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Jinny’s article will be written this week by her daughter, Adele Anderson.
On July 14th, I put my 10-year-old son, Chuck, my last living-at-home child, on a plane to spend a month with his 22 year-old brother and Dad in Florida. This was not an easy thing to do for a variety of reasons. First of all, I had to drive to Portland to do it. By leaving from Portland, he was able to fly directly to Atlanta to meet his Dad. If he had flown from Bangor he would have had to stop in Boston, Cincinnati, and possibly Sri Lanka before finally arriving in Atlanta. I didn’t like that idea. I didn’t even like putting him on a plane by himself, much less having him traipsing all over the universe before getting to his Dad. So I drove to Portland.
Being fine, upstanding citizens who attempt to do our duty, we arrived at the Jetport early. Chuck had an electronic ticket, so we went to the desk to check in. In the process of checking him in, the airline associate asked me how I wanted to pay the $50 fee.
“What $50 fee?” I asked.
“The $50 fee you have to pay to fly a minor child unattended.” He answered.
“Oh, of course.” I responded. “That fee. The one no one told me about.”
“The fee assures that the flight attended will check on him regularly and escort him from the plane.” He told me.
“And if I didn’t pay it, he would be utterly ignored by the flight attended and left to his own devices?” I asked.
“No. He would not be flying at all.”
Ok. I want my child taken care of and handed over only to his father, but I don’t understand, if the fee is not optional, why they don’t just attach it to the price of the ticket. What if I showed up at the airport and didn’t have $50? I was a little annoyed. It only got worse.
We gave his luggage to the guy with the job description that includes pillaging and plundering. He was obviously a proud graduate of the Atilla the Hun School of Luggage Inspection. He grilled us as to the contents and generally behaved as if Chuck were a notorious ten year old international smuggler wanted by Interpol.
We then proceeded to the assigned gate for the flight. There was a line curled like a huge, patchwork snake that spread throughout the terminal. There were roughly a thousand people in the line. I sighed as we took our places at the snake’s tail.
We stood in line a very long time, inching our way forward at a snail’s pace. A decade or two later, we arrived at the first counter.
This guy was checking tickets and boarding passes. Naturally, because I was not going on the flight, I didn’t have one. The ticket guy had given me a temporary gate pass. This fellow felt the need to examine mine closely. I think that he was looking for water marks, fingerprints, and DNA samples. He closely examined one side. Then he turned it over and closely examined the other side. His brow furrowed. He turned it back over again and stared at it some more. I watched him as he frowned and pondered the three words in large, red letters on the card. I wondered if he was having a problem with all three words or just one. It was probably, Temporary, what with those 4 syllables and all.
He finally allowed us to proceed onward, although he looked as if he was doing so only because he couldn’t think of anything to pin on us.
We ultimately came to the place where you have to hand over all your belongings and empty your pockets. I discovered that since my last time flying, they had added removing your shoes and outerwear as well. I had to remove my open-toed, flip flop sandals. Chuck, however, did not have to remove his sneakers and socks. Excuse me? I ask you, who had the best shoes for hiding things? Evidently, the luggage Nazi may have pegged Chuck as a hardened criminal, but these guys thought he looked like an innocent lamb. Maybe they just didn’t care for my footwear.
Once we had been shaken down, x-rayed, and cleared, we moved on to the waiting area. Surprise, surprise, the flight was going to be late. So we sat. And we sat. Then we sat some more. The flight time was changed 3 times. We read books. Time passed. We could have read War and Peace, The Bible, (both the Old and New Testaments), and every issue of the Sunday New York Times starting with the report of the sinking of the Titanic.
Finally, his flight arrived. Suddenly, it was all too real and my baby was getting on a big, metal coffee can and going 30,000 feet in the air. I was sort of freaking out, but managed to conceal it behind a, “Boy you’re gonna have some real fun this summer”, pep talk. He probably didn’t need it, but I did.
The person at the desk told me that it was mandatory that I stay there until the plane was in the air. This is just in case they cannot take off for some reason and have to return to the gate. This little bit of news did nothing in the way of helping me to feel better about the situation.
Naturally, it took what felt like two or three days for the plane to take off. After it did, I handed over my Temporary Gate Pass, and left. On August 14th I will have to go through the whole wretched business again. I won’t mind quite so much. This time, my boy will be coming home.
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