Monday, March 10, 2008

Leaving (Maybe) On a Jet Plane

A few months ago, my sister invited the Bean and I to Chicago to visit for my niece’s second birthday. The idea being to give Jules a much needed weekend to herself before the baby comes and to give the Bean a chance to bond with his cousin. I accepted.

It soon dawned on me that this trip meant that I would be his only parent for three days. It also meant that we would be spending a total of 9 hours together on a plane. Previous to this trip, the most consecutive time I’ve spent solo with the kid is a few hours. It would be a true test of my parenting skills. Turns out, not quite in the way I expected.

To say that I was groggy when I woke up on Friday morning at 4:30am would be an understatement. The nervousness and excitement of the trip rendered me sleepless. The same could not be said of the boy, who popped awake instantly, ready to go.

“Airplane,” he said brightly. “See the pilot."

The thing about the Bean is that he never stops talking from the moment he wakes up till the moment he goes to sleep. This is totally acceptable behavior every other time than 5 in the morning after 4 hours of sleep.

We arrived at the airport an hour before our flight to find the place a madhouse. When we got to the ticket booth, I was informed that we had missed the 45 minute cut off and that we would not be boarding our plane. I had never heard of this rule and asked to speak to a manager. I was introduced to a big stone slab of a woman who clicked on her keyboard for an impossibly long time before reiterating what the previous woman had said. Our only options were to fly standby on the next flight, which was three hours later. If that didn’t work, we could get on the flight after that, which was four hours after the second flight. We had a limited time in Chicago as it was, so a later flight wasn’t going to work. Besides, there was still 45 minutes before our flight was to take off. I played the single parent card and asked this woman to look at my child and help us out. Nothing. I screamed. Again nothing. Giving up, I opted for standby.

At the security checkpoint, TSA made the Bean give up his Smushie (tiny security blanket) so that it could be scanned. The kid started to cry when I pulled it from his hands. It was a stupid and pointless request and I was angry with the guard for making my kid upset, but I didn’t have time to dwell on it. With 10 minutes left until our original flight was scheduled to take off, we raced to the gate and I gave the whole deal to the attendant. He clicked on his keyboard for a few minutes than quickly ushered us through the door to the jetway. Our bags were going to be flying two hours behind us, but at least we were on our original flight. I wished for a sudden illness to hit the cold-hearted woman downstairs who told me that it was impossible for us to get on our original flight.

On the plane, the Bean was a total rock star. Good thing too, between only getting a few hours sleep and the ordeal at the airport, I’m not sure I would have been able to handle it if he wasn’t.

I wish I could say that my troubles with American Airlines were over at that point. They weren’t. The woman at the baggage department was even less friendly and less helpful than Ms. Stoneface at LAX. She quickly arranged to have the bags sent to my sister’s house (at my expense) before picking up her purse and vanishing into the backroom. At 9pm that night, I spent a half an hour on the phone with some lady trying to find out where my bags were. An hour later, I was driving back to the airport hoping my bags would be there. Thankfully, they were. At least I didn't have to pay for them to be delivered. (Someday my son is going to be very upset at me for dressing him in his cousin's pink and purple pajamas.)

I was prepared for the worst flying 2000 miles with a toddler. But I never would have imagined I would get more trouble from the airlines than from the Bean.

I promise that the story gets happier. More to come…

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