Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Flying the Friendly Skies...

We arrived back at casa de phillips on Sunday after a quick trip to Arkansas for a surprise birthday party for my grandfather. As always, we had an excellent time and I was able to see cousins who I haven't talked with in years. Evelyn was the perfect traveler and did not really seem to notice that we were somewhere else. Isaac did fine, but had some issues with being over-stimulated by all the people, toys, and changes. I am hoping he will back to normal today.

Many of you wondered about our aviation experiences, hoping for a funny story here or a cute tale there. I did make it to Arkansas with both children, two suitcases, two car seats, two carry-ons,the world's largest double stroller, and there was no need to take two muscle relaxers. Here are some tidbits from our flying experience:

*The night before we left Tobe and I had a 45 minute discussion on how exactly we were going to get everything from the car into the airport with just two adults. We figured out a system that made us look like Sherpas loaded down for a trek up Everest.

*Two days before we flew, I called the airline and secured a pass for Tobe to escort the children and me to the gate. This required proving that my husband was in no way involved in terrorist activity or has any desire to become a terrorist in the near future. The morning we checked in at the ticket counter, the employee helping us began talking in low, hushed tones to her coworker next to her. We were then questioned as to how we got the pass for Tobe to go through security and then proceeded to tell us we were breaking the law. I explained how I was traveling alone with two children under two and that her airline had granted my husband permission to escort me to the gate. She said she would allow it this time (Gracious, huh? Considering if she had not allowed it I would have immediately asked for her supervisor.) but then made the comment, "You take them to the grocery store by yourself, don't you?" We chose to smile and let this comment pass. However I wanted to tell her that although I do take my children many places by myself, the grocery store is not one of them. Once you put your toddler in the front of the cart and the baby carrier in the buggy, you have no room for the food.

*At security I was holding Evelyn trying to get our things as they came off the conveyor belt. The world's largest double stroller came shooting out of the x-ray machine and bonked her in the head. Nice.

*Tobe escorted me to the gate and was able to walk Isaac around before we boarded the plane. A nice airline employee carried the car seat onto the plane for me and a flight attendant held my bags for 0.7 seconds while I attempted to get Isaac into our aisle. The ever-friendly flight attendant shoved my bags at me and said, "Let me know if you need any help." before running off down the aisle away from us. I was then faced with the task of hooking the airplane seat belt through the car seat while preventing Isaac from roaming the aisles. Evelyn was attached to me in her sling during this process, which prevents me from bending over thus making the easy task of hooking a seat belt quite difficult. On airplanes, car seats must be placed next to the window (so luggage cannot fall on your child from overhead bins and kill them) which meant that it was almost impossible to buckle the seat belt due to the odd angle. I finally got it, plopped Isaac in the seat, and we sailed into the sky. The actual flight was uneventful...Evelyn slept in her sling, Isaac colored and read books, and I developed a strategy for exiting the plane upon arrival.

*Upon landing in Arkansas, we waited to deplane until most of the passengers exited the aircraft. I then had to lug the carseat, Isaac, two carry-ons, and Evelyn (still in her sling and thankfully still asleep) off the plane. Men: When you see a lady struggling with massive amounts of junk and traveling alone with children, offer her a hand. I have had complete strangers offer assistance in the past when traveling alone, but apparently no one seemed to notice my situation this time (or perhaps they thought I was a hired Sherpa and simply figured I was doing my job...)

*Tobe arrived in Arkansas on Thursday so we were able to fly back together as a family on Sunday. The TSA agents at the Little Rock airport are never in a hurry and security is always backed up, regardless of time of day. The one man checking boarding passes at the entrance to the security checkpoint felt the need to read each boarding card front and back. He was seriously taking about 45 seconds for each passenger before waving them through to security. Apparently TSA had also assigned three men to stand and converse about their weekend rather than actually work. Nice. Upon finally arriving at security, we were now faced with the fact that we might not make it for preboarding (VERY important when traveling with small children). Although the world's largest double stroller had fit through the x-ray machine before, the TSA agent did not think it would fit this time and called for a hand-check of the stroller. Ten minutes later we were still waiting for a hand check, when another agent folded the stroller up (in an incorrect fashion) and shoved it through the machine. Fortunately no explosive devices were found in the stroller and we were allowed to continue on to the gate, barely making it in time for preboard.

