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    Flying With Children

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All contents © 2011
by Lorin Killoy
    “Lori, if you’re afraid of flying, why did you fly here?” My 13 year-old nephew, Ryan, was helping me write a story for my creative writing class. I thought writing about my most recent round of misadventures in the air would be a good topic for a story.  
    “Actually, Ryan, I hate flying; I’m not afraid of flying; the actual flying part, including takeoff and landing, doesn’t bother me an iota. No, I hate just about everything that goes with flying: making reservations, waiting in lines, going through security, dealing with rude and noisy people, sitting in a space smaller than a coffin, playing luggage roulette, etc. I just don’t like the whole experience. Case in point: my most recent flight.  
    “Uncle Brian wanted to fly to visit his parents–your grandparents–here in Tennessee because our car is nine years old and has 126,000 miles on it. I agreed only if he would make the reservations. After all, we were coming down for his family’s reunion. Although I love my in-laws very much and enjoy visiting them, I hate making travel arrangements. I remember the days when I would be on the phone with the travel agent for over an hour trying to find the best price and schedule. Thankfully the Internet has made booking a flight much easier, but I still let Brian deal with it. Now, all he has to do is make a bid online, and within minutes we have electronic tickets. We bid an inexpensive price, but we only needed to go from Chicago to Nashville. We figured this would be cheaper than flying out of Madison or even Milwaukee.  
    “Wednesday evening, the night before the flight, we were up late packing and preparing for the trip. Goober, our older cat, decided that she didn’t want us to go. Before we put a stitch of clothing in the suitcase, she jumped in to try to prevent us from packing anything.  
    “Our flight was this past Thursday, and we had to wake up at 5:30 am because we wanted to be on the road between 6:00 and 6:30. We are not morning people at all, and the fact that we had been up late the night before didn’t help our state of mind. After putting on his clothes, your Uncle Brian realized he couldn’t remember the directions to his parents’ house from the Nashville airport, so he had to look online for the instructions. Don’t ask me why, but the map program he was using had no clue of the location of Nashville International Airport. Uncle Brian input a miscellaneous address in downtown Nashville and asked the program for the instructions from there.  
    “When we picked up our luggage, Goober decided to barricade the way to the kitchen, and thus the back door, by lying in the doorway. She’s a good-sized cat, but not big enough to prevent us from leaving. The look on her face, however, and the look on the face of her younger sister Lunch, told us how sad they were at our departure.  
    “Finally we were on the road at 6:30 am. Next stop: Thrifty Car Rental near O’Hare Airport to park our car while we’re away. Every time I cross the Illinois border, I cannot comprehend what is being done with the toll money; the roads certainly are not benefiting from these funds. I was glad your uncle was driving as we proceeded through Chicago’s morning rush hour. ‘This is why we left so early.’ Brian said as traffic nearly came to a stop on the highway.   “As if he needed to remind me of why I was trying to function on less than five hours of sleep. I’m the kind of person who needs at least eight hours of sleep each night, or I’m as cranky as a newborn. Trying to keep my eyes open throughout the three-plus hour drive was already a challenge, except when Brian had to hit the brakes quickly. My adrenaline then decided to give me a better jolt than caffeine ever could.  
    “We selected Thrifty for storing our car because we had used them the last time we flew out of O’Hare when we came down to Tennessee during the Christmas season a couple of years ago. Remember that year? You and your grandparents had to wait two extra hours for us because our flight was delayed due to bad weather. Well, earlier last week I found not only Thrifty’s toll-free number in my old files, but directions to their establishment as well. I told your uncle to never make fun of my being a pack rat ever again.”  
    “What’s a pack-rat?” Ryan asked.  
    “A person who keeps too much stuff around the house.” I explained, then I continued my story, “Within moments of arriving at Thrifty, the valet checked us in, and our car was headed for the secure lot. However, despite the shuttle bus to and from the airport being on the premises, we still had to wait nearly ten minutes before the driver appeared.  
