July 24, 2009

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

I think I’ve mentioned before that I tend to get a little weepy when I travel. I don’t know what it is, but I am often over emoted for no good reason. I have found myself, more than once, overcome with emotion watching even the silliest of events - a mother chasing her child or an older couple going through security. The thing that gets me every single time, though, is kids traveling alone…unaccompanied minors. It even sounds awful, like they are orphans lost in the bowels of the FAA.

It is that soft spot I have for these tiny travelers that got me into the mess I was in yesterday. After a harrowing experience with US Air that involved me showing up for an 8:30am flight that got moved, then moved again and finally cancelled, I bailed on that lame excuse for an airline and bought a ticket home from Palm Beach at the Southwest counter. Because I bought so late, they only had business select. For $20 more I got 2 free drink coupons (which I did not use) and, more importantly, I got an “A” boarding card. I would not be packed in like a sardine. I would be able to get on the plane first and if you travel Southwest enough, you learn that the groups mean this: A=Aisle, B=By the Window and C=Center, or as I like to call it, “arm rest overflow for the fat person next to you.”

For my leg from Tampa to New Orleans, I was A1. Yes, I was to be the first person to board the plane….well, except for the pre-boards (hello? Did they have to pay $20 more??) and the unaccompanied minors. And, because I was standing in the first spot, I saw the mother hugging her two little boys good bye and tearfully watching them walk down the jet way.

They were tiny. They might as well have been walking to war the way the emotion welled up inside of me. I wanted to rush over to that mother and hug her, I wanted to run down the jet way and grab those boys so I could return them where they belong…with their mother!

But, I didn’t. Instead, I told myself I would sit with those boys to make sure no one took advantage of them and also to make them feel safe because it must be scary to fly alone at such a young age.

I walked right to the row where they were sitting and plopped myself down in the aisle seat. I didn’t want to freak them out, so I didn’t start talking to them right away. After all, I was a stranger and although I know my intentions, they did not.

I learned that the older boy was named Austin and his younger brother was Tyler. They each had a handheld video game, I think a DS, and were actually playing each other. Everything was fine until it was time to put the games away. Tyler didn’t want to, so he smacked the piss out of his older brother. A small scuffle ensued, but the 2 DS handhelds went back into the backpack and I settled back with my book, feeling quite smug and satisfied that I, yes me, had done such a good deed by making sure that mother’s children were well cared for.

It was about 30 minutes into the flight when the 2nd fight began. The DS hand helds had made another appearance and Tyler (age 6) did not like getting beat by Austin (age 8) and so, he started wailing on him. I mean, abusing him. Austin, who probably had been told never to hit his brother, at first didn’t really fight back, but then I heard a really loud crack (apparently a DS is good for other things, too) and then the breathless silent sobbing of Tyler. Wait for it, wait for it, and here comes the howl. Everyone in ear shot looked at me. I was the first person on the plane. None of these people knew that I had just plopped down next to these little terrors. They thought I was some absent minded and neglectful mother.

The grandmotherly woman next across the aisle spoke first, “You’re going to have to separate them.”

I protested, “But they’re not my kids. I just sat next to them.”

She looked at me like I was nuts, “That doesn’t matter…just sit between them.”

Oh, right, I am the adult here. I can use my grown up voice and maybe scare them into behaving. I got the little one to move over to my seat and I jumped in the middle. It was in that spot that I became the defacto mother. The things discussed included:

Where are you going? (Grandma & Grandpa’s house)

How high are we?

When will we be in outer space?

Are the drinks and peanuts free?

How many oceans will we fly over?

When do we fly over the Mississippi?

Am I familiar with the DS system (no) and do my kids have one? (no)

I also got an amusing story about the time Austin went with his Grandma and Grandpa to Texas and how Grandpa had to call the police because he lost Austin, who was really at the playground.

From the magic backpack emerged 2 packs of Cheetos. Between those, the Cokes (they swore up and down they were allowed to have them on special occasions) and an unending supply of peanuts, these boys were set…for a little while.

Then they started getting bored and were all jittery from the sugar. They wanted to sit near each other again and play.

I stalled for a while. I took out the map from the airline magazine and randomly started talking to them about where we were, where we were going, where they had been before, but once we started the initial decent, Tyler wanted to sit by Austin so he could look out the window. I agreed.

And thus, we landed to the sounds of Tyler bending back Austin’s fingers and Austin calling Tyler a baby while spitting in his face.

And then I realized, their mother’s tears were not the sobs of a broken hearted mother. They were tears of joy. “Grandma and Grandpa be dammed, Mama needs a break,” is I know what she said to herself as she drove home from the Tampa airport alone in absolute silence.


Claire said...

I am so glad I'm having a slow day at work and was able to read this. I LOVE IT!! You are fabulous!! Quit your job and write us a book. We need it and you could make a million. Thanks for making me laugh!

bybethstudio said...

OMG! I laughed so hard that I peed on myself (granted I'm giving birth in 3 days)...BUT still!!!! SO SO SO FUNNY!!!

Charles fusses at me all the time for jumping into other people business uninvited and getting all involved with people I just met or don't even know, I tell him it's in my genes!...this could have so been me...TOO FUNNY!

Fish Out of Water said...

It was the most exhausting business trip I ever had. Being neurotic can be tiring.

Gwen said...

Claire, will you sit between me and Ash on a flight sometime? like an overseas flight?

I loved this. I find myself overcome with emotion at airports. Everything seems so final.

peace out.