Saying that I'm eager for 2003 to be over is the understatement of the year. After all, this is the year that my health bottomed out and I spent six months in bed in horrible pain, and all thanks to my Crohn's Disease. I underwent surgery to correct the problem, have been recovering, and as the year came to a close I spent two weeks visiting my parents in Omaha, Nebraska and figured that as the year wound down that nothing else bad would happen. Of course life has a way of giving us all a kick in the pants when we get cocky, and yesterday was no exception. I left yesterday, flying home to Florida via Chicago/O'Hare Airport. My grandparents had offered to pick me up at the airport so I didn't have to mess with long term parking, and the plan was that they would wait at my nearby apartment for my phone call to tell them that I'd landed safely.

When the plane landed at 1pm I turned on my cell phone and made the call... and my answering machine picked up. I figured that they hadn't reached my place yet; after all, the plane was a little early. I headed through the terminal out to the pick-up zone and called again. Again, the machine picked up. 1:15.... 1:30.... still no word from them. I tried calling their house in case they forgot about the pick-up and there was no answer. I called their cell phone, but it wasn't turned on. It wasn't like them to be late or forget something like this, so my worry and fear that something horrible had happened to them began to skyrocket. My cell phone had a hard time getting a signal in the middle of the airport, so I called my father in Nebraska via pay phone to see if something had happened to them while I was inflight. Maybe the pick-up plan had changed. He hadn't heard anything, but said he'd e-mail my mother at work and see if she knew anything. 1:45... 2:00... 2:15... I called Dad again and there was still no news. I tried calling my apartment again, and still nothing new. I called Mom and she was equally worried that her parents were missing.

I couldn't do anything further at the airport, so it was time to find another way home. Not that I could get inside, mind you - my grandparents had my keys (they had been checking my mail and watering the houseplants). The plan was to get home, break the locks, and get start making phone calls to anyone who might know what happened to my grandparents. None of my friends answered their phones so I could ask for a ride, so I took a taxi home. All along the way the worst case scenarios of what could have happened to my grandparents played like a horrible mini-movie through my mind. Car accident. Heart attacks. Random shootings. Anything and everything horrible that would have led them to a bad end. My stomach tied itself in knots, my face turned pale. I had the terrible feeling that the day would not end well.

The cab fare was climbing towards the $50 mark and the clock was moving towards 3:15 when my cell phone rang. I knew that this would be the bad news call; that one of my parents had received the gut-wrenching news of my grandparents' fate. My hands slick with sweat, I answered the phone.


A pause, then...

"Where are you??"

It was my grandfather!

"I'm about five minutes away from my apartment. Where are you?"

"We're at your apartment. Why didn't you call when you landed? Granny and I have been worried sick!"

Granddad was waiting when the taxi pulled up. Come to find out, they had turned off the ringer on the phone by accident, they had left their cell phone at home, and the answering machine volume was turned off so they hadn't heard my repeated calls. It hadn't occured to them to call my cell phone until just a few minutes ago. All the while that I was worried that they were laying dead in a ditch somewhere, they were worried that the airport security squad had seized me and were interrogating me in a small room somewhere. Instead of calling around to see if anyone had heard from me, however, they sat and waited for me to call... which I was doing, except they couldn't hear the phone ring because it just wasn't ringing.

After this was all sorted out I called Mom and told her the good news: everyone was alive and well. While I had been en route in the taxi, my parents had put out the Red Alert to friends and family that the old folks were missing, which launched a network of worried people searching and making phone calls. I talked to Granny this morning and she said that it's all been sorted out; everyone knows they're alive, although there were some interesting messages on their answeing machine yesterday.

So when all is said and done in this matter, this is just another of those reminders that life throws at us sometimes that we should slow down and appreciate the people in our lives: friends, family, lovers, everyone. You never know when these people will just suddenly be gone, snatched away never to answer the phone again. Even if the ringer is turned on.

Happy New Year, fellow noders. Have fun tonight and be safe out there. After all, tomorrow's another day.