I didn’t know it was possible for a plane to be occupied by so many children.

19 Nov

Based on this photo, I'm guessing my cabbie was from the Philippines.

Can someone please tell me when the Friday before Thanksgiving became the official travel day for the holiday? I thought the Wednesday of Thanksgiving week was supposed to be the busiest travel day of the year, but based on my experience in LAX yesterday, I’m thinking that’s changed.

The training session that had me in LA for the week wrapped up at 11am, giving me plenty of time to get to the airport for my 1pm flight. However, my cab driver seemed to take it as a personal challenge to get me there in record setting time, flying up the ass of every car in front of him on the 405, changing lanes as if he were in a roller derby.

One of my colleagues was riding with me, so I know I’m not exaggerating when I say: He was the single worst driver I’ve ever ridden with.

Example: We were the second car in line at a left turn arrow. The car in front of us didn’t turn (because there was on-coming traffic) and my driver? He executes a left turn from BEHIND the car that is actually supposed to be turning. Ouch.

I tell you this to explain that I probably wasn’t in the best mood when I tumbled out of the cab curbside at LAX. Actually, I was so car sick, I seriously looked around for a garbage can, thinking I would probably barf before getting my boarding pass. I ran my credit card in the boarding pass kiosk, but instead of it spitting out a piece of paper, I got the dreaded screen announcement: There has been a change to your itinerary. See gate agent. Damn.

Fortunately, the line didn’t seem long – there was only a group of three seniors (traveling together) waiting. Unfortunately, I soon learned that without a line, Delta has no sense of urgency. I waited 20 minutes before actually getting “helped.” I put this in quotes, because the agent who helped me was anything BUT helpful. Here’s how our exchange went:

ME, handing him my license: Hi. I’m hoping you can help me. The kiosk said there’s been a change to my itinerary.

HIM: Hmm. This is an Alaska Airlines flight, not us.

ME: Yeah – it’s operated by Alaska, but all the confirmations and reminders came from Delta and there is a Delta flight number, so I thought I had to check-in at your counter.

HIM, looking at me like I’m an idiot: No. You would NEVER do that.

ME: Apparently I would. So there’s no way for you to generate a boarding pass?  I absolutely need to go to Alaskan Air?

HIM, sighing: That’s what I just told you.

ME: So can you tell me where they are?

HIM: Different terminal.

ME: Thanks for being useless.

I also muttered a swear word as I walked away, but I’m going to blame that on the book I’m reading, which has made liberal use of the word “F*ckwit.” My more mature reaction was to go on Twitter and post, “@DELTA: your check-in workers at #LAX are rude and unhelpful. Not flying you again. Fire the guy at kiosk assistance.” I wish I’d noticed his name.

Thirty minutes later (which I won’t bore you with in the retelling) I was holding a boarding pass and sizing up the waiting area at LAX’s Virgin/Alaskan terminal. It was a shit-show ZOO. Every seat was taken. Entire families were sprawled out on the floor, using whatever props they’d packed as in-flight entertainment to keep their kids from melting down right there. The lines for fast food (only two options in this area: Starbucks and Burger King) were twenty people deep. (I counted.)

And my flight was delayed an hour. Woof.

When I finally boarded the plane, I found that my seat was in THE LAST row. It was a booked flight, so I felt fortunate to have scored an aisle seat. Until all the seats around me filled up and 50% were occupied by children. A guy and his son filed in and took the seats directly next to me, waving at their wife/mother who was six rows up, in the dreaded middle seat.

I took a deep breath. “I really don’t want a middle seat, but would you like me to swap with your wife so you can all sit together?” I asked.

“Oh no,” he said. “She’s flying with our other son, so they need to sit together. But I appreciate the offer. Very nice of you.” He turned to his son and started pulling out various sources of entertainment, including an iTouch and a book. They seemed well prepared, but when I looked at the family seated across the aisle from me, I could tell I was in for a sucky flight.

That family (two adults with three spoiled children under the age of six) elected to seat the three kids in a row by themselves so the two parents could sit together the row behind them. Just me, or does that seem like the stupidest idea ever? It quickly proved to be one, as the kids started kicking off their UGG boots and yelling “STINKY FOOT!” at each other.

Imagine the adult pulling this move. Obnoxious, right?

Within minutes, I heard them saying, “Pull my finger,” and making fart noises. The flight attendant was much nicer than I would’ve been when faced with trying to shove their backpacks under their seats while the game of “stinky foot” was happening inches from her head.

Throughout this process, I stared at the parents, who made no effort to help or control their children. I finally made eye contact with the mom, shortly after the flight was underway. I’m sure she is used to strangers smiling at her because she has cute children. Not me. When our eyes locked, I mouthed, “RUDE” and raised my eyebrows before turning around.

I was satisfied a few minutes later when she climbed over the seat (she was in the window seat) and swapped places with her son. (Why she couldn’t simply walk around is beyond me, but by that point I had decided that had IQ tests been a requirement for breeding, she would have be barren.)

