only time I've ever really connected with a baby.
At this point, all I want is to stop throwing up, but the wailing is hitting a nerve that keeps activating my gag reflex. I didn't know that was possible, but it totally is. In between gags, I manage to tell Bossman to give the baby back to its mother, and instantly the crying stops. So does the vomiting. Chaos has left the building.
I lean back and sit in a stupor until we land, and from that point I have a very vague memory of buying a sports drink because I was convinced I "needed electrolytes". When we got on the bus back to our hotel, I promptly threw up the electrolytes again, so I must not have needed them that badly.
At the hotel, I remember my husband telling me we should say our goodbyes to everyone, and then turning around and saying really loudly, "Bye," before barreling through the Mandalay Bay lobby to the elevators, possibly knocking over a club promoter in the process.
I woke up at about eight completely naked and dying for water.
The plane cursed me. I can't drive a car now without getting carsick. I blame the plane.
I blame the plane.
After discussing this experience with my French professor, I have been given some new perspective on the Cessna flight: I may have been upchucking, but at least I didn't have to pee.