    “O’Hare Airport is easily the biggest and most complex airport I ever have visited, which isn’t saying much because I’ve flown only five times in my life. Thrifty’s driver dropped us outside the airline’s check-in, but Uncle Brian and I didn’t read the signs, and we tried to check in at the wrong airline counter. Mercifully when we did arrive at the ticket counter, the line was minimal. Previous airport lines I’ve been in would rival the lines at Great America’s roller coasters on a sunny Saturday in summer. You’ve been to Great America, right?” Ryan nodded. “We checked only one suitcase in an attempt to keep difficulties with the luggage to a minimum.  
    “Of course we had to dig out our identification and answer questions swearing that we packed our own luggage and did not pick up any packages from strangers. At the metal detectors, Uncle Brian had to take his laptop computer out of his carry-on so it could be screened for gunpowder or plastic explosives. If I ever wanted to pull a Unabomber, I wouldn’t try blowing up an airport; there are easier places to sneak in a bomb. At least this time my barrettes didn’t set off the metal detector.” I touched the barrettes in my hair to show Ryan they were metal.  
    “I learned at a young age to take a book or some form of reading material with me everywhere I go to stave off boredom. (As the youngest of four children, I was taken to every football, volleyball, softball game, track meet, concert, etc. in which my older siblings participated.) This lesson has been particularly useful since I started flying four years ago. My favorite book to take to airports is The Complete Sherlock Holmes. I’ve read two-thirds of this four-inch volume solely while waiting for airplanes. For this particular voyage, I brought a collection of horror stories written by the late H.P. Lovecraft, three magazines, and the reader for my creative writing class. I was a Girl Scout, and the Scout Motto is ‘Be prepared.’  
    “I usually, however, am never prepared for what happens during boarding. The first-class prima donnas are allowed to board first, then the rest of the passengers are called according to seats starting with the back row. Because we were seated in row 28, we were called very early and walked past the vultures swarming around the ticket queue in a futile attempt to board quickly. Brian and I were seated in a row that could, in theory, seat three people. Well, you know the people in our family aren’t small, so Brian lifted the armrest between us to give us more room.  
    “As the boarding continued, I witnessed many passengers who refused to check any luggage and thus brought all their suitcases with them in the main cabin-very rude. I also hoped your uncle and I would be the only two people in our space because my large hips have had the damndest time fitting into airplane seats. My bad luck with airplane seating maintained as another large woman sat next to me. As Brian tried pressing closer to the window, the sweet-mannered passenger seated next to me thanked me for lifting the armrest, then proceeded to sit partially in the aisle throughout the entire flight–something your uncle and I both have had to do in previous flights. The woman and I had a delightful conversation discussing issues common to large women as the plane flew from Chicago to Saint Louis. Unfortunately because of our seats, we were the last to be served beverages–just as the captain turned on the “fasten your seatbelt” light in preparation for landing. All three of us had to guzzle.” Ryan chuckled at the thought of his ‘adult’ aunt and uncle having to guzzle soda.  
    “Upon landing in Saint Louis, those seated in our end of the row knew we weren’t going to be deplaning any time soon, so we waited patiently. Another passenger across the aisle stood immediately, removed his three pieces of luggage from the upper compartments, and vainly tried to fight his way off the plane.  
    “Although our flight attendant did announce an airline employee would be at the gate with connecting flight information, no such person was awaiting our arrival. Brian and I walked over to the arrivals/departures screens for the airline and discovered that our connecting flight was not listed, which didn’t surprise us; our flight to Nashville was scheduled for more than three hours hence. I did notice, however, another flight to Nashville leaving within the hour and wondered why we weren’t booked on it. Probably because of the low fare we received via the Internet. An employee at the nearest courtesy desk told us our next gate was, as usual, at the other end of the terminal. We arrived at gate three, and our departure would take place at gate 28. I can always count on doing my daily exercise of walking whenever I fly.  
