When I wrote this post, I was 30-some thousand feet in the air, flying from Chicago to Denver. There are only so many blog posts one can write about the horrors of airline travel and one’s personal fear of flying. The fact of the matter is that no matter how terrible this flight was for me, it didn’t even come close to how awful it was for the woman three rows back flying solo with her two kids. One was a little boy of about 3 and the other was an infant girl in the neighborhood of 11 months to a year. The little girl cried ceaselessly for the entire flight. Meanwhile, the mother started out trying to deal patiently with the little boy, who apparently doesn’t know Santa Claus is coming to town. But about halfway through she lost her patience. She transitioned from saying things like, “Jack, I know you love your sister, but you have to give her some personal space,” to saying through clenched teeth, “Jack, stop touching your sister right now or I will take away your hand-held computer and throw it out the window.” Jack, of course, knew no one would be taking away his computer any time soon because it was Mom’s only hope and the windows didn’t open. So he continued to agitate his sister. Poor Mom.
It brought to mind my first plane ride with Court when he was 11 months old. We visited my sister Bec in Alabama. He was very good flying to Birmingham. However, he was simply awful on the way back. He cried nearly the entire way, except for a brief time while dinner was served (this being back in the days of airline food). It was during this brief interlude when he reached down and picked up a fistful of mashed potatoes and threw it at the businessman sitting next to me. Despite his now potato-stained suit jacket, the man rather took it in stride and was surprisingly nice about the mishap. He must have had a number of kids at home.
On our way to Chicago a few days ago, we had a pleasant, uneventful trip. The skies were smooth and we left and arrived on time. The only oddity happened as we waited for the announcement that we could begin boarding. A young man sat down across from us in the waiting area. He nodded nervously to us, and I attributed his discomfort to the fact that his carry-on was an enormous donkey head. Not a real donkey head, ala The Godfather. Instead, it was the kind of donkey head you would put on if you were the mascot for, say, the Joliet Jackasses. I heard him tell the fellow sitting next to him that he was quite nervous it wasn’t going to meet the carry-on restrictions. I must admit, it would be disconcerting to be sitting next to a passenger with a donkey peeking out between his feet.
It must have passed muster, however, because I saw him next in baggage claim in Chicago awaiting his luggage with the donkey head jauntily sitting by his side. Seeing as I had spent the entire flight trying to think of a college whose mascot was a donkey (Boston College Burros? Duke Donkeys? MIT Mules?), I couldn’t resist asking him why he was carrying a donkey head ( and no, I didn’t say “why the long face?”). Turns out he wasn’t a mascot for a school. He was going to work at some convention being held in Chicago. A convention featuring a giant donkey. A Democrat gathering maybe?
Perhaps a fitting conclusion to this blog post is to tell you something I overheard as we were standing in line to board. One woman struck up a conversation with another — an apparent stranger. Pointing out the the early hour (we were boarding at 6 a.m.!), she apologized for her unkempt appearance. The other woman dismissed her concerns, saying, “Oh, I don’t think there’s any point in dressing up any more unless you’re looking for a husband or a job.”
I can think of other reasons, but I wasn’t going to argue at the crack of dawn and with a donkey head staring back at me.