Monday, August 6, 2007

Flying away

Six years ago my wife's sister, Lady Trump, moved out to San Francisco when she "retired" from the corporate grind and has been off and on trying to talk her family into moving out west as well. Dragonwife has been tempted to move several times due to interest some of her sister's business contacts have expressed in her but with her parents wanting to stay close to their siblings Dragonwife has always turned any offers down. But that does not stop Lady Trump from keeping an ear open to some of the special activities offered in that area that my son, Darth Spoilboy, might have an interest in. About three months ago Lady Trump called up to tell us about a video game programming class offered at Berkeley for kids between the age of 12 and 15 and wanted to know if Spoilboy would be interested in it. The scanned brochure and web link to the summer class were soon emailed to us and I could tell Spoilboy would want to attend just as soon as I saw his eyes light up. Further discussion with Lady Trump soon after would have Dragonwife and I paying the nine-hundred bucks for the class and Lady Trump sinking the funds to fly Spoilboy there and back along with paying the fee for an unaccompanied minor and the airline escort that would ensure his safety. The computer class is just for five days so to add some icing on an already great cake Lady Trump made plans to take Spoilboy to Disneyland (yes, we were at Disneyworld in June) the week after along with hitting some other Southern California sites during that second week at her own expense. A flurry of cyber paperwork for the class flew back and forth across the continent for a couple of days but everything was soon settled and only thing left was to wait for the travel date.

Spoilboy's flight would be leaving early Saturday morning and the night before both Dragonwife and Spoilboy entered negotiations on what clothes he would take to San Francisco. My son's taste in clothes tend to lean toward an unintentional mixture of Seattle-like grunge and Southern Redneck with sloppy long sleeve t-shirts and blue jeans complete with a nice factory pre-cut pattern of holes around the knees. Dragonwife's greatest desire would be for Spoilboy to dress like a preppy with crisp alligator polo shorts and pressed khaki pants but given the location we live and even my laid-back surfer attitude maybe she should have decided to move to a more urban and sophisticated area after all to promote such behavior because my boy just ain't into what he considers dressing to be a punching bag by other kids. Fashion chaos is a familiar and much abused situation in my house on many levels from Dragonwife's distaste with her clothes and manic desire to waste vital free time and hit every outlet mall while on vacation, to Miss Wiggles already being a fashion diva willing to inflict bodily injury on me if I give her a pair of socks that do not completely match her outfit, to my idea of formal wear for Christmas dinner and most other important affairs being a Hawaiian shirt, rumbled cargo shorts and sandals, I could hear Dragonwife and Spoilboy fussing over how he would dress nicely to his class no matter what with him shooting back about how he would not walk into that class looking like a nerd. Since I had no dog in that fight I just hung back and let them argue until Dragonwife's attention span had been exhausted with her retreating to her bedroom to lick her wounded pride. All things considered, I've noticed how kids dress these days and proper attire for someone Spoilboy's age comes closer to what he wanted to take out west but I did have him throw in one polo shirt and a decent pair of slacks. He was going to have to make do with his sneakers since no matter what I threaten dress shoes were out of the question. His long shaggy hair, which Dragonwife doesn't mind, would have been something I would liked to address before he left but like Sun Tzu says, don't pick a fight you know you can't win.

