The Great Migration Part II: Planes, Trains and Anguish

Part II: Planes, Trains and Anguish

With my medical exams and administrative block-checking completed, the next major obstacle was actually getting myself, Wife, Skittles and Other Cat across the Atlantic to the US.

Everything up to this point was going fairly smoothly. Wife had done a lot of research into what we needed to do to clear customs. We had the cat carriers ready. We had provisions for the long flight and we were all ready to go… until we received a call from our travel agent rearranging our flight itineraries hours before we were to depart.

I decided to strap on my metaphorical shit goggles because I knew it was about to hit the fan.

So here’s our original itinerary; Frankfurt, Germany to Atlanta, Georgia and then to Florida.

Here is the new itinerary with our new stop at JFK international airport.

Now, this wouldn’t have been so bad, but I had recently watched The Terminal and I knew there was an outside chance that we could, much like Tom Hanks’ character, be stranded at JFK indefinitely.

Wife and I had never been to JFK airport either. We had both heard rumors that it was a tangled maze of sadness and we weren’t excited about the prospect of having to clear JFK customs with our two neurotic cats.

The day of the flight, we got the cats ready and made our way to Frankfurt international airport. Immediately the plan began to unravel. Other Cat decided it was an opportune time to have a little kitty psychological meltdown. Other Cat began panicking and it was clear that she was not going to be able to fly in the cargo hold with Skittles and all the other pets without having a stroke.

We took Other Cat out of her hard carrier and bought (for the low, low price of $60) a soft carrier to put her in so we could take her with us on the plane.

Skittles looked on at this whole ordeal from her hard carrier with jealously. It became clear when the airport cargo workers showed up that Skittles was taking this whole chain of events as the ultimate betrayal. I still remember her coal-ember eyes of hate staring back at me as they wheeled her away.

We headed toward the plane and lined up in the queue for the security checkpoint. The helpful security people told me that I had to remove Other Cat from her carrier as I went through the X-ray machine. I was not happy. The exchange went something like this.

Airport Person: Sir, you must remove the cat from the carrier.

Me: Come again?

Airport Person: The cat can’t go through the carry-on bag X-ray machine in her carrier. You have to take her out and carry her through the people X-ray machine. It’s for her safety.

Me: They’re both X-ray machines. What the Hell does it matter?

Airport Person: If you don’t, I will have to call security.

Me: This cat is going to claw the crap out of me and/or get away. You know that, don’t you?

Airport Person: Please remove the cat, Sir.

I removed Other Cat from her carrier and she clung to me and shook like a giant spider coming down off of heroine.

* Spider Cat will not be appearing in any forthcoming comic books until her drug problem is under control.

Everyone at the security checkpoint was looking at me and wondering what awful things I did to this cat to make her this neurotic.

I made it through the security a little self-conscious, but no worse for wear. Wife, Other Cat and I got on the plane and I braced myself for the plane ride ahead.

At this point I think it would be nice to inform you, dear reader, that I hate flying. No, that’s not right; I f@cking despise flying. It physically hurts me.

Despite being darkly handsome and healthy, I have this condition called nasal polyps. Depending on whether or not I have a head cold, this condition can potentially take a pleasant plane ride and change it into hours of agony.

As soon as drinks were served I ordered as much whiskey as the flight attendant was allowed to give me and finished the flight in an alcohol induced coma.

We got off at JFK and we had roughly 40 minutes to make our connecting flight on the other end of the airport. We had to grab Skittles and all of our luggage from the cargo hold in order to clear customs and put the cat on the next plane. Time was tight. Wisely, we sought out an airport worker and found out where the tram was located. We were in luck; the tram was due in the next 5 minutes. We waited for 15 minutes for the tram before the tram sign informed us that the tram had broken down some time ago.

We had a vague notion of where we needed to go. Encumbered with our suitcases and carry-ons, it was time for a decision so Wife grabbed Other Cat and I grabbed all 14 pounds of Skittles and we high-tailed it outside across the bleak landscape that surrounds JFK airport to our terminal.

It wasn’t my proudest moment, but as my shoulder was beginning to give out under the girth of Skittles, I thought briefly about leaving her in the airport.

I was determined that we were all going to make it though and Skittles was not abandoned despite the protest of my muscles and joints.

