Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Policy and other travel Nonsense

I never look decent when I travel. As a rule, comfort is first. Usually that means sweats, baseball hat and tennis shoes. Well, yesterday I wore heels and jeans. It was a big day. I wanted to look nice for Troy when he picked me up. This is important to the story because it plays into my shorter patience for all things ridiculous. I decided to take a day off from being the frumpy, baseball hat wearing, mom of a newborn. I thought heels might be the answer.

I like to think that my time in Haiti has made me a kinder, more patient Tara. As it turns out maybe that is only true in certain situations, yesterday I did not feel kind or patient in the Harlingen, TX airport.

We checked in at the counter where people were generally friendly. On past flights my boarding pass said, "lap passenger." In Harlingen they give you a separate green card that says "infant boarding pass." The lady at the counter told me to write the name of the baby and age on the green card. I will admit thinking, "huh - that is dumb - but whatever you say." I don't know why or how it ended up this way for me, but I generally question rules and rarely do something without figuring out why it needs to be done. I am a pain in the back-side of authority. Or so I have been told.

Paige, Lydie and I walked upstairs and went to clear security. The man at security looked at my boarding pass. He looked at Paige's boarding pass. He looked at the green infant card for Lyd. He got on his radio and said, "Maria, we have a problem. Please come over here." I said, "What is the problem?" He said he would tell me when Maria showed up. I stood on my heels and waited.

When Maria arrived she deemed it VERY VERY BAD that the green infant card did not say where the infant was going or on what airline. The kinder, gentler Tara left the building at that moment. I said, "Does it not stand to reason that the infant, who is WITH ME, might be going the SAME PLACE AS ME?" Maria said, "Well, it does not say that here on the infant boarding card." I said, "Do you have a lot of infants that travel alone?" Maria was not budging. She said, "It MUST say on this card where the infant is going, a flight number and a date." I again argued the point that since the infant belonged to ME it made a lot of sense that by default she would go the same place I was going. Maria said, "It must say on this card." I said, "Hand me a pen - I will write it on there for you." Maria was not amused. She said I had to go back downstairs to the ticket counter and have the airline write the necessary information on my green card. We tried to work it out another way, or, *I* tried ... But to no avail. Five minutes later I muttered something about it being ridiculous and walked back down to the ticket counter - In my high heels.

The lady down at the ticket counter rolled her eyes and told me that the TSA people were acting stupid and making stuff up. She claimed the green card never had that information on it. She scribbled the info down and sent me on my way.

Back upstairs I told them what the ticket lady had said. Yes, I told them only to be a jerk, but really I thought they should know that TWO people found them to be totally ridiculous. That is when Maria explained it all. She said, "It is our policy to know where the infant is going." Oooooh, okay, POLICY. That explains everything. Anytime someone uses the word "policy" you can pretty much guarantee it is nonsense. Policy is a a synonym for "rule that makes no sense."

I wanted to steal a line from Troy, but restrained myself. He likes to say, "Oh, is that your policy? Well let me tell you my policy. My policy has always been to ignore all other policies." (Especially when they are stupid.)

Flustered by the whole argument we finally got to finish going through the scanner thing. Everyone was satisfied that they had forced me into a pointless exercise of walking downstairs to add the words "MSP flight 438" onto a card for a child who would never leave my possession. As Lydia's car seat went through they backed it up and turned it upside down to re-scan it. Mom-variety-terrorists must hide things in the underside of car seats.

I stood at the end of the belt waiting for the rest of our things to come out when a nursing pad, and then another came out one by one. So much for shedding my frumpy image. They had been under Lyd's blanket in the car seat. A man working the belt picked them up and handed them to me. Paige giggled. Finally the car seat was deemed safe and we were free to walk to the gate. By this time I had stood in line and walked far more than I ever planned when I made the bold decision to wear heels. My feet were killing me.

We boarded the plane. The man who took the green infant card never even looked at it. OF COURSE he didn't look at it. It was probably his POLICY not to look at it.

I was cranky. I admit it. My feet hurt and all the nonsense had put me in a foul mood.

I sat down, I put Lydie's car seat next to me. She was sleeping soundly. I buckled her in. I kicked off my shoes and settled in. The flight attendant came to me and said, "That baby cannot stay in that seat, it is not FAA approved. You will need to take her out and put it in the overhead bin."

I HATE admitting that I said this, but I said, "Okay, you'll be sorry though." (Meaning, she was sleeping and we were going to need to wake her up and listen to her cry.) I am sure I could have been kicked off the plane right then for that implied threat. Thankfully she let it slide. I asked her (after Lydia was out of the seat) WHY the seat had been FAA approved on my flight down to Texas. Had the FAA changed the rules on Monday? I asked her why on previous flights no one had ever taken it away from me. She then told me it was not the right kind of seat, it was just a "carrier." I informed her that she could read the stickers on the side of the seat and learn that she was very wrong.

Later in the flight she came to tell me she was sorry. That she was indeed mistaken. I appreciated someone making some sense for once and told her it was not a problem and I was sorry I was impatient with her. We made up.

End of little story.

My new policy is NEVER wear heels to travel.