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Reel Mama: Airheads

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Airheads.  The name of this piece might be a bit deceiving, but I had to come up with a name for those of us who fly frequently.  Especially those of us who fly frequently with toddlers.  Because I have to ask: what are we thinking?? 

Today was a perfect example.  We began the trip to the airport auspiciously enough.  My husband dropped Leilani and me off, our bags surrounding us.  The only snag seemed to be that my daughter was in an umbrella stroller that seemed to be caving in with her in it.  That problem solved, goodbyes were said, kisses were exchanged.  My husband pulled away and I raced in to the checkout counter.  No line at all to check in—it seemed to be a miracle.  Come to think of it, I don’t think they checked my ID (perhaps a sympathy concession for those of us traveling with toddlers?)  Boarding pass in hand, I turned my back to the check-in counter and it hit me like an errant piece of spaghetti sometimes hits my face when Leilani is eating—we had forgotten the car seat. 

I had intended to check it in with my bag.  Now there was nothing for Leilani to sit in when we were picked up at the airport at our destination.  This was a disaster.  The bag checker informed me that I still had a few minutes before boarding.  But the seconds were ticking by.  I frantically called my husband.  No answer.  Finally he picked up, upset to be driving distracted, and I broke the bad news. No questions asked, I knew that he was on his way.  I was then calling him every other minute: “Are you almost here?”  “Yes, I’m not at terminal A, but there is a speed limit here.”  A ticket was the last thing we needed.  Finally in the distance, I spotted our car.  I was able to check the car seat in just five minutes before my boarding time.  The lady at check-in didn’t even bat an eyelash at the ridiculous pile of Goldfish and yogurt chips that poured out as she wrapped up my car seat. 

But there was one gigantic hurdle remaining: the security line.  Most parents would rather be locked in a room full of people running fingernails on chalkboards for 24 hours than to have to go through security with a toddler.  It’s just that painful.  This time proved no different. Immediately, in the rush to load my things onto the conveyer built, I tore a nail right into the quick.  French manicure ruined? Check.  Severe pain and bleeding as every single item is placed into those freakin’ plastic bins?  Double check.   Leilani, to her credit, was a doll as I dutifully got out my laptop and took off my shoes.  But what happened next just kills me: I started to walk through the metal detector carrying my daughter, and the guard actually asked me to take off HER shoes (my daughter’s, that is). Really?  Let’s rethink airport security, people.  So it was back to the conveyer belt with the tiny pink maryjane shoes, and a kind stranger (or perhaps one silently just bemoaning her luck to be behind me) offered to put them in her bin.

Finally to the gate, where boarding had not yet started.  Another miracle!  When boarding finally started a woman eyeballed all the stuff I was carrying and said, “You are a world class Sherpa—congratulations!”  Sherpas are a Himalayan people known for their mountaineering skills (I looked it up!)  Apparently to the outside world I looked like a heavily laden mountaineer, or perhaps even a pack mule, ready to ascend Mount Everest.  However, I only received a flash of disapproval on the face of the stewardess before she smiled and waved me through, I having clearly exceeded the carry-on limit, even permitting the inclusion of a diaper bag.  I’m glad she didn’t ask me to try to fit my wrecking ball of a purse into my slim laptop bag (that’s happened before and it wasn’t pretty).

All went relatively well on the flight, except that Leilani kept getting antsier as time went on.  By the end she was bouncing off the ceiling and trying to close the window belonging to the passenger in front of us.  All I needed to make the experience complete was to see a Sasquatch leering at me on the wing of the plane.

Finally we touched down, and inexplicably, people started disembarking from the rear of the plane.  We were going to get to walk down airstairs (yes this is the proper term—I checked) onto the tarmac.  Yippee.  Who gets out of a plane this way anymore?  In the past, when I got out of a plane this way, I felt like a movie star, something akin to the Beatles arriving for the first time in America to legions of screaming fans.  No, I wobbled down those stairs, a decidedly unglamorous Sherpa with a flailing toddler.  Thank god there were no paparazzi.  Leilani’s umbrella stroller was waiting for us on the tarmac, a speck in the distance.  When I finally reached it, I realized it had somehow gotten bent out of shape. And that’s how I felt at that moment, bent out of shape. 

I may be an airhead, but I know this won’t be the last time I travel with my toddler in coach.  The Cowardly Lion can come to me any time looking for what he ain’t got: courage.


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