We made it to the terminal in time and the customs agent asked to see Skittles. Wife took her out of the carrier and Skittles was well-behaved for the first time in her life. It was like a total transformation had taken place in past 16 hours. I fully expected Skittles to claw the customs agent’s face to ribbons in .02 seconds, but it didn’t happen. She just sat there, frozen to the spot under her little kitty bed.

The customs agent even commented on how docile and sweet Skittles was. He jokingly commented that we had given Skittles tequila to calm her down. We didn’t give her anything. Baffled, we placed Skittles back into her carrier and I began thinking about what could have possibly happened to affect such a change in her in such a short amount of time.

The only reasonable explanation was that something terrible had happened in the cargo hold of the plane on the flight from Frankfurt to JFK. I imagined that as soon as the door was shut to the cargo hold and the plane was at cruising altitude, some unspeakable horror unfurled itself from a dark corner and began ramming its proboscis into caged animals to feed on their life juices.

Skittles was spared only because the horrific creature had gotten its fill from that golden retriever next to her. I imagine that this close brush with death was the catalyst for dramatic personality change in my cat in such a short amount of time.

We got on the plane and the rest of the trip was fairly uneventful; discounting, of course, the bottles of booze, pain meds and parts two and three of Other Cat’s psychological meltdown.

We arrived at Wife’s parents’ house in Florida tired and burnt-out. We weren’t entirely sure how long the entire ordeal had taken. We estimated that it was somewhere between 24 to 36 hours. All I knew was that I wanted to curl up in a sock drawer and sleep for a week. This was not to be because I had just over a day before I had to go to Texas to begin my career search. Once again, things were just getting started.


P.S. Other Cat and Skittles made the transition safely and are currently doing very well.

P.P.S Stay tuned for next week’s installment, Part III: The Career Search.

The Great Migration Part I: Preparing to Leave Germany

Dear Readers,


I know I’ve been away from the blog for a while but rest assured that I am alive and well in the US. I have made the great journey from Europe to America, but it did not come without the shedding of sweat and tears. My transatlantic voyage with Wife and two cats did not go off without a hitch or twelve.


As a result, I have decided to recount the ordeal in a multiple installment piece entitled, The Great Migration. What’s with all the grandiose wording and dramatic presentation? Well… there’s a very good reason for it so read on for Part I: Preparing to Leave Germany and see for yourselves.





the underwhelmer




The Great Migration


Part I: Preparing to Leave Germany.


As my time in Germany was drawing to a close, I began preparations to move across the Atlantic back to the US. The plan was simple; take the underwhelmer, Wife, Other Cat and Skittles (along with our collective meager possessions) and transport ourselves from Germany to that fabled land of monster truck rallies, high fructose corn syrup and chain restaurants.


What could possibly go wrong?


Unbeknownst to me, my elegantly simple plan was about to have the survival rate of an ice-cube at Hiroshima.



It all started when I had to get my mandatory “you’re moving to America and we have to make sure you’re not a carrier for Super-Ebola or some other scary virus that we saw in a movie one time, therefore it is real” medical examination or the YMAWHMSYNCSESOSVTWSMOTTRME, for short.


I drove to the nearest hospital that could do all of the required tests and examinations. The powers that be decided to skip the phrenology readings and trepanning so I didn’t have to go to outside of Germany, but I did have to drive for 3 hours on the German autobahn to get to where I needed to go.


For those of you that didn’t react at all to the last half of that sentence, let me clarify something for you. The German autobahn is the highway system of Germany. There is no speed limit in most sections and German-built cars are very fast.


This is an American speed limit sign.



This is a German speed limit sign.



I love the autobahn, but I drive a small, flimsy little shoebox of a car that was designed for short trips to the grocery store and nothing else. A simple trip down to the next exit on the autobahn in my tiny car is thereby transformed into a white-knuckled game of automotive Russian Roulette.


To top things off, my car hates me. I don’t know what I did to it, but it actively tries to kill me on a regular basis; it has an exciting tendency to drift into the left lane with no input from the driver. I imagine that the ghost of Genghis Khan or a person of equivalent evil is somehow bound to the car and wants to end my life in a spectacularly gory fashion.



Despite the best efforts of my haunted car and with a little bit of luck, I made it to the hospital and began my physical examination.


