Happy Landing, Happy Ending



Photo by Laura Petrilla

It was late one evening two Januarys ago, and I was sitting in a very crowded Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport after a holiday visit to my sister in Texas, trying to make it home to Pittsburgh.

I was flying alone with my daughter and 5-year-old son, sitting through delay after delay with the sinking realization that the chances we would make our connection in Atlanta faded away with each poopy diaper I changed.

Later, instead of my being allowed to board first because I had two small children, the crowd rushed the gate. That resulted in my having to maneuver a diaper bag, purse, backpack, snack bag and stroller to the very back of the plane while offering sincere apologies that my random and various carry-ons, and in some cases children, were bonking into passengers' heads, knees, elbows, and in one case, face. The looks I received from the passengers heading to Atlanta kind of sounded like this: "DIE!"

The flight was hell. I had a now extremely fussy lap-baby crying in jags, hell bent on pooping every 30 minutes, and an exhausted, weepy son who just wanted to be home. I attempted to allow him to put his head on my lap, but then he instinctively put his feet up. The look the woman next to him shot me when his foot touched her leg kind of sounded like this: "MOVE YOUR KID, AND ALSO DIE!"

We arrived in Atlanta, and were given no courtesy despite my pleas to passengers around me to please let me through first so I could make my connection. They simply glared at me, at my crying baby, at my sleepy son and turned to get their bags. As the next to the last person to leave the plane, I was greeted at the door by a flight attendant who told me I had a small chance of catching my connecting flight because they had held it. She looked at me and said two words: "Honey, run."

And run we did. I tucked the baby into the crook of my arm, draped my bags over the opposite shoulder and gave my son a few quick instructions on the best way to push the stroller through the crowds without clipping a gross number of heels.

By the grace of God, some excellent stroller-driving by my son and a few blinks of "GET OUT OF MY MOMMY'S WAY. I HAVE POOPED!" by my daughter, we arrived at the departure gate to board our flight to Pittsburgh just as they were about to close the door.

I dreaded boarding the plane. Thoughts like these raced through my mind: They held this plane for me. All of these 'Burghers are going to be so mad at me. And now my baby is crying and kind of stinks, and I have to walk all the way to the back of the plane, and they are going to silently order me to DIE!

Except they didn't.

They smiled. A grandma gave me the "Aw, poor dear" look and smiled encouragingly as I tried very hard not to allow my baby's feet to smack her in the face. Two young men stood up and grabbed my bags to escort me to my seat, and I wanted to just sit down and cry and then ask for a group hug.

At the back of the plane, several passengers stood up. Which seats, they wanted to know, would be best for me and my children? My son slumped into his chair and immediately fell asleep. The woman in the seat next to him looked over at me and whispered, "Would you like to put his feet in my lap?"

My people. These are my people. Pittsburghers really ARE different. Kinder. Sympathetic. Unaffected. They understand that sometimes a mother has done all she can for her children and it's not enough to stop them from crying on a crowded plane on a January night.

When we arrived in Pittsburgh, I had tears in my eyes. Happy tears. Outside the gate, my son rubbed the sleep from his eyes while I strapped my daughter into her stroller, smiled at her and said, "We're home."

And she blinked, "Thank God. Also, I pooped. But it's a happy poop. Group hug."


PittGirl Rants/Raves

Rant:
My SUV's catalytic converter, which sounds like a pretty important car part, died and fell off my car. I took it to two mechanics, who both told me it would be close to $2,000 to fix. Then I took it to my cousin, a former mechanic, who informed me the dealer that sold me the car, under federal law, has to fix it for free, which it did. Why didn't the other two mechanics tell me that? Huh? [shakes cute little fist]

Rave:
A reader turned me on to a Web site called "The Phrontistery," a fun word site that includes quite a collection of archaic words. As a fan of not being bored, I love browsing through old words, some so old they've actually been "lost." As a writer, I cannot wait until the day I can work "yoicks" and "swoopstake" into one sentence.

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