When I was a child, my mom made us sit in the airport hours before the flight was going to arrive. This was pre-9/11, before you actually had to be at the airport early enough to get through security and screenings. My mom has always been worried about being late and somehow those nerves made home in my head, built a mini-mansion on the small lot that is my brain and blocked out useful things like math skills and something something science.
I don’t know if my travel nervousness is because of being my mother’s daughter (nature) or how my mother would yell, “WE CAN’T BE LATE!” (nurture) or maybe that is just the way I am and how I must inflict that craziness on other people (torture).
Mike had dropped us off at the Delta section of the airport, but when we checked in, it said that our flight was now being operated by Alaska Airlines, information that would have been so helpful BEFORE we walked since it meant I would have to ferry my mom a long ways away.
My mom needed wheelchair assistance, not because she cannot walk at all, but because she tires easily and does have leg pain which makes the interminable, Sahara-wide trek that is an international airport difficult. She made it as far as she could then I suggested she sit on a soft bench until I could get a wheelchair.
I asked an Alaska agent about a wheelchair and the lady pointed me to the agents behind the First class station and I slowly walked over to the land of People Who File Taxes Without Asking For An Extension, in my faded yoga pants and playground reject mom hoodie and asked for a wheelchair for my mom.
I am acutely aware when I am in a place where I do not belong, like where rich people check in. I don’t know if I could handle working at an airport, where the disparity of people who are very very rich and me who is not rich at all. I know these people exist and do things like text each other which Maui condo they’ll be booking for the week, I don’t know, any week, when we’re not in Aspen, maybe? But there I was, in the MVP/First Class, pleading with the agent that my mom was in another part of the airport and I basically abandoned her on a seat so I could find some help. This happened while women in white pants and aviator glasses huffed behind me even though I’m pretty sure she was not the pilot so please check your white pants privilege at the door.
Finally we got her a wheelchair and we were set for the first leg of our trip. When we deplaned in San Diego, my mom saw a wheelchair and an agent waiting on the ramp so she headed straight for it and sat down. As I walked behind them up the ramp, I heard someone in the back say, “Where’s the wheelchair we ordered?!” Then I realized that my mom had jacked someone’s chair so I ushered them off with a “GO GO GO GO!” Jason Bourne urgency and didn’t look back or I would turn into a pillar of salt.
On our way back to Seattle, we had a three-hour layover in LAX. I had fantasized about the Delta Sky Lounge and splurging for passes so my mom and I could relax with cocktails (for me!) and snacks (also for me!) but my nephew was also traveling with us and there was no way I was going to pay $150 for three hours with my nephew serenading his grandma with, “Shots! Shots! Shots!”
Instead, I spent a lot of money but not $150 on a chicken burrito and quesadilla dinner, some chips and drinks from an airport market that also sold baked organic baked goods for DOGS. I was already what the helling at $9.00 for one flour tortilla and cheese when I spotted that. But I loved the indulgent, anonymous people watching that was free, especially when the airport was alive with teenagers wearing way too much leopard print and women with art school tight jeans and combat boots.
I charged my phone in a waiting area, next to a woman who was on her cell, talking to her therapist. I knew this because there was so much therapy lingo, like, “I should just set a revisit date and hold on,” and “psychological loop,” and other very touchy words that I never say when I talk to my sister. Most of the time, I share something with her and then she doesn’t respond, she just starts on what she wanted to about so I shout, “Well, back to you in the studio, Bobbie!”
On the last flight, I gave my mom my hot pink travel pillow, which meant I had the comfort of my hard fist to rest my head on. We had the row to ourselves, so I stretched my enormous body as much as I could across two seats and rested my head on my mom’s lap. She stroked my head and I heard as my eyes got heavy and it felt nice to curl up like a child and be the baby for a bit.