We left Saipan on April 2nd at 8:30 a.m. and arrived in Seattle on April 2nd, 9:30 a.m. When we were hugging goodbye, I was crying and I knew that if even said a word, I would break down, so I just nodded and tried not to speak too loudly. Then I saw the very historic Saipan airport ramp that leads you to the TSA checkpoint which is now no longer unfettered. I remember running down that ramp as a kid and the terrorists have made that joy impossible for future generations or grown women who want to let gravity fuel her run down the ramp while yelling, “WHEEEE!”
“Oh great,” I laughed, “I need a running start to get up this thing.” I wheeled the massive stroller up the incline. I took out the liquids (boxes of juicy juice) and the TSA agent said, “Because your liquids are over the limit, if you do not want us to open them, we need to give you a pat down.”
I agreed and asked how long it would take. “Three minutes, maybe less,” he answered.
“Oh that’s a shame because I definitely have a ten-minute body.” I did not say this, but I wanted to.
The agent who was assigned to pat me down said I could leave TJ in the stroller, but TJ was not having it. So I perched TJ on my hip. This was my first pat down while holding a toddler and the female agent spoke softly about what she was going to do. She started off with, “Are there any areas on your body that are sensitive?”
“Are you serious? I can think of twenty! Let me take over!” I ALSO DID NOT SAY THIS.
The agent was very professional and I shifted TJ from hip to hip as she touched my arms and waistband a few times. I just wanted it over with so TJ and I could be on our way. It wasn’t until the TSA agent had patted me up and down and then up and down again that I realized my family was still at the bottom of the ramp, watching me get felt up.
They were just blurry blobs hundreds of feet below (I need glasses), but I knew that my family would stick around for a spectacle like that, remarking on my body and what was happening to Mona. I texted Bobbie when I got home, “DID YOU ENJOY THE SHOW?!”‘ (Spoiler alert: SHE DID)
After the pat down and clearance, I repacked everything in our bags, plopped TJ back in the stroller and began our long trip home. TJ was an absolute rockstar to and from Saipan. There was a lot to tow on the way. I had packed chips and dried fruit and wrapped small dollar store toys in newspaper so he would have something to open on the long flights to and from Japan. I was very lucky on those flights because there was a free seat next to me, so I didn’t have a baby on my lap for 8 or 10 hours at a time.
Plus: TJ SLEPT. The kid slept for almost six hours straight on the way home which allowed me to watch stupid movies like New Year’s Eve. I tried to watch The Descendants but seeing a bright beautiful island was too soon since I had just left a bright, beautiful island.
But I did not watch this one. Thanks for making a gal feel welcome, United Airlines.
Our layovers weren’t difficult either. The Japan airport had a large children’s play area that was near the McDonald’s. It was clean and spacious and had simple toys that TJ launched into the air while the Japanese families ran in terror, screaming, “GOD-ZIRRAH! GOD-ZIRRAH!”
I know there were tons of restaurants and shops, but I went the American route and opted for the McDonald’s. I didn’t buy anything other than a side salad during our first layover in Japan, but on the way back, I pointed to the shrimp burger and the Japanese McDonald’s employee translated my OH LET ME AT IT face and served up some international deliciousness.
They also served a burger called The Big America which according to my post-flight googling had an egg, a dollop of guacamole and caesar dressing. Oh you crazy, Japan!
When I needed the bathroom in the Japanese airport, I found that I couldn’t fit my big Graco stroller in the largest handicapped stall, so I grabbed my purse, wheeled TJ outside and peed faster than I have ever peed in my life. Oh great, Mona. You take your valuables but you leave your son outside? Hey, imaginary voice! I needed the bathroom! You try fitting a Cadillac into a compact space when you haven’t peed for ten hours!
I did appreciate this baby device which if you look closely at the illustrations, warns against putting on makeup while your baby is inside. It’s like it’s talking directly to me!
Other traveling notes:
-I watched We Bought a Zoo but I did not have the headphones on. TJ was sleeping on them. So it looked like an okay movie?
-The United Airlines staff were so nice to us. On the flight from Japan to Guam, I had fallen asleep with TJ in my arms and when I woke up, the airline attendant brought out my food and! assembled the silverware and meal for me. However, she did not say, “OPEN UP FOR THE AIRPLANE!” Wouldn’t that be the perfect place to do it? ON AN AIRPLANE?
-On the flight from Seattle to Japan, there was a seat between me and a nice Japanese teacher. At the end of the flight, he said to me, “Your son is berrrry wonderful!” And I waited for the, “And you are too!” But that didn’t happen.
We arrived back home in tact, though very tired and sad and cold and missing the warm island of Saipan that was only 20+ hours in the other direction. TJ was still great and didn’t cry as much as I did when we got into a cab and I gave the driver the address to our Washington home.