Gone, baby, gone

So, my baby is in Oklahoma. Yes, I know she's eight and all. When she is 45 I will still call her "my baby." And when she is 13 as well . . . preferably very loudly and in front of all her friends.

She and I left Friday night after work. We stayed in a hotel room (a couple hours from our house) so that we wouldn't have to drive all the way to the airport  in one fell swoop (around four hours total, depending on how bad traffic is).  Plus, we wanted to go swimming. After we checked in, I ran back down to the lobby to buy us some ice cream. When I got back to our room, I immediately noticed that her bottle of pink lemonade was sitting on the desk with about a third of it gone. "What happened?" I asked.  She confessed to spilling it.  The lemonade was all over the nightstand and on the floor, and she'd even managed to splash some of it on the wall behind the nightstand.

"Why didn't you grab a towel and start mopping it up?" I asked her.

"I didn't know where the towels were." She responded.

I am not sure why she was baffled about where, oh where, one might find a towel while in a hotel room that's only got one other room - the bathroom. But, I digress. Anyway, do you want to know how she decided to deal with the spill in those few moments before I returned to the room?  She dragged her suitcase across the room and positioned it over the spill on the carpet. I guess she was hoping I wouldn't notice the pink lemonade running down the walls?

So, you can see why I was a little nervous about sending her halfway across the country by herself. Her decision-making skills still need some work.

Saturday morning, I let her go swimming in the hotel's tiny pool (we'd been swimming the night before, too). Then, we hit the road. We had about a two-hour drive to the airport, Chicago Midway. We stopped at an outlet mall along the way so that we could grab lunch at the food court. I also let her pop into the Disney Store and of course she talked me into buying her something (a High School Musical doll - Sharpay - of all things). I started to get a little nervous that I had not allowed enough time to account for Chicago traffic (as well as the possibility of long security lines at the airport) so we quickly finished our lunch and then got back on the road. Sure enough, we hit quite a bit of traffic. Her flight was scheduled to leave at 2:50 p.m. My goal was to make it to the airport by 1:30.  It was more like 1:45 when we got there.  We finally got to the check-in counter at around 1:55.  Much to my relief, the lines were short.  We presented ourselves at the counter and I explained that my daughter was flying as an unaccompanied minor.

Now, I've always been happy with Southwest, but this particular agent wasn't what you'd call . . . fully lucid. She looked up the reservation and then tried to tell me that I hadn't paid the UM (unaccompanied minor) fee. So, I presented her with the receipt showing that I had paid. Then she said some other forms were not printing out. She seemed unsure of what she was doing, so she attempted to cover up that fact by mumbling. I couldn't understand much of what she was saying.

"Is this the one you need?" I asked. I handed her another document I'd printed. This one showed who was dropping the kid off (me) and who was picking her up (my mom).  She nodded. But still, something seemed to be missing. She needed a supervisor. The supervisor, however, was helping another passenger. This passenger, an older gentleman, had missed his flight to Buffalo and appeared to be suffering from some sort of issue and said he wasn't feeling well. He sat on the luggage scale and looked down at his lap. I could see that he clocked in at just over 200 pounds. Honestly, I would rather fling myself onto the runway and be run over by a jet than to let strangers see how much I weigh.

Finally, another supervisor came along and stated that even though she'd forgotten to bring her glasses, she'd do her best to help. Finally, they got everything straightened out and handed me a gate pass (so that I could accompany my daughter all the way to the gate) as well as A's boarding pass and whatnot. By this time it was 2:20.  We raced to security.  I had made sure I emptied my purse of anything that even vaguely resembled a liquid. I'd also packed my daughter's carry-on bag very carefully. We put our stuff on the conveyor belt and then my kid passed through the detector. A-OK.  I had nothing in my pockets so I assumed I would pass through without incident as well. I walked through and heard an ominous beep.

"You've been randomly selected for additional screening," the TSA agent told me. Greaaaat.  I was instructed to wait for another agent.

I wasn't sure what the "additional screening" would entail. A strip search? A pat down?  "Will this take long?" I asked.  "I really have to get my daughter to the gate."

"She's right there," he said. "She's not going anywhere. See?" He pointed at my daughter for emphasis.

Oh, a smart ass. Gotcha. The other agent waved me over. "Where are your shoes?" he asked me.   We located our bin on the conveyor belt and then he grabbed my shoes. At first I thought he just wanted me to have shoes on while he checked my vagina for bags of heroin or whatever, but he took my shoes to a table and said, "I have to swab them."

I watched as he swabbed my 99-cent Target flip-flops for bomb residue (is that what they are checking for?) and then put the swab in a computer to be read.

He then handed my flip-flops back to me. There was no other screening done. You know, as I watched this whole thing unfold, part of me thought "you're just doing your job" and "thanks for keeping us safe."  But part of me also thought "this is redonkulous!"

Also, and this might sound crazy, but generally speaking, I have found it difficult to take down an airplane WHEN I AM NOT FLYING ANYWHERE.

Anyway, we made a quick stop at a newstand to buy Short Stuff some a drink and some snacks for the plane. Then we made it to her gate just as they started boarding. Fortunately, she got to go right to the front of the line. I had hoped we'd have enough time for me to take a few photos and to allay any concerns she might have. But, there was no time. She was paired with another little girl who was also flying as an unaccompanied minor.  Before I knew it, my baby was headed down the jetway with a gate agent and her new traveling companion.  I hugged her and kissed her as many times as I could before that, though.

Suddenly, I was alone. I was required to wait at the gate until the plane was in the air, so I sat and waited. I felt queasy. I watched the plane through the window. I was having irrational thoughts about busting past the gate agent and running onto the plane for one more "I love you." My eyes welled up and I just sat and waited quietly. I knew she'd be okay. We had known about the trip for a long time and we'd talked through exactly what she could expect when she was on the plane and all that jazz.  There was no connecting flight or anything like that. All she had to do was sit there for two hours and then find her Meemaw on the other end.

Once the plane was in the air, I made the long trek back to my van.  The drive home was quiet. Suddenly, I felt guilty for every time I had fussed at the kid. On the way to the airport, she was drawing in the back seat and kept wanting me to turn around and look at her artwork. "We're in the middle of Chicago," I'd said. "If I turn around and look, we'll probably die." Now I wished I'd found a way to look at the drawing.

My parents picked the kid up as planned. I talked to my daughter on the phone right after she landed. She was already having so much fun, I could tell.  She's spending the first few days at my sister's house. Just a little while ago, my sister sent me photo of my kid swimming in the pool with her kids. I can tell that my daughter is having a blast.

The house sure is quiet, though. Looking on the bright side, I now have two weeks to clean out Miss Thang's bedroom and dispose of a few things while she's not around to protest. Then maybe I'll call some of the neighbor kids and yell at them to brush their teeth and get dressed. It would be a shame for me to be out of practice when my daughter comes home.


Sarah said…
Thanks for making me tear up on Monday morning! I can just imagine what you were feeling when she got on that plane! I'm glad she's having fun, though there was no doubt in my mind that she would. She'll probably even miss you! ;-) And I think that's the smallest pool I've ever seen.
The Lovely One said…
You are very VERY brave. I know my Bug is only 7, but I can't believe that she will suddenly mature enough over the next year to be able to fly anywhere on her own!

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