Escape from Alaska

Susan On Writing

Life…it gets in the way of my blogging! So, like I promised, I wanted to give you a glimpse at My Life in Russia. Here’s the thing…unlike Josey from Everything’s Coming up Josey, I never went to Russia SINGLE. I always toted baggage, as in small children and diaper bags. Six months after I arrived in Khabarovsk (look on your map, about a finger’s width west of Japan), we flew to Alaska to have son #2, Peter.

Here’s what happened… (And bear in mind, I wrote this about 12 years ago…before I had done alot of writing, so be gentle.)

Escape from Alaska

(Author’s note: Three weeks after we had our son Peter, we had our bags packed and were ready to step on the plane the next morning when we got a late night call that our visas would not be ready. We changed our tickets and sat tight for another week, waiting. Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, our visas were still held up with red tape the day of our next departure date. But we had high hopes, and again packed our bags. Below is the journal entry I wrote after that eventful day, November 1994).

I am going to write a screenplay entitled, “Escape from Alaska”, about a young family who try everything they can to leave the city, to no avail. They eventually end up living in a cave on the outskirts of town, shooting and eating rabbits and clothing themselves with the skins (so as to not waste any part) while they assemble a dogsled in order to mush towards Russia at night. It will be a true
story, with the names changed to protect the innocent (if there are any).

Here is an excerpt of the screenplay:

10:00 a.m. The scene opens in a crowded, one bedroom hotel room. There are scantily clad children running from the kitchen to the bedroom. dropping wet Cheerios on the carpet as they eat with their hands. A young woman, also scantily clad, is furiously cramming odd articles of clothing and baby equipment into a small bag. The bag is fraying at the seams. Enter a fully dressed man, stage left, from the unkempt bedroom. The audience glimpses an unmade bed with unused pink diapers thrown around the room.
Man: “Darling, are we ready to leave, yet?”
Women: (In a sweet, submissive kind of cooperative voice), “Yes dear, just a moment.”
She zips closed the last bag. The man grabs the bags, loads them into a waiting vehicle, (which is upstairs and outside in the parking lot in -15 degree weather) and heads to the airport, without his wife and children.

(Meanwhile, scene stays on the wife, who alternates from picking wet Cheerios off her feet and carpet to catching a wild child and forcing a piece of clothing on them.) Finally, they are all dressed, and sitting calmly watching a Barney episode. The wife is now searching for a lost earring and trying to calm a hungry baby. Not finding the earring, she settles down to feed the baby. Suddenly, her young daughter runs up….
Daughter: “Yucky, Mommy!” (She is holding a bottle and has a string of goo connecting her hands and mouth.)

Mother takes ones look and gasps. The young daughter has eaten super glue! She puts her starving baby on the bed and grabs her daughter, rushing her to the sink and prying dried superglue from her teeth and mouth. Meanwhile, the son, who was quietly watching Barney, decides to entertain the baby, and bounces him enough to dislodge the few ounces of milk previous swallowed.
After scraping the daughter’s teeth and face clean, and satisfied that none was swallowed, the mother returns to feeding the baby.

11:50 am. Father returns to find Mother packing carry-on bags. Misc. blankets and toys stick out from the unzipped bags.
Father: “I’ve checked our bags through to Khabarovsk. Have the visas arrived yet?”
Mother: “No”.
Father: “Maybe I’ll just call Fed. Express…” (Ominous music fills the back¬
ground as he walks to the phone and dials.)
Father speaks briefly and then hangs up.
Father: “We have to call the travel agent and get the tracking number.”
He again dials the phone. (Ominous music continues to increase in volume.)
Father: “Hello, Kathy? How about those visas?” He listens in silence, then gasps. (All music stops as the wife turns in horror and stares at him.) He nods gravely then looks at his wife. He slowly places his hand over the voice pad.
Father: (quietly) “The visas are in Los Angeles. They were mistakenly put in a 2nd day air box, even though they were marked priority, and now they are
in LA. We have to stay another 2 weeks.”
Wife gasps and sits down. Scene fades on women’s horrified stare.

