So, I went back east. The kids came too, since we go pretty much everywhere together.
I needed a(nother) root canal, and Supergirl had a cavity which needed to be filled. No dental insurance + a brother who is a dentist + three roundtrip tickets back east = less money than California dentistry.
Except it turned out that Supergirl actually had insurance. It's just that nobody tried to tell us that when it was relevant and she was covered. Under her father's job. Which he mysteriously lost just days after being ordered to pay child support (which he must have interpreted as one of those 'optional' court orders, as evidenced by my empty mailbox). Strange thing is, he only disclosed the information that the kids were insured when we were about to fly back east. Too bad it wasn't sooner, as in, when they were first covered, because then she probably would have avoided the extraction. Father of the year, I tell you.
When I arrived in the tundra known as Buffalo, NY, it was about -6 degrees. Yes, that is a minus sign before the 6. I would have cried about it, but it was cold enough to freeze saltwater, and tear-sicles are very uncomfortable.
I would like to announce that my children are star travelers. Seriously. People would get on the plane and stare me down when they realized they had been seated near children. But at the end of each flight, those same passengers would inevitably be the ones to praise my children and their good behavior.
In fact, they were better behaved than some of the adult passengers and USAir staff I encountered on my first attempts to fly across the country. When I purchased my tickets I saw that they had seated me rows away from each of my children, aged 8 and 4. I called right away and asked for a seat change but was told they could only help me when I arrived at the airport. I've heard that one before.
When I arrived at SFO, I headed for the nearest agent, even though I had already checked in online. She spent a good deal of time trying to get us seats together, so much time in fact, that I was starting to get nervous about getting through security. She finally said there was nothing she could do, but they would be able to help me at the gate. Again, heard that one before.
By the time we reached the gate, the plane was already boarding. I talked to the gate agent, showed him my tickets, and he replied, "Why did you come at the last minute if you wanted to switch seats?"
"Whhaaaaaat?" I stammered, explaining that I had been at the airport for over an hour! "Why didn't you seat me with my kids?" I fired back.
"I wasn't the one who did that." He snidely replied.
"Ummm.....okay?" I looked at him expectantly.
He shoved my tickets back at me, disgusted. "Those are all middle seats - nobody will want to switch with you and we can't legally force anyone to switch. Plus, there's another family trying to do what you are doing."
"Ummm....okay?" I repeated...."Trying to do what I'm doing? Like sit next to their kids? I can't let them sit 10 rows away from me!! What should I do?"
He waved me on to the jetway. "Good luck with that."
I made my way down the very crowded jetway and down to a flight attendant. She looked at my tickets and said, "There's another family ahead of you trying to do what you're doing."
"So I've heard," I muttered back at her. I felt as if I was being accused of trying to sell cookies and wrapping paper to strangers on the plane. Or worse, was being accused of trying to light my underwear on fire (a joke I could not make in the airport!) ....not just trying to secure seats next to my minor children.
The exasperated flight attendant disappeared and came back to the jetway moments later. "Nobody wants to move into middle seats, and we can't legally force anyone to move from their seat."
I laughed and said, "You have got to be kidding me, right? I mean, okay...I guess it would be fine...I mean I haven't had a six hour break in I don't know HOW long...I guess I can just hand his electronics to the complete strangers sitting next to my four year old and pick him up in Philadelphia (connecting city)." At this point I may or may not have cackled maniacally.
"That's really not that funny." She said, dryly.
"WHAT??" I exploded. I had used up all my patience and humor. "You wouldn't let me put this four year old on a plane without me unless I hired an escort for him but you don't think it's FUNNY that you want to seat him practically in the LAPS of complete STRANGERS?? I think it's fucking HILARIOUS!!"
She handed my tickets back to me.
"Not my policy. Just enforcing it. Sorry, but there's nothing I can tell you. Nobody wants to move."
"I'm afraid so." And she left me standing there among a throng of passengers who were relieved that THEY would not be asked to switch seats and therefore sympathetic.
I walked back up to the gate; two kids, three backpacks, one stroller.
"Now what?" I asked the anxiety-plagued gate agent, as I handed back my unused boarding passes.
"Well....we can get you through another city but I have to check and see if I am allowed to do that, since your bags are already on the other plane and it could be a security problem."
"Not MY policy...." I muttered.
And so I was re-routed on another plane, through Charlotte, NC. Where it was a balmy 30 degrees.
So what happened? Anybody else ever experience this?
I have some ideas....
Now that USAir and most other airlines are nickel and diming us to stay in business (pay for bad snack food, pay to check baggage) they have to come up with new and creative ways to make more money than the tickets we already purchased. So some marketing WIZARD came up with the brilliant new plan of charging passengers $5 per flight to reserve a 'premium seat'. 'Premium seat' actually just translates into: A NON- MIDDLE SEAT. So basically, the message is that they hate families. There, I said it. USAir is anti-family. On top of the three full price tickets I purchased, they wanted an extra $5 per family member to ensure we would be able to sit together, instead of placing my children in the virtual laps of strangers.
They call it marketing.
I call it child endangerment.