Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Extreme Participant Observation: DFW Edition

You know how Texas had that really fun Christmas Day Storm yesterday, the totally unexpected and unusual one? Well, R and I made it to DFW, our scheduled layover en route to Mexico, just in time to get stuck here for ... going on 24 hours now.

As always, air travel provides an interesting opportunity to observe the wide variety of parenting approaches and the results thereof. If you happen to be collecting data to decide whether or not to procreate, there may be no better source of evidence than a large airport right after four hundred flights have been canceled.

Data point #1: Teenagers. Teenagers are okay to travel with, if you can handle the eye rolling. In our first trip through the security line, R chuckled and told me that he had seen a spot-on exasperated Twelve expression on a teenage girl in line behind us. This corresponds exactly with data from the few times I've traveled with Twelve, with the added bonus of her world-weary, this-is-so-boring, done-it-all-before attitude. They can carry their own stuff and probably won't need you to check their pants for poop.

Data point #2: Babies. If it is absolutely necessary to fly somewhere before your kid is thirteen, do it before they can walk, or better yet before they can sit up on their own. The moms with babes in arms - and yes, they are all moms; some of the moms have dads along to help carry stuff, but I don't think I've ever seen a man traveling alone with a baby - seem to do okay. The main factor here seems to be, see below, the amount of accessory crap that you bring along and whether or not you have a helper.

Data point #3: Children between the ages of one and eleven. I suggest that you just stay home during this decade. I'm not even thinking about the rest of us, although I did once score a free drink on a plane by joking to the flight attendant that if they were giving free booze to folks in the Noisy Kid Section, I'd love a Jack and ginger ale. Nice person that I am, I'm protecting your own sanity here, particularly if all your carefully made plans become shot to shit and you are gifted with an extra three hours of tarmac-sitting or the pleasure of an unplanned night at the Comfort Inn DFW North (both of which happened to us yesterday).

Data point #4: Gadgets. If you must take a seven year old on a plane (or a two year old, a four year old, a six year old, an eight year old, and a ten year old, as did one blond family with whom we shared the three hour tarmac sit), you are going to want a few Primate Anesthetizing Devices. As the dad of the four blondies said as they were trying to get everyone settled, "Once you sit down, I'll give you your iPads." This is excellent advice for anyone traveling with children, at least everyone who can afford individual iPads. For the rest of us, anything that emits moving lights and sounds will do. I'm not saying this is good for your kids, but it will help keep them from climbing up into the overhead bins, and, I sincerely hope, from kicking the seat in front of them. It is quietly terrifying to watch a tiny child fluidly navigating a smartphone, but hey - some people give babies Benadryl, so call it a wash. Just, for the love of God, don't forget the headphones.

Data point #5: Stuff. The more you and your children carry on, the more you will hate your life. Having little tiny roller bags for each child is cute, especially if they match, but if those wheels aren't widely spaced enough and if those loads aren't evenly balanced, it's just not going to work. Your family will become the erratically moving island around which I will need to navigate, and I may be tempted to drop kick those cutely useless bags across the concourse.

The number of bags the adults are trying to manage matters too. We went through security this morning with an utterly charming family of three who had approximately thirty-seven items. I don't know what airline lets you have that many carry-ons, but the checked baggage fee seems like money well spent if you are wrangling a toddler. The other side of that coin is that having all your stuff with you would make a forced camp out at your gate more fun - the plane full of people who were told in the same breath that their flight to Puerto Rico was canceled and that their bags were going there without them would attest to this - so I guess you might as well flip that coin. Or, like me, vow to never fly anywhere ever again and just save yourself the trouble.

Data point #6: Well, I was going to discuss my observations of the moms who travel just them and their child/ren, but I'm distracted by the stench of what I think is a diaper change, so let's first discuss how gross that is. It's disgusting. Don't do that at the gate.

Rats. Our flight just got canceled for lack of flight attendants, it still smells like diaper around here, and I didn't get to the part about how being broke while raising Twelve meant the mixed blessing of never having flown with her until she was old enough to handle herself.

I may never leave home again.

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