I set my alarm for 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday, October 1st because I had a one-way plane ticket to New York at 6:20 a.m. It was moving day, the day I'd cross the country through its clouds, and there was a lot still to be done before the flight.
At 4 a.m. my phone vibrated by my head; the alarm I'd set was for PM instead of AM. If it was not for an early morning spam message from Beyond the Rack, I might have slept right on through til dawn.
I bolted off of my mattress on the floor and began to fly about the house in a desperate effort to get everything in order before my flight. I had just over two hours to get to SFO and through security and onto an airplane. Panic set in.
My first order of business was to get two unsuspecting cats into the single carrier I'd set out the night before, a task comparable to wrestling a greased pig, or rather, two of them. I'd dragged their food and litter box into my bedroom the night prior and closed both cats up inside. By limiting their access to the entire house, I was limiting their ability to hide from me when it came time to trap them in their carrier. I'd planned in advance. I was ready.
I managed to snag the black cat who never minds being held and gave him a quick nuzzle before placing him into the zippered soft-sided crate. He resisted a bit, but I got him in without much trouble, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Not so bad. One down, the little white and gray one to go.
I picked up Cat Number Two, the cat who does not tolerate being held, and carried her toward the crate as she squirmed in my arms. I unzipped the carrier as little as I could and tried pushing her inside. She locked all four legs and unsheathed her claws and used every bit of her will to avoid captivity. Still, I was able to force her inside...just as her brother popped right out of the bag.
It was then I noticed I hadn't closed my bedroom door behind me and thus the hide and seek game was on. I'd lure one cat out with a shake of the treat bag, wrestle him into the carrier and zip it up, only to have him slither out like a snake the second I opened it again to put his sister inside. They ran. They hid. They did not want to go inside the bag.
The clock was ticking. Time was running out and the cat bag game was unending. I'd put a cat in the crate, but when shoving the other one inside, the first cat would bolt. Cat in, cat out, cat in, cat out. This went on for twenty minutes. My plane was taxiing up to the gate, no doubt. I began freaking out.
I called Dominique who was already in New York awaiting my arrival and sleeping soundly on his friend's couch. He answered a sleepy hello at which time I let out a crying squeal the likes of which he'd never heard.
The boyfriend tried desperately to calm me from 2500 miles away, but I was a wreck. The cats were already traumatized, as was I, and we hadn't even boarded the plane yet. Dominique, sweet and sane, told me that if I missed my flight I could take the next one and to breathe, just breathe. I sucked down some air, told him I loved him and goodbye, and tried yet again to wrangle two cats into one carrier. The phone call was magic. On my next attempt it worked: two angry cats were finally confined to the crate.
I pitched out their food bowls and litter box and gathered my 70-pound suitcase and the other suitcase and the backpack and the carrier and called a cab. I didn't even change clothes; I just left in my pajamas.
The taxi gods were smiling because the driver arrived just five minutes later. He rushed me off to the airport, probably suffering a hernia from hoisting my luggage into the car. A text message from Southwest Airlines popped up on my phone. The flight was delayed by 30 minutes. I was going to make it.
The cats meowed all the way to SFO but piped down once we got inside. I stood in a snaking line to check-in as kids and adults alike cooed at the two cats in the yellow bag. Luckily at 5:30 in the morning the security lines are short, so we made our way to the coveyer belt and body scan machine in short order.
Once there I insisted on a room for the TSA screening of the two pissed kittens in a crate. All animal carriers must be inspected before boarding, which means taking them out of the bag. Without a room with four walls and a door, I imagined Goat tearing ass toward the nearest gate and boarding a plane to Mexico where he'd live the rest of his life on margaritas and tacos, never to be seen by me again.
They agreed to search the cat bag in a closed room, but could not agree on who would do the searching.
"Tom, you wanna screen this bag with two cats in it?"
"Felines?," he asked with terror in his eyes and shook his head no.
The TSA agents volleyed the task back and forth to one another until one lady finally relented.
"Do we have to take them out of the bag?," I pleaded. The nightmare of the hour prior was still fresh in my mind.
"Yes, we do," she said.
I showed her my arm, which was a mangled mess of scratches, cuts and blood.
"I'll just pat it down," she said while looking at my forearm in horror. I breathed a thank you and soon we were on our way to Gate 32.
I'd had nothing to eat, nothing to drink; I hadn't even brushed my teeth. By the time we made it through security there was no time for any of that, because the kitties and I were in boarding group A.
I carried the bagged cats onto the aircraft and got the distinct taste of what it is like to board a plane with an infant in tow. People began to shift nervously. They avoided eye contact. No one wanted to sit next to two mewling cats for a five hour flight.
But I also got a taste of what those parents must feel: I did not give a shit. I'd paid my fare and a fee for the cats and had made it this far without passing out or losing a pet to the sandy beaches of Puerto Vallarta. I chose my spot and stowed the cats under the seat and crammed the Klonopin I'd saved for this very day down my throat. It was fly time.
Southwest is the only airline that allows two animals in a single carrier inside the cabin, but the downside is they have no direct flights from SF to NY. I had a layover in Chicago, further extending the cats on a plane debacle. I kept having to poke at the cats to see if they were still alive and not just paralyzed with terror. They were breathing, but not exactly happy about it.
We finally, finally made it to LGA some ten hours later. Waiting for my bags and a taxi to our new place in Astoria was excrutiating because I knew how long it had been since those cats had peed.
I texted Dominique once in a Queens-bound cab and told him, "I'm going to come there frazzled. Don't take it personally."
He met me outside our place and took the cat bag from my hands. I nearly broke down on the street. We got all my baggage inside the empty new apartment, unleashed the cats from their portable prison, at which time I told my partner I needed five minutes.
The first thing I did at our new home was cry. I entered what is our bedroom and lost it. I boo-hooed and slobbered and snotted with relief, so grateful for the hellish trip to be over. Once I felt sufficiently cleansed, I left the bedroom to take a look at our New York pad with fresh eyes for the first time.
Dominique showed me around the place he'd selected for us and the cats, then took me in his arms and held me. I'd done it. We did it. We'd moved our family of four all the way across the country and no one died. We'd won.
The cats spent the next three days in either the bathtub or the closet. A full week later they're out and about and running things. They've fully recovered, and the scabs on my arms from their claws are completely healed.
Safe to say we aren't moving again any time soon. Moving day is over, gone, nothing more now than a good story to tell.