I made my way to the doctor, who resembled Norman Rockwell’s interpretation of an elderly physician. I answered a few generic questions and then I was then asked to get naked so I could participate in the old turn-and-cough check. I normally don’t object to getting naked in front of strangers.



*Above picture not drawn to scale.


This time was different though. While he was clasping my cash and prizes with his old, frigid hands, the doctor asked me to turn around and bend over. I was not amused. The exchange went something like this…


ME: Sweet Chocolate Christ, your hands are freezing.


DOCTOR ICE HANDS: Sorry about that. I’m going to have to ask you to turn around and bend over.


ME: Well, normally you have to pay extra for that.


DOCTOR ICE HANDS: Haha! That’s funny, but I seriously have to check your prostate.


ME: I’m 27 years old… you guys don’t check that until I’m at least 30. Wait… my wife put you up to this, didn’t she?


DOCTOR ICE HANDS: Turn around sir.


The whole ordeal was over shortly afterward and the doctor had ordered, among other things, some X-rays and range of motion check on some of my joints. I had then resolved that I would continue on with the rest of the day without having to get naked, probed and poked (in no particular order) again.


I put my robe back on and made my way to the X-ray department. I was met by a cheery young woman who explained all of the fascinating ways she was going to X-ray me. I feigned enthusiasm for the field of radiology and got on the X-ray table.


She paused, looked at me and then asked me to remove my clothing. It went something like this:


X-RAY LADY: You’re going to have to take off your clothing and put it in that chair over there for these X-rays.


ME: Oh, ha ha… very funny. Did Doctor Ice Hands put you up to this?


X-RAY LADY: Umm… I don’t know who you’re talking about, but if you don’t take off your clothes it’ll mess with the X-ray results.


ME: How will my clothes mess up an X-ray machine?


X-RAY LADY: It clouds the final image. We need clear results on your final X-rays.


ME: What about all the muscle and bone in the way? Doesn’t that cloud the X-ray machine?


X-RAY LADY: Yes, but…


ME: *Interrupting* You know what? Fine. X-ray away to your heart’s content. I wouldn’t want my Jethro Tull T-shirt * to mess with science.


* The underwhelmer dresses in only the highest of fashion.


After an hour of naked X-rays, I finally made my way to the physical therapist to check my range of motion. I walked into her office and she shut the door.


You guessed it. I was once again asked to remove my clothing. All of the previous clothes-shedding was accompanied by lying still or minor movement at the most… not this time. I had to pose, twist, hop and generally make an ass out of myself in front of a fully clothed woman. It was like reliving my days as an exotic dancer all over again.




As I left that wing of the hospital, a man seated in the waiting area called out to me and tried to get my attention. I didn’t turn around for fear of having to remove my clothing once more.


A few minutes later, I left the hospital with the suspicion that I had somehow been violated by a small cabal of people masquerading as health-care professionals.





I didn’t think about it too much as I had to focus on the harrowing drive ahead of me. I needed my mind right to ward off the evil schemes of my murderous car.


I eventually made it home, alive and in one piece. I sighed a breath of relief and then I realized that I had to schedule a veterinarian appointment for Other Cat and Skittles; they had to get their health exams too.


I dialed the vet’s office and a woman who was tragically born without a personality answered the phone in a depressed monotone.


VET LADY: Vet’s office, Super-Sad-Lady* speaking.


*I don’t remember her name, but I do remember the void where her sense of humor should have been.


ME: Hi. I’d like to schedule a check-up on Monday for my two cats.




ME: Umm, the underwhelmer?




ME: Uh, OK.


VET LADY: Show up at 8 AM sharp. Bring a $100 dollars and a stool sample.


ME: Lady… I don’t know what kind of weird kink you’re into, but…


VET LADY: *Interrupting* It’s the cats’ stool samples and the $100 dollars is because our credit card machine is down.


ME: Oh, um sorry.


VET LADY: 8 AM sharp.


ME: OK, but you have to admit that was funny, right?


VET LADY: No. Good day sir.


As I lowered the phone from my ear, I realized that my adventure didn’t end at the hospital or even the autobahn for that matter. In truth, it had only just begun.




P.S. Stay tuned for next week’s installment, The Great Migration Part II: Planes, Trains and Anguish.


P.P.S In case you were wondering, I met the Vet Lady the following Monday and she made Mr. Spock look like an emotional roller coaster.