12:10 pm. Scene opens on wife washing dishes in the kitchen of the hotel room. Children run wildly in the background. The phone rings and women hastily dries her hands and answers it. The screen turns into a split screen featuring the wife, and in the other, a pretty young women with a wide grin on her face.
Wife: “Oh, hello Kathy.”
Kathy: “Good news! The Fed Express computers were malfunctioning and your
Visas are in Anchorage and will be there in ten minutes!”
Wife: “YOU’RE KIDDING! My husband has already left for the airport to retrieve our checked bags! This is horrible!”
Kathy: (slightly miffed at the mother’s response). “Well, you’d better catch him because you’re going to Russia today!”
The camera surveys the room, now unpacked carry-on bags (unpacked by the wild children) and half-eaten food litter the room. Unwashed dishes are piled on the counter. The scene again closes on the horrified stare of the wife.

12:30 pm. Hotel room. The children are sitting, quietly with nervous looks on their faces, watching with interest the wild antics of their mother. The mother is again cramming clothes in a carry-on bag, while she cradles a phone in one hand.
Mother: “Please, you must get a message to my husband, who is at the Alaska Airlines counter right now retrieving our checked bags. He MUST BE STOPPED! Tell him to wait there, that his wife and family are coming!!!! (pause…)”Okay then transfer me to the correct desk!”
The scene fades on this conversation being played three more times.

1:00 pm. Hotel room. Husband walks in the door. Nervous children greet him with joy.
Father: “I got our suitcases – hey, what’s going on?”
Mother: “We got the Visas and we leave in an hour!”
Father quickly grasps the situation and enters the bathroom. He grabs the carry-on bags and with a single bound or two, runs them to the waiting vehicle. His children are close behind, leaving the frantic mother to look for the lost earring. With a discouraged humph, she puts on her shoes and grabs the sleeping baby.
The scene goes black as she shuts the door behind her.

1:45 pm: Outside the Airport. The Family is greeted by a good friend and owner of the vehicle they have been driving for the last 6 weeks. They quickly unload the bags and shuttle the family inside. The wife quickly cleans out the car, then, bundling up the baby, she carefully locks the car…leaving the only set of keys inside.

2:00 pm: Departure Gate. After a 5 mile hike to the gate, the little family sits down to rest. Think¬ing that it is strange that their flight, due to leave at 2:05 is not boarding yet, the husband gets up to inquire at the ticket counter. Suddenly, a voice is heard over the loudspeaker.
Voice: “Flight 201 is delayed due to poor weather. Please wait for further updates.”
The scene fades out on the horrified look of the Father.

5:00 pm: Departure Gate. The scene opens on the family, coats off and carry-ons halfway un¬packed. Father is sipping a soda and mother is rocking a sleeping baby. Children are terrorizing other passengers. Father sits up as a voice comes over the loudspeaker.
Voice: “Due to weather, Flight 201 is rescheduled for tomorrow.”
The scene fades out on Mother and Father’s horrified stares.

7:01 pm. Different hotel room. The scene opens on two of the children, pizza and pop stains down the front of their shirts sitting scantily clad in front of “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.” Mother is scanning the TV highlights for the evening.
Mother: “Oh, look honey, the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” is on
tonight!” The scene closes with the theme from “Twilight Zone”.

(Author’s note: The next day, after waiting seven hours, they Warren family was finally on the plane, and safely in the air, eating a hot meal of chicken Kiev when they suddenly felt the airplane do a severe 180 turn. Within an hour of Russia, the plane had turned around due to bad weather and again the family found themselves in the Anchorage airport. After staying with a very gracious family for a week, the Warrens finally made it all the way to Khabarovsk on their fourth try, Dec. 8.)