Friday, July 17, 2009

Kids on a Plane!

The 12-day absence that killed my plants was due to a family vacation to the Midwest.

Rather than spend three days on the road each way, we opted to fly. Unfortunately my husband was on a business trip just prior to our vacation, so we had to meet up with him at our destination. (I do seem to remember, just a few short months ago, announcing with great confidence that I would NEVER, EVER AGAIN travel alone with the kids. So much for that.)

Now for the most part, I am a fan of Southwest Airlines. However, I do feel that their "open seating" policy is flawed. If you haven't flown Southwest lately, it works like this. Rather than an assigned seat, your boarding pass has a letter and number. People in the "A" group (I assume these are people who paid more for their tickets) get to board first. So everyone in the "A" group--feeling smug no doubt--goes on board and fills up nearly every aisle and window seat leaving only the middle seats open.

Next, thankfully, comes "family boarding," where the stroller crowd can take their young offspring on board. On the first flight, even though it was not very full, the flight attendants still had to ask some members of the "A" group to relinquish their carefully selected seats so that the kids and I could sit together.

Things went less smoothly for the second flight. There are a few things you don't want to hear just before you walk through the gate to board a plane. One is your 2-year-old saying, "Mommy! I poopy!"

Now I had a decision to make. We could go through the gate and stink up the hallway crammed with travelers waiting to get on the plane, then go on board, find seats while stinking up the plane, then leave the boys unattended while I change a dirty diaper in the tiny airplane lavatory.

I chose the other option, which was to run in a panicked rush to the restroom, change her as quickly as humanly possible, and sprint back to the gate.

Merciful though my decision was toward the other passengers, no one appreciated my kindness when we were the last ones on board the overbooked flight. Not only were there no four seats together, there were not even two seats together.

When we first boarded, I told the flight attendant we would need some help. She sent us to the back of the plane. The flight attendant in the back got on the loudspeaker and promised free adult beverages to anyone who would give up their seats. "We have a mother with two small children, so we'll need at least two seats together with another nearby," he announced. Huh? There were some people in the aisle between us, so I guess he couldn't see the third kid. I held up three fingers. "I have three children," I said.

His eyes grew wide. "You have THREE children?"

I shrugged. "What can I say, we're very fertile," I responded.

"I didn't mean it like that," he said. "But I'm not sure we can find that many seats together."

The front flight attendant had come back to help out. "I can get two and two," she suggested. "So the boys can sit together and you can sit with your daughter."

My boys are 6 and 4. I could just picture leaving them with some innocent passenger who would then be in charge of reading them stories, opening their pretzels, helping to keep their drinks from spilling, changing the DVD, picking dropped objects off the floor and periodically reminding them to stop kicking the seat in front of them.

But finally, miraculously, a row of three was cleared and we just needed one more seat, preferably close by, for my 6-year-old son. Right across the aisle someone agreed to move out of the middle seat. The man sitting on the aisle first offered to scoot over, then changed his mind. "Your son can sit in the middle," he told me. "That's the best I can do."

The best I can do? I think he was a car salesman.

Then the car salesman ended up moving somewhere else, and another man appeared to take his seat, but this guy also did not want to sit in the middle. Which was funny, because he ended up spending the entire flight talking to the guy by the window, while I passed various items over him to my son.

But whatever. We finally made it to Missouri, safe and sound, and that's what really matters.

And I am absolutely NEVER, EVER AGAIN flying alone with the kids!



Torrie said...

You are one brave soul. that's all i can say.

Meaghan said...

The last time I flew alone with O, she was 2.5. The woman at check in was helpful:

Woman: We'll need to try to find you two seats together.

Me: You think?

Woman: I'll work on it and see what I can do.

Me: Well, that would be great. See, my kid is 2 and a half years old. I'm not familiar with the FAA's suggestions on toddlers flying unaccompanied.

So helpful, those airlines.