About this time, the beverage cart slammed into the back of my seat. “I’m so sorry,” the flight attendant apologized. “This seat is kind of orphaned in the aisle so we bump into it sometimes. I really apologize.” I figured she had her hands full with a plane-load of children, so I told her not to worry about it. And I meant it.

She rewarded me by slipping me a bottle of Chardonnay, accompanied by a knowing look and head-tilt toward the Rude Family. “On the house,” she whispered.

About this time, feeling benevolent, I felt obligated to compliment the guy sitting next to me, whose seven year old son was reading quietly by the window. I tapped his arm. “I just wanted to tell you, I’m not crazy about kids in general and I hate flying with them, but having you guys sit in my row? Makes me feel like I won the lottery. You seem to have done a fantastic job raising him.”

And that started one of the best airplane conversations I’ve had. He was an interesting person, with interesting hobbies and interesting stories about his family. We had a fair overlap of interests and he looked like my friend Joel, so it felt like I was just catching up with a buddy. His wife seemed pretty cool too, from the conversations we had when she walked back to the bathroom.

By the end of the flight, they had given me their contact information and urged me to give a ring if Alan and I were ever in Portland and wanted to hit some wineries. How great is that? I made friends on this flight!

And – due to 100 mph tailwinds – we arrived on time despite our late departure out of LA. How fantastic was that?!

When it was time to deplane in DC, I was walking behind a senior with a German accent named Mary. (I knew that was her name because I had heard the gate agent say it when we boarded.) As we got to the front, where the crew was hanging out, she stopped and grabbed the hand of one of the flight attendants. “This flight was a pleasure,” she told her.

And you know what? It was. Even packed to the gills, with a ton of kids and a late departure, it wasn’t a bad experience. Just goes to show: There IS a God. Her name is Dionysus (but she goes by Kathy) and she works for Alaska Airlines.

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12 Responses to “I didn’t know it was possible for a plane to be occupied by so many children.”

  1. squirrel circus November 20, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    Love that your flight experience was turned around by a chance meeting. It says something about you, too, that you were open to it. Glad it wasn’t a total disaster of a flight!

  2. Lorna's Voice November 20, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    And that is why I stay home or drive places…At least something good came of your “adventure” in air travel.

    • pithypants November 20, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

      Yes. Put one point in the “Pro” column for agoraphobia.

  3. Kimberly Pugliano November 20, 2011 at 11:44 am #

    I only like my own kid. That’s it. All the rest are shits. Put them on a plane or in a restaurant and holy hell they suck. Unless they’re with me. Then they are precious angels or I am the devil.

    • pithypants November 20, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

      Love it! You’re like the Kid Whisperer. From now on, every time I am seated next to a child, I’ll ask the mom: Are you Kim with the Silent G? If they give me a blank look, I’m requesting a new seat.

  4. Kelly Thompson November 20, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

    I’ve been following your blog for a bit and really like your style. So much so that I’ve nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. Get the scoop here: http://thompsonkelly.wordpress.com/2011/11/20/and-the-nominees-are/

    Keep cranking out the good stuff! kt

    • pithypants November 20, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

      Full disclosure: I suck at responding to the Versatile Blogger Award. A few other nice people have nominated me, and one of these days (I swear) I will do a grateful acceptance post, paying it forward by nominating the great blogs that I’m addicted to and giving a mass shout out to the people who have nominated me. In the meantime, THANK YOU for reading (and nominating) me. I love writing, but getting feedback from the people who read me makes it about a thousand percent more rewarding. Thanks!

  5. thesinglecell November 20, 2011 at 4:36 pm #

    Coast-to-coast flights are always packed with members of the Five And Under set, I find. I guess driving across country with them would result in murder, so fly it is. I usually feel bad for parents when their kids are screaming or acting up on planes – if the parents are trying to calm them without making a scene. Kids are kids. But your thing? With the climbing and the foot-smelling? Yeah, no. That flight attendant of yours was a woman after my own heart. Glad your seat-mate appreciated your candor and your compliment.

  6. Pete Julier November 21, 2011 at 8:36 pm #

    Isn’t it amazing parents strap their kids in their car like their going to be launched into orbit;but don’t think it’s important to strap them in on a vehicle that travels 600 mph and can drop like a 100 feet in a second-that just blows my mind

  7. Danielle November 23, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    My kids are a nightmare on flights. And I am the frazzled bitchy mother that is downing Chardonnay while people stare. Don’t judge me if you don’t have kids 🙂

    • pithypants November 23, 2011 at 7:54 pm #

      I hope you completely disown them and act like you have no idea who they are. That would be awesome. Or act like a travel mule who was paid to fly with them but don’t actually know them!

  8. Angela@chasingnow.com December 1, 2011 at 8:22 pm #

    I’m with you and Kim. As a mom and elementary teacher for 20 years, you better be on your kids like a hawk, or I will take over and do it for you. And it won’t be pretty. Seriously, sometimes kids are just bad, but putting all your kids next to each other while you sit behind them? That spells trouble.

    Isn’t it great meeting random people on planes who turn out to be genuinely nice folk? I sat next to a young guy on a flight to Jackson Hole a few summers ago to visit my daughter, met him and his girlfriend for drinks during the trip, and remain in touch to this day.

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