Friday, May 22, 2009

The not-so-friendly skies

Note to self: Having your three-year-old badmouth the pilot of a large passenger plane while in mid-air is generally a bad idea.

Next time, make sure we’re on the ground first.

***

We were taking our young son on an airplane for the very first time.

Clearly, we were insane.

But driving to Mexico was not an option. When I typed in the itinerary, the little guy inside my computer laughed in hysteria then spit out the requested information. It was 2,780 miles (and 48 hours) from our home in the Midwest to the sunny beaches of Cancun.

Uh, thanks. I’ll pass.

That was about 2,779.5 miles longer than I wanted to spend in a car with a three-year-old who had suddenly forgotten all comprehension of the phrase, “What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand?!”

So that meant preparing our son for one of the most fabulous – and potentially terrifying – experiences of his life.

Kinda like voting for president or going to the prom.

“OK, kiddo, here’s the deal,” I told him a few days before our trip. “When you get to the airport you have to go through Security.”

“Thuck yurrattee?” he answered in his Cindy Brady-esque lisp. “What’s that?”

“Oh, it’s a wonderful thing,” I replied in a sing-song voice. “Where you wait in line for hours until a complete stranger feels you up, only to be pulled aside like a side-show carnival freak and sent to a little room where they use a ballpoint pen to scope your innards for illegal drugs and explosive items.”

His reaction was silence and a blank stare. “Uh, thanks. I’ll pass,” he finally said and ran away.

***

“So when do we give him drugs?” my husband asked as we stood in the infamous Security line three days later.

“When do we do what?” I asked distractedly, tugging along four carry-on bags, our son, the camera, a stuffed giraffe, boarding passes and three passports while he followed behind toting nothing but a cup of coffee and a smile.

That was about to change, I thought, and shrugged one of the bags off my shoulder and slammed it into his face.

He “oofed” in response, grabbed the bag, juggled his coffee then pointed at our son, who was currently eyeing the approaching security agent like he was the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.
You know, before his heart grew three sizes big.

“When do we give him drugs to put him to sleep for the flight?” my husband clarified.

“I didn’t know we were supposed to bring any,” I replied. “If you find some, let me know. I could use some myself.”

***

“Somebody needs to tell that guy to fly better!” my son yelled out from our seats in the back as the stiff crosswinds battered the aircraft during its landing, sending us rocking back and forth like a pitch-crazy pendulum and wondering if we had survived an easy three-hour flight only to perish in a fiery crash 20 feet from the runway.

As he spoke, a few fellow passengers snickered in agreement. However, most of the other 82 heads – including three flight attendants – turned to look back at us, no doubt interested in learning more from this wise little person who appeared to know more about flying than the gentleman up front with the captain’s stripes, manning the controls at that very moment.

I felt the heat of their gazes and promptly swung my head around to peer intently at the only object behind me – the door to the miniscule bathroom.

I turned back around and hooked a thumb over my shoulder, “Woo-wee! That ‘Occupied’ sign is FASCINATING! What a FABULOUS invention, don’t you think? And look at that door! It’s so…shiny…and…everything. Wow. Quite…uh…impressive….,” my voice tapered off as everyone looked at me like I had suddenly transformed into the Unabomber.

I silently wondered if I could use the lavatory to flush myself from this short altitude without cracking my head open on the hard runway or if I’d just shoot out the back like an out-of-control tumbleweed, leaving a slug-like trail of blue-dyed toilet water behind me.

Oh, a girl can only dream.

After the plane taxied to the gate, we rose from our seats, gathered our belongings and slowly made our way down the aisle. We passed the open cockpit door and heard a voice shout, “Welcome to Mexico.”

The pilot then pointed at our son and added, “Next time, we’ll let him fly the plane.”
(originally published May 6, 2009)

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