    “The airport map said lockers were available at several gates. The only lockers we found were for flight crew use only. Uncle Brian and I had to take turns grabbing some food while the other stayed and watched our carry-ons. During my exploration of the terminal, I discovered that the only view of Saint Louis’s famous Arch was on a mural in one of the airport-priced souvenir stores. I did find a food place whose prices were reasonable, but the counter staff of the establishment apparently had never heard of customer service. I knew I couldn’t make it through a day of flying without waiting forever in at least one line.  
    “By this time, my body insisted I do something about my lack of sleep. Slumping over our bags to guard them, I tried to sleep without disturbing those around me (I snore). I was almost asleep when a projectile hit me in the shoulder. The action figure flew over from two little boys who had just met and were passing the time by playing. I had to smile as one of the boys retrieved his toy and, at his mother’s prompt, apologized to me. Unlike most flyers, I love having children on board with me; they’re very entertaining. One little boy was practicing what appeared to be newly-acquired skills by running laps around two rows of chairs. ‘A future track star,’ I commented to your Uncle Brian. The only bad point about children and flying centers around the parents. If a child is being noisy, as kids will be,” I said as I tousled Ryan’s hair, “then the parent will contribute more noise by screaming at the child to shut up. Does this make sense to you?”  
    “No,” Ryan replied, “Sometimes my dad yells at me for talking too loud. I know he’s making more noise than I am, but I can’t say anything about it.”  
    I wanted to tell Ryan that I noticed how poorly my brother-in-law talks to/yells at his kids. I had more than one conversation about it with Brian, but my husband always told me to mind my own business and not be a busybody. I honestly believe that when we have kids, Brian will be a better parent than his brother; He wants children so much, and I’ve seen Brian with our nieces and nephews and, more importantly, with our cats. He’s a very affectionate and loving person, and I know he’ll make a good father when the time comes–if the time comes.  
    “Well, to continue my story, I asked your Uncle Brian how many kids he wants. ‘Dozens’ came his usual reply.”  
    “Aunt Lori, do you want kids?”  
    “Yes, Ryan, I do.”  
    “Then why don’t you have any?”  
    I couldn’t answer the question right away. I knew my reasons, but my thirteen-year-old nephew found it hard to comprehend how I could want to go school–even in the summer; how could Ryan understand the difficulties Brian and I are having in our marriage? I’ve been back in school for two years, and in that time I had ignored Brian and myself a great deal. Also, while Brian accepted my decision to postpone having children until after I finished my BA, he still has a hard time being childless. We adore our nieces and nephews and are very generous with them, but we also miss having any children of our own. These two reasons–our relationship and my education-combined with other reasons such as health problems I’ve had, are why we don’t have any children yet. But how do I explain this to a teenaged boy?  
    “Ryan, don’t you have enough cousins?”  
    “Yeah, but I’d like more.”  
    “You sound like my father. He wants more grandchildren, too, but I have health problems that prohibit me from having kids right now.”  
    “Such as?” Ryan asked.  
    “Such as my size, Ryan. “Babies born to large women have a higher incident of birth defects.”  
    “Well, you can lose weight.”  
    I didn’t tell Ryan that this was a difficult issue for me. “I’ve lost fifteen pounds since the beginning of the year.”     
    “That’s good. What other health problems?”  
    “Well, I take a medicine right now that also could cause severe birth defects, but I hope to go off that in two months.”  
    “Then will you have kids?”  
    “Oh, Ryan, having children is far more complicated than you think. When we do have children, aside from Goober and Lunch, we’ll let you know. Okay?”  
    “Okay.” Ryan said.  
    “To continue my story, during our three-hour layover in Saint Louis, two more flights arrived at and departed from gate 28. One of the flights was overbooked, and the airline employee offered an upgrade to first class on a later flight, as well as a free future flight, for anyone willing to be bumped. I told Brian that I would be willing to arrive later with an offer like that, but our flight wasn’t overbooked.  
    “Brian looked at our tickets and noticed we were in row 8 for our next flight: seats A and C. He was concerned we would have someone between us on the leg to Nashville, but I reassured him that I noticed no seat B on our previous flight in a similar-sized airplane.  