*Once the four of us were settled onto the plane (Isaac in his carseat by the window, Tobe in the middle, and me on the end with Evelyn in her sling) the flight attendant came over and told me I was not allowed to wear Evelyn during take-off and landing. Tobe and I questioned her, considering I had done it a few times when Isaac was a baby and had also placed Evelyn in the sling on Wednesday when we flew. The flight attendant said it was FAA policy and her reasoning was that if something happened during take-off or landing and I was killed (Nothing perks up a family trip like speaking of potential death) they would be unable to easily remove the baby from my body. Um, if something happens during take-off or landing that kills me and I am holding the baby, I don't think that sounds like the safest situation either. After "discussing" the situation with the flight attendant for a bit, we complied in fear of being banned from flying the friendly skies in the future.

*As we approached our fair city, we noticed that the airplane seemed to be much too high to land. Seems that the control tower never sent our plane landing coordinates which made us miss the airport. We spent several minutes circling our city and surrounding areas before being able to land safely.

*My favorite (note the sarcasm) part about our entire experience flying the friendly skies with two small children was that not one airline employee checked either child's identification. Children are allowed to fly with either birth certificates or shot records to prove who they are and how old they are. No one asked us to see any form of paperwork proving who these children were and if we even had a connection to them. Granted Isaac would not have been gleefully traveling along with kidnappers, but we were flying with an infant who had no way of letting others know if she was being carted around by black market baby sellers. Shoe bombers, terrorists in rural Arkansas, and deadly 4oz bottles of liquids don't scare me......the ability for people to fly with young children without having to show any paperwork frightens me silly.


Jennifer said...

I am amazed that you were able to just walk by the lady that made the grocery store comment. How rude and none of her business. That was so out of line.

I'm glad you had a good time with family!

Paige said...

Your flights are always very eventful! I think you should report the lady about the grocery store comment! That made my blood boil.

JenniferReinsch said...

Tobe isn't a terrorist?

1literatimommy said...

I think you are right about ID for the children. Seriously, inanimate objects require much more thought than human beings? Insane!

Roxanne said...

I'm a friend of your cousin Jennifer's. . .she told me check out your blog. This is a long story, but I wanted to share it.

The first time I traveled with my (then 15 month) daughter, we missed pre-boarding. The flight attendants (four of them) were none too happy and complained LOUDLY about my tardiness possibly delaying the flight. That being said, not one of them lifted a hand to help me load the stroller, massive carseat, and carry-ons. I was alone. In FACT, I was fussed at for having THREE carry ons. One was my purse. One was a backpack. One was a diaper bag. I informed them that my child had her own seat and was allowed two carry-ons, therefore we were actually missing ONE.

As I huffed and puffed onto the Southwest flight to ARKANSAS (not kidding), it was 9:00 a.m. on a business day. The plane was PACKED. When everyone saw me, they all of a sudden took great interest in looking at their laps. Then, an angel from God rose from his aisle seat (on the row of three), walked toward me and said, "May I help you?" I asked if he would hold Victoria and he said, "Why don't you hold her while I put away your luggage and get the car seat settled in. Do you need your back pack or just the purse and diaper bag?" I could have kissed him.

Victoria cried during takeoff, so I sang her favorite song to her--Old Macdonald. The man said over the roar of the engine and my scream singing, "There is nothing more soothing than a mother's voice."

After we got in the air, I found out he'd been married for 37 years and was the father of four. . .all daughters. He helped us get off the plane--carried the car seat and my backpack while I pushed Victoria. He delivered us to my friend who was picking us up. God bless him wherever he is.