Monday, December 28, 2009

Flying the Friendly Skies

I have had quite enough of airports. I would be perfectly satisfied to stay home bound for the foreseeable future, particularly if traveling means hauling around the kids and all of the required small fry gear. In the past two weeks I have taken four flights with my offspring and I am perfectly exhausted from the experience.

I am positive that I am not making any earth shattering comments when I bring up the fact that air travel has changed since I was a child. We all know that the events of September 2001 forever changed the flying experience.

I did not travel by plane frequently when I was young, so perhaps the details are a bit fuzzy. My memories of flying include breakfast at a small diner in the Madison airport, a pair of shiny plastic wings received as I boarded, small bags of salty peanuts served with soda, and an in-flight meal which always included a little wilted salad and a dried up dinner roll with a pat of butter. I looked forward to those tasteless dinners because they were somehow special.

My son's memories will be oh-so different. Today he surprised me while we were going through security. Without any coaxing Zachary began disrobing as we approached the metal detectors. He took off his jacket, his shoes and his Diego back-pack. He reluctantly handed me Mr. Brown Doggie so I could place him in a plastic bucket headed for the x-rays. He did ask, why? Why does Mr. Brown Doggie have to go in the bucket? Why do I have to take off my shoes? How do I answer that in any way that would make sense to a four year old? Or even to a 35 year old? Really? Your going to xray a child's stuffed dog in the name of the FAA? I know, it is a complex and sad predicament we find ourselves in. There are no easy answers. For Zack, there are no airplane snacks or meals, and children are no longer given plastic wings or coloring books, it's a no frills experience unless you are wealthy enough to pay for first class tickets.

Fortunately I was able to keep my son pacified with the portable DVD player and a few chocolate chip granola bars and at this point he views security as a strange but necessary part of air travel. At some time in the future my baby will be old enough to wonder what an orange alert means, and ask why he can't bring his water bottle through security. We will have to discuss terrorism, war and our sad economy. Innocence lost. I suppose they call that growing up, and right now that seems so very unappealing.

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