    “When our flight finally boarded, Brian and I again showed our patience and common sense by staying in our seats and waiting. Being seated in row 8 meant we would be the last passengers to board. I was correct when we arrived at our place: no seat B, which also meant no third passenger to worry about. We snuggled in together for the hour-long flight.  
    “Again my body wanted me to sleep, but the passengers in the row behind me tried slamming the airplane phone to return it to its home in the back of my seat. I personally exhibited air rage when I glared at them. They apologized and explained their difficulty with the phone. I tried going back to sleep, and as I curled my feet under my seat, I discovered with my toes the carry-on of the passenger seated behind me. When I tried to kick the luggage back under the seat, I painfully realized I was not kicking the gentleman’s carry-on, but I was kicking the gentleman’s feet”  
    “Actually, Lori, I think the sentence sounds better if you just say you were kicking the gentleman.” Ryan suggested.
    “Okay, I realized I was not kicking the gentleman’s carry-on, but I was kicking the gentleman. (You’re right, Ryan, this does sound better.) I decided to worry about it later and tried sleeping again.  
    “About the time I finally dozed off, Brian and the flight attendant woke me up to ask me what I wanted to drink. Upon reaching consciousness, I discovered two things: 1. asking for V8 was futile because the flight attendant kept offering me tomato juice (definitely not the same) and 2. the captain had just turned on the “fasten your seatbelt” sign to prepare for landing. Another guzzling session ensued.  
    “In an effort to save time, Uncle Brian went to the car rental counter while I waited for our suitcase. I noticed the gentleman who was seated behind me, and I apologized to him for kicking his feet. I lied when I told him I kick in my sleep because I did not want to admit to air rage. As the luggage from our flight moved across the conveyor belt, I kept a sharp eye out for our medium-sized, dark-blue suitcase that never materialized. When Brian returned from the car rental counter, I was the sole passenger from our flight still waiting for luggage. ‘No!’ he shouted.  
    “‘Unfortunately, yes!’ I replied in disgust.  
    “The airport signage pointed us in the direction to go with problems about luggage, but our airline did not have an office in this area. Brian entered another company’s office, and was instructed to go to the airline's ticket counter. We stood next to a man from our flight, who was not as patient as me, and was already there inquiring about his missing luggage. Another agent at the counter helped us, and as his colleague who was assisting the first passenger heard that we also were missing a suitcase. This agent informed his colleague helping us that the computer was down, and our information would have to be taken on paper. Groan! My husband loudly said to the agent that he hoped the airline would drive our one-accent on the one-missing suitcase to his parents’ house an hour-and-a-half from the Nashville airport. Already the ticket agent was trying to make such an arrangement. When the paperwork was finally completed, Brian and I walked away from the counter, but he noticed a stack of luggage behind an adjoining counter. I recognized two of the suitcases as being unclaimed from our flight, but more importantly, Brian noticed our suitcase amongst these. Our suitcase had caught the earlier flight to Nashville that we didn’t.  
    “The area where passengers pick up rental cars was under construction. The staffmember who was supposed to meet us at this area was long gone after our search for our suitcase, so Brian had to hunt for someone else to locate our car. Adding to the construction noise were four entertaining children and their screaming mother. ‘How many do you want?’ I asked Brian. This time he just shrugged his shoulders. I knew why.  
    “More than twelve-and-a-half hours after waking up that morning, we finally were on the ground, and in a car on the last leg of our journey to your grandparents’ home. While Brian was driving through the evening rush hour in Nashville, Tennessee, he noticed a small truck with a lone passenger who was driving in the car pool lane. I pointed out the lane was restricted only from 4:00-6:00 pm, and the time was currently 6:02. I then concentrated on the directions he printed out that morning, so I could make some attempt at navigation.  
    “I was looking forward to seeing my in-laws, whom I adore; a good, filling meal without paying a fortune and standing in line; and, most importantly, I was looking forward to a comfortable bed in which to sleep. When we go home on Monday, we have to do this all over again.”  
    Ryan thought the punchline to my airplane adventures story was funny. I thanked him for his help before he left the room. I debated the ending of my story after he left. Finally, I started typing again about the conversation in the car.  
