I stood in the ticket counter line, panicked and on the verge of tears. The lady helping the man before me seemed to be in slow motion. Smiling, slowly leaning down to put a tag on his bag, slowly reaching over to grab his passport.
“C’mon, C’mon!!” I muttered to myself, bouncing up and down.
My flight from D.C. to Detroit was leaving in 25 minutes. I had checked in online, but when I got to the Delta kiosk to print my boarding pass, the machine said I was too late. And then an incompetent lady walked me back to the kiosk to do what I had just done, only to get the same message. I was furious that she wasted three precious minutes.
“Sorry,” she said, not sorry. “You can take the flight leaving in 3 hours.”
“No, no,” I said. “I think I can make it.”
“It’s against regulation,” she huffed. “You can talk to one of our service representatives, but you have to wait in line.”
So I did. And when I got up to the nice lady at the counter, I started to cry.
“This is my first time traveling with my baby alone,” I blubbered, tears running down my face. “I really need to make this flight. Delta sent me an email saying the flight was delayed 30 minutes.”
The flight was back on time, and I didn’t get a notice about it till I was in the cab on the way to the airport. And so yes, I had shown up at the airport too late, not wanting to hang out at the airport with C. longer than I had to. It was partly my fault, but also Delta’s fault.
“It’s OK, you’ll make it,” the nice lady said, now moving fast as she printed out a pass for me. “They’ll let you go first with your baby.”
“Thank you!” I said, relieved, but now on a mission.
I ran, pushing C. wildly to the elevator, down to the gate level, to security. The security line was long, snaking back longer than I ever remember seeing it. I begged the guard there to let me go through first class. And when I got to the front of the line, I asked about seven smartly dressed men if I could cut in front of them.
Delta was paging me, along with about eight other people.
“They’re calling my name,” I said. “Please please please.”
They all kindly stepped aside. I threw my bags on the conveyor belt. I took C. out of his car seat, which was the wrong sequence.
“Can you hold him for a sec?” I asked a TSA agent, holding C. out, his legs dangling. The agent waved his hands, as if to say, “No, no, I can’t do that.”
I put C. back in the seat, detached it from the stroller, and put him on the ground. I put the stroller through on the conveyor belt, panicking, panicking. And then I grabbed C. to walk through the metal detector.
“Hey,” a guy said behind me, holding up my REI water bottle. “You forgot this, but I’ll just bring it to you when you get through.”
The security guy said, “You have to take off your flip flops.”
And then I heard my name again, on the intercom, along with, “The gate is closing in three minutes.”
This is when the stroller got stuck as it was getting screened. Another TSA man was pulling it as hard as he could, finally freeing it after what seemed to be several long minutes. Then another uniformed woman held up my water bottle.
“Oh, thank you!” I said. She shook her head and set her mouth in a grim line. “I have to screen it,” she said rudely, pushing past me.
“Just keep it,” I said and I ran to gate 16, pushing the stroller with two bags swinging from it and my big camping backpack on my back. C. was smiling up at me, as if to say, “This is fun!”
I passed another guy who was running in the opposite direction who yelled at me, “I told them we’re coming!”
And when I got to the gate and the Delta agents said I made it, I practically weeped with relief.
C. didn’t make a peep. I think he loved the thrill of it. And when we got on the full plane, all eyes staring at us as I held C. in the Ergo, C. wiggled his legs. I sighed as I slumped down in my window seat, still sweating, my heart still racing. C. smiled at the 40-something man next to us, charming him and then spent the flight nursing and playing with a bag of peanuts.
In the past, I have cut it close while flying, but doing it with a baby is not advisable.
On the way back to D.C. yesterday, my dad dropped me off an hour before my flight was scheduled to leave.
It was leisurely going through security, and the agents were much nicer (of course, I was in the Midwest). Then, when my flight was delayed an hour and a half, I didn’t care. C. nursed, and then I place him on the ground near the gate to roll around. I chatted with a University of Michigan law grad who was flying to D.C. for an interview to clerk for Justice Roberts — and who also has a 6 month old. We compared notes. The flight was short and easy and I kept kissing C. for being so relaxed even though he missed his morning nap.
Today, once C. is up from his nap, I’m off to Ocean City, Md. — the beach! — to see friends who are in from San Francisco. I had hoped A. could join me, but he’s too busy at work, so once again, C. and I are on our own.
This time, on the way there, I plan to take it nice and slow and easy.