You know how it is.
Since it's the holidays and the kids have two weeks off of school, you figure it's the ideal time to take off for a family vacation. (You do this because you've forgotten about all the arguing and fussing from your last vacation, choosing only to remember the smiling faces you see in the pictures you brought back.)
So you stop the newspaper, put a hold on the mail, and arrange for Santa Claus to drop by a day early (Santa can be surprisingly accommodating, considering how busy he must be during the days leading up to Christmas Eve). And even though you forgot to stop the milk from coming, and you're marginally concerned that a gallon and a half of curdled low-fat milk will be waiting for you upon your return, when you really think about it you realize that's not worth worrying about.
And so you pack up the kids, take a week's worth of crickets and your daughter's pet frog over to the neighbors' (even though your daughter is terribly worried that her frog won't survive the week), and head off to the airport where you'll hop on a plane that will take you to a White Christmas in Colorado. (Yes, you realize that what you're doing is completely backwards. People in Southern California do not usually go to Colorado at the height of winter, Christmas or no. People in Colorado usually go to places like Southern California at the height of winter. (People in California usually head off to the sunshine of Hawai'i, but since you did that last year, you figure the snow might be nice.)
And so you arrive at the airport, pull three bags out of the back as your three kids spill out of the car, and you hand your info to the skycap. (You always check in with the skycap, because it just makes more sense than dragging your bags (along with your family) through a long, twisting line of humanity, and if you're going to stand in a line like that with three fussy kids, there had better be the Matterhorn or Space Mountain at the end of it.)
But here's where things start to get interesting. First, the skycap informs you that the airline you've chosen (and you chose this airline not because it promised the finest tasting peanuts but because they offered the lowest fare) charges twenty dollars per bag. You hand over your credit card, realizing that there is no other alternative. (And since you're an idea man, you realize that it might be a good idea to start a new airline which offers free air travel but springs a surprise $300 per bag charge once travellers arrive at the curb.)
And then things get more interesting. Just as you've finished paying sixty dollars for your three bags (and included a ten dollar tip on top of that because you're certain that the airline's new policy has taken a serious bite out of the skycap's tip income), your daughter sits down on the sidewalk and starts scowling like an angry badger. She's watching the skycap wrap her car seat in a plastic bag before setting it next to the three suitcases, and she's staging a one-badger sit-in to protest the idea of sitting on the plane without her car seat. Just like paying for the bags, you realize you have no choice (even though a voice in your head is telling you that you're just showing her how to get her way), so you pick up the badger and head for the gate.
But as you're walking you suddenly realize that you're about 97% certain that you've left the heat on at home. You picture your house, empty for the next seven days, but still a toasty warm 70° (and yes, you know that it's environmentally irresponsible to have the thermostat set above sixty-eight). For about five minutes you wonder whether or not you should call your nephew and have him drive over and turn off the heater (and this time the voice inside your head sounds suspiciously like your dad, who always kept the thermostat unreasonably low since you could stay just as warm by putting on a sweater). But then something completely unexpected happens -- you mention to your wife that it might be a good idea to call your nephew, but then your daughter hears (not the badger, the older one) and tells you that SHE had turned off the heater. And then you smile.
When you finally get to the plane (after spending fifty bucks on two burritos, two tacos, and a quesadilla), you settle in and get ready for your two-hour flight. Sitting next to you is a kid in his twenties who's doing his best Justin Timberlake impression even as he sleeps. (You don't have anything against Justin Timberlake, by the way, and you have to admit that if you were a twenty-something-year-old kid on an airplane you might do a Justin Timberlake impression too.) As it turns out, Justin probably looks a bit more like Toby Macguire, and he's also a pretty nice guy. He asks what you're reading, and here's where things get upside down. You've got a collection of writing by Chuck Klosterman, which is pretty cutting edge, while he's reading a battered old copy of The Lord of the Rings, which is pretty dorky. You slide your book towards him, and you're certain that Justin Toby wants to be just like you when he grows up.
It's at about this time that you look across the aisle at your wife. (You're in charge of your son, who is usually the tougher of the three kids to wrangle, while she's got the two girls.) She mouths the words, "I'm hammered!" as she pours her second miniature bottle of Bailey's Irish Creme. (She's joking, and it's a good joke.) One day, you remind yourself, you'll be able to sit next to your wife again on a plane flight without a bag of snacks, books, crayons, and video games taking up all of the space at your feet and make clever jokes like that.
You turn back to Justin Toby who tells you about his girlfriend, and you realize that if the person sitting in the row ahead of you were listening or maybe peeking between the seats, he might see the two of you, you and Justin Toby, and make an assumption. He might look at Justin Toby, the hipster lifestyle oozing out of every pore, and then look at you, with your fussy son beside you, a badger-girl a few seats away, and he might think you'd like to change places with Justin Toby.
That guy in the seat in front of you might think that, but he would be dead wrong.
You know how it is.