    “Sweetheart, can we talk?” I asked Brian.  
    “About children.”  
    “So, talk.”  
    “I believe one of the major problems we have had centers around children, but is also attached to other problems. We have seen a lot of children of varying ages on this trip, and we both want children very much, but there are so many obstacles between us and children.”  
    “I know that, Lori.”  
    “Please let me continue. I know what I’m saying might be obvious to you, but I’m trying to figure things out in my own head.”  
    “Okay. Go on.” he said.  
    “The first and biggest problem is money. We need money to fix up our house so we can sell it and buy a bigger house. We need money to buy a newer and bigger car. We need money to afford everything a newborn will need. My brother Fran says if you wait to have kids until you can afford them, then you’ll never have them. Unfortunately, I know we really can’t afford kids right now. Bringing children into the world of our finances would not be fair to the child. Working for the state gives us great benefits, but not great pay. That’s why we’ve both applied for higher paying jobs. This is why I’m trying to start my own business.  
    “I know you become depressed when we talk about children because you know our financial situation isn’t good enough for a child. I can see the depression in your face right now. We both feel at fault because we both feel we don’t make enough money. Sweetheart, I feel worse than you do because I make far less than you do.  
    “Also, other reasons why we don’t have children yet are directly because me: my health/weight and my education. Last night when I mentioned to you that I may drop six of the nine credits I’m signed up for because of our finances, I also told you this would delay my graduation another year. You said, ‘two years’ as if it meant forever. I think I’m being terribly unfair to you by making you wait to be a father until I graduate from college; however, I really don’t have much of a choice. I can’t do home, work, school, kids, and marriage; I’m not the superwoman my mother was–and she didn’t do it that well anyway. I won’t put you and our kids through the same stress my mother put my father, my siblings, and me through.  
    “Besides, physically, I can’t have kids now. I’m still taking carbamazepine, which can cause birth defects; and an antidepressant, which is bad for breast feeding babies. Hopefully I’ll go off the first in August, and the latter next January. I know this still puts stress on you because you have to wait for me to be healthy before we can have children. First you had to endure the mental anguish/stress of dealing with me through epilepsy, depression, ulcer, etc. and all the other prescription medications I take. I know these illnesses have delayed our child bearing.  
    “The final problem is my weight. At least one study has shown that babies born to obese women are at higher risk for birth defects. Instances of diabetes and high blood pressure also increase in obese pregnant women. I have to lose weight–at least 70-75 pounds–before I can become pregnant.  
    “I also need to work on me. I have a lot of anger from my past that I need to let go. I need to work on my self-image, self-assertion, and self while I’m trying to achieve all these other goals that I’ve already mentioned. You once told me that I need to work on the way I dress because I dress like I’m trying to hide from the world or at least not draw attention to myself. Well, you’re right. I’ve wanted to revamp my style of clothing for years–ever since I was about 12-13 years old, I’ve had an idea for coordinating separates; over the years, the colors and styles for the individual pieces I envisioned have changed, but not the principle of personal style. Today I read the first issue of the reincarnated BBW (Big Beautiful Woman), and I know I could design–and sew–my own wardrobe for my size now and later when I lose weight. By the way, my doctor likes the exercise I’m doing to attain health and fitness and to lose weight in the process. I have to prove to you, and to myself, that I do care enough about me to stand out in the crowd; to look and feel great no matter what my physical size. The mass media is finally realizing the large-sized person as a powerful consumer (with feelings and a good self esteem). Now I need to spend the resources on myself and say, ‘I’m worth it!’ But it’s going to take both time and money.”  
    “How much weight have you lost already?” Brian asked.  
    “Fifteen pounds.”  
    “Looks like maybe more than that.” Brian said with a smile.  
    As we drove down the highway past the Saturn car plant, I felt an uncertain future ahead of us. Would Brian and I stay together? Would I lose more weight? Finish my degree? Find a better job? Would this be my last visit to my in-laws? If so, then at least I wouldn’t have to fly here anymore.