I learned what a lovely travel companion he is during the recent jaunt to the Midwest last week. In an effort to save some cash, both flights had layovers - one in Omaha and one in Phoenix. Nothing against the good people of Omaha, but your airport kind of sucks. Sorry. That was definitely stressful - getting off a plane, having 60 minutes to kill, and then re-boarding yet another plane. As any mother would attest, traveling with toddlers makes you sherpa-like; the bags, the stroller, the child. It's an additional 50 pounds of stuff that a normal human being doesn't have to lug around.
But alas, Scotty was blissfully well-behaved on all of the flights. Leaving Chicago, our flight was delayed 15 minutes. No problem, I thought; we have a 60 minute lay-over in Phoenix. We are still good on time. I bought the Bear a McDonald's cheeseburger ("cheese-bur-ger-ger," in Bearspeak) and we settled in at the gate.
Fifteen minutes went by. No plane.
Thirty minutes went by. Then thirty-five. Then forty. I began to pace, with the Bear in tow, feverishly praying for a plane. Scotty's cheeseburger was long gone by this point, so he was happily flying his own little toy plane in the window of the airport gate. He had no idea what a lay-over was or how annoying it is to miss a flight (especially when you are so close to home.)
Finally, ten minutes later, a plane arrived. We boarded, we flew, yada yada. The plane touched down in sunny, glorious Phoenix (ah, how I love the sun) at 3:29. Our flight - leaving out of the D gates - was scheduled to depart at 4:00pm. I can still make, I told myself. We might have to hurry, but we'll make it.
Then the stupid plane sits on the tarmac for the next twenty minutes.
At 3:52, I pushed my call button. The flight attendant scurried over, probably thinking there was a problem with my child (who was sitting silently next to me, completely absorbed in "Cars." We were out of gummi bears, but hadn't yet touched the Cheez-Its or M&Ms. Life is grand when you are a traveling Bear.) "I have a flight to catch at 4pm," I told her quietly. "I have to be in Vegas by six..." I hesitated for a moment, then said quickly, "...I have a speaking engagement at six. And I'm the speaker."
Eight heads swiveled my way immediately. They were probably sizing me up thinking, "Who is this chick? She looks like a stay-at-home mom...frumpy...tired...poorly dressed. But she has a speaking engagement?"
Yes, I admit, I was grossly overstating my role. I had agreed to speak at a round-table training for Junior League that night. Considering my two good friends were hosting it, I didn't want to leave them in a lurch. But did it sound like I was presenting myself as some kind of key-note speaker at a large Vegas convention? Well, that was up to my audience to determine.
The flight attendant quickly promised to call the gate of the plane leaving, would attempt to get the stroller out of baggage as quickly as possible, and would order us an electric cart to transport the Bear and I to the D gates. (We were pulling into the C terminal, so it was a trek.) The guy behind me quickly latched on to my electric cart promise, stating he too was going to Vegas on the four o'clock flight, and asked if he could catch a ride. Feeling magnanimous, I said yes. I was, after all, a speaker. At a function. Where people would be listening to...me. (insert drunk-with-power-hair-flip-here).
So imagine my surprise when we finally, finally exited that plane only to find...no stroller. We waited two grueling minutes, and the man going to Vegas hustled by, promising to look for the electric cart while I waited at the plane's gate for the stroller to be brought up. Finally, the stroller emerged and Scotty and I were able to escape the tunnel to find...no electric cart. Did that guy take it? Did it ever arrive? Either way, I threw my child into the stroller, slung the bags off each hook, straightened my ballet flats, and pulled my hair into a ponytail. "Hold on, Scotty," I told him. "You're going for a ride."
The kid squealed with joy all the way from C-18 to D-3. I can say with certainty that we were moving at approximately 5.8-6.2 mph. I almost ran over several elderly folks and one small child, but we did make it on time. I was dripping with sweat, out of breath, but thankful that marathon training has its unexpected benefits (like covering 1/4 of a mile in about 2 minutes).
The good people on this flight brought me a drink at no cost (gin and tonic, my favorite airplane drink). Scotty noshed on Cheez-Its and I reapplied my make-up. By the time we landed, we found ourselves in the familiar position of waiting by the plane's door for the stroller to be brought up. After another 10 minutes, the pilot emerged and asked if we were okay. I told him about the situation, and he immediately offered to go find it himself. When he came back with it, he thanked us for flying his airline. Just as I was about to walk away, he then said, "Hey! You wanna come see the cockpit?"
Do I? Does the Bear?
Is the Pope Catholic?
And just like that, Scotty got a chance to view firsthand what it looks like from the pilot's seat. I was very cautious about going up there, but Scotty wasn't. Once I put him in the seat (at the encouragement of the pilot), he grabbed for the gears and started smashing the buttons. The pilot was cool about it, but I wasn't (um, I wasn't ready for the plane to start moving again and inadvertently send us to Mumbai.)