flying the less friendly skies

After flying solo with the three kids last week, I think Lynn Harris may have gotten it right in Salon: Everyone Hates Mommy.

I have flown with the kids on my own a bunch of times, and I must say they are excellent and seasoned travelers. The boys know they want Channel 42 on JetBlue as soon as they sit down; Maggie is ready with her pink-frosted animal crackers order as soon as she sees the flight attendant coming. It has been about six months since I flew with the kids, though, and I noticed a definite chill in the air compared to trips past.

The first sign of trouble was the new dedicated “family line” at security. Ostensibly, this is for travelers who need “extra assistance,” although none is provided. OK, I know some traveling families are clueless, and need “extra time” (read: a clue). But not us. My kids and I are pros: as we approach the security checkpoint, even the two-year-old gets her own shoes off while I whip out my laptop and Ziploc bags. We slow no one down. This time, though, we had to stand there holding our shoes for ten minutes while the dad in front of us tried repeatedly to push his son, in his stroller, through the metal detector. Repeated exhortations from the TSA agent that the stroller would have to be folded went ignored, since, well, neither of the child’s parents knew how to do that. Were I not herding three increasingly impatient young children, I would have just done it myself, but since I could not, I watched the people behind me when they presented their photo ID far, far in the distance, breezing off to their gates.

Putting all the families in one line, and doing nothing to help expedite that line, just stinks, in my opinion. Far better to have a dedicated line for “I Have Not Flown Since 9/11,” and another, express line, reading “I (and my children) Do This All the Time.” The way it stands now, despite our extreme efficiency, we had to run for our plane.

My kids were great on the plane, as always, and the only real problem was when we were all getting ready to deplane and I realized that I could not carry my laptop/backpack, our enormous carryon of books, toys, diapers, and snacks, Maggie’s car seat/stroller (that cannot fit down the newly narrowed airplane aisles), AND Maggie. I used to stick Maggie in the sling and manage it all, but she’s two now. And a nice flight attendant helped me carry one of these bags on, but she wasn’t around. Maggie had to walk off the plane herself, behind her brothers, me bringing up the rear. At first she was, understandably, hesitant. “Go ahead, sweetie!” I coaxed, a little desperately, so we wouldn’t piss off the people behind us. At that, she broke into a sudden run for the jetway doors.

Two flight attendants watched her run toward the large-ish gap between the airplane and the jetway, large enough for her to fall partially into. “Watch your step,” they said. She, being TWO, did not understand what they were getting at. “Watch your step,” the other said, about five percent louder, at which point I did one of those superhuman mom things and found a third hand to grab her by the scruff of the neck just as she was about to fall into the hole.

Maybe this isn’t mother-hate, exactly, but I ask you this:

1) If this were a dad struggling off the plane with his kids’ stuff, would these same flight attendants not be falling all over themselves to help?

2) If this were an elderly person about to trip and fall over the same step, would the flight attendants have kept filing their nails, or would they have quickly rendered assistance?

3) If there is a chance of a child injuring herself by falling partially into that hole– or God forbid, all the way through– would not the airline want to prevent that, if there was an easy step they could take to assist?

The snarky trolls out there, fanning the flames, could well see this post and say “Who asked you to breed? Stay home if you can’t handle them!” To which I would say, actually, I did handle them, without any assistance, actually, and will continue to do so. I just wonder if this slackening of courtesy means anything.