The Colbert Nation had a funny piece a while back about the world before 9/11. The part of it that I remember several weeks later, was a commentary about how it used to be a pleasure to fly. Colbert says: “They (meaning teenagers and college kids) have no idea what it was like before the national security state. Let me explain. Before Bin Laden came along it was possible to get on a plane with an adult size bottle of shampoo, without have your scrotum cupped by an embarrassed man with a clip-on tie…”
Yes, the pleasure of flying has gone down and the hassle has gone up. Along with this trend, I have raked in more and more frequent flier miles as my jobs have progressively had me flying across continents more frequently. Really, I shouldn’t complain. I wanted my job and I love all the cultures I am getting to know. Still… sometimes I dread flying.
I dread flying even more when flying with my dog and my husband! My dog hates flying and is stuck in a little bag at my feet. She can’t go to the bathroom. I am always really nervous for her. We have to get special vet papers– which include the dreaded trip to the vet. And I have to pay extra to have here and, therefore, no leg room. Still, I couldn’t leave her behind. My husband also hates flying. He is stuck in a small seat, bored, with (usually) bad food that (often) makes him ill. Also, he does not sleep as easily on a plane as I (usually) do. I was particularly dreading this flight as flying at 34 weeks pregnant just means not fitting in the seats, having to use the bathroom more often, and reduced ability to get comfortable or sleep.
That said, despite all the complications, I think all three of us were excited to be coming home to Wisconsin for several months. Not just because we were flying for the birth of our first child, but also because Wisconsin has wonderful cheese and beer (husband only this time).
Actually, the flights started off pretty well– despite the check in agent in Almaty taking almost 30 minutes to check us in. She did not speak English and therefore could not read the note from the doctor about my health status. She did not know how to check in a pet. She didn’t know what to do with the wheelchair request for Germany and the US for me. I was concerned about how tired I would be and how quickly I could make it through the large airports of Frankfurt and Chicago. She was confused by our luggage— in the end, she put a priority tag on two pieces of luggage since I was pregnant but would not put one on my husband’s luggage. What is the point of this??? I still have to wait for him to get his luggage. Despite all this, she managed to get us a full center row to ourselves.
In Germany, we were met by a very sweet man who wheeled us over to the next gate. Good thing– we most certainly would have gotten lost and the gate was quite far away! He even tried to help carry Harley while S took out the computer and I had been herded somewhere else since they said I couldn’t go through the scanner because of the baby. Anyone who knows Harley knows this didn’t go well!
When we arrived in Chicago, our plane was delayed circling in the air. Luckily, because of the wheelchair, we made it through customs in record time. My two priority bags came out immediately, S’s followed a while later. We still had enough time to get to our connecting flight to Milwaukee— however, the airlines refused to take our bags since they were not the requisite 45 minutes ahead of schedule. Apparently, since our bags couldn’t fly with us, we were not allowed to fly. As if I could have tampered with a bag that had been through customs and TSA scans.
Exhausted, after 25+ hours of flights and airports, with a dog in tow, at 34 weeks pregnant, I was told that they could not put us onto a flight until the next morning. We were offered a bus– which would never have worked with the dog and the bladder. Beyond poor customer service, I felt like sitting on the floor and crying.
In comes Dad to the rescue! My father drove 1.5 hours to Chicago to pick us up and take me home. Happily, we did arrive in Milwaukee. Two weeks and one angry email later, I do feel better about the whole experience. I communicated with the airlines who apologized for the treatment we received, recognized that I was put in a very uncomfortable situation, and gifted us quite a few miles to make it up.
Best of all, we are in Wisconsin— which— as I already mentioned— has amazing cheese and beer (for the husband) as well as family and friends.