We pulled out rather early Saturday morning to catch breakfast at the International House of Puke and to get Spoilboy past the best damn trained and attentive government security agents ever produced in time to catch his flight. The perfect time to walk into one of the local IHOPs is around 6:00am since the gaggle of night creatures and other collected weirdos have drifted out by then and the weekend breakfast rush of stressed out WASPs have yet to crack an eyelid yet even though the kids have been planted in front of the television watching cartoons for a good while. My little tribe was greeted by a strangely hyper-alert and hyper-friendly hostess as we walked into IHOP and she seated us in a cluster of tables way in the back close to the kitchen. I would have rather been seated in a roomer booth but I figured that they only had a small number of waitresses on staff at this early hour and wanted to give them a small break by having all the customers closer to the kitchen reducing the number of steps they had to walk. But the four other occupied tables around us did make it feel slightly stuffy and with everyone so close the conversations were in hushed secretive tones that did not make for a relaxed atmosphere. Spoilboy, Dragonwife and myself quickly ordered our drinks and meals and Wiggles in a very dramatic and rather loud way ordered a large chocolate milk along with her silver dollar pancakes making sure the waitress understood she wanted her milk in the special cup with funny pictures. Sitting next to us was a lady and her twenty-something daughter who had just receiving their order but they took an interest in Wiggles wanting to talk with her along with asking Dragonwife and myself the usual questions of her adoption. I really wish I had noticed the book the daughter had been reading when we came up because I flawlessly executed my one truly God given talent by inserting my large size 12 foot cleanly and smoothly into my mouth.
The conversation with our restaurant table neighbors lasted just long enough for us to receive our order and our two little groups broke off to eat. Dragonwife, who had just finished the last Harry Potter book, had been explaining to me the plot and events that took place while we were driving to IHOP and I opened up the conversation by asking her again to explain how one of the major characters did not die and a few other rather important tidbits that someone just starting to read the book would want to discover on their own. The almost comical coughing fit that exploded next to me prevented Dragonwife from responding but the look that the once friendly lady sitting next to us gave me along with her daughter using her napkin to wipe her mouth and table I was able to surmise that my question had been over heard and that I had let more than a few cats out of the bag. Sure enough the daughter picked up the thick orange colored volume to wipe small pieces of bacon and other sticky residue off it. I tried to apologize but I might as well have robbed them at gunpoint because not only was the daughter reading it the mother was waiting to get the book after her. Deathly silence hovered both tables until the lady and her daughter hurriedly paid their bill and left. It was small blessings that they had no gun available because they were so upset that my life could have been in danger along with the fact that they were not locals and I did not have to worry about some sort of literary revenge. Still when we left ourselves a half hour later I was watchful for a speeding car that might try to run me down.

As airports go Columbia International ain't too shabby, its open and airy with huge skylights providing natural lighting. Inside are several small lush green gardens with fountains spaced around the public waiting area provide a sense of privacy and Carolina style rocking chairs along with comfortable benches provide a nice place wait for friends and family for those who can't cross over the TSA security line. But checking Spoilboy in was our first course of business as we walked past the attractive public area. None of us had been inside the airport for at least a year and I was surprised to see the addition of several strange very futuristic devices stationed at the flight check-in desks. Being up-front they were nothing but x-ray machines for carry-on luggage but the damn things looked like something straight from Star Trek. Imagine a rather large barrel laid on its side with smaller tapered ends where the luggage rides a conveyor belt into and out after being blasted with x-rays to foil the plans of the nasty currently government approved boogeymen. Two control touch screens were mounted on both sides, throw in several blinking lights, along with the soft curvy futuristic lines of the device and all you would need were some sort of caps on the entrance and exits along with a few conduits coming out of it and the thing could stand in for an anti-matter reactor with Scotty standing next to it cussing out that bastard Kirk for always demanding more speed. Being an biomed electronic technician and being a mostly unrepentant Star Trek fan the device brought out my inner geek and I stepped somewhat closer to look at it and talk with the TSA guys. Bad idea, two guys were standing next to the thing and neither gave me warm fuzzies about airport security or the disposition of tax dollars since the latest threat to the Republic reared its ugly head. The one guy stationed at the back of the device looked as if he had partied just a little too much in the last few hours and might be needing to run off and worship at the porcelain alter at any moment. But at least he was civil when I spoke with him and given how he answered my questions might have been more alert than I gave him credit for. The other guy at the front was a major trip though and I came way from him thinking that I had met Barney Fief's South Carolina love child. He was a skinny guy with glasses so think that they could double as lens a for fifty-gigawatt laser. He was standoff-ish at first as I approached with creeping paranoia beginning to gurgle up as I stated how cool the x-ray device looked and as I asked a few questions about how it operated. I kept expecting him to start muttering under his breath about nipping something in the bud and beginning to fish for his one bullet in his shirt pocket. While my questions were innocent enough, I mean I work on and around similar stuff, I got the feeling young Barney would be running my name through the double super secret TSA no-fly database as soon as I walked away. That was when party guy in the back jumped in to yank Barney's leash a few times quieting him down and getting him to be nice to the geeky taxpayer. After Spoilboy's big luggage bag was checked and we all had been issued passes to get through the TSA line to see him off at the gate we walked up to the security line to do the barefoot shuffle. The only issue we had there was explaining to Wiggles that running through the big metal detector then down the concourse without stopping will upset the nice security people making them terribly upset and maybe having mommy and daddy shipped off to Gitmo. Well, maybe I'm overstating that one just a little bit but Wiggles saw the long concourse to the various gates as a chance to stretch her legs and as I have written before that little girl can run. While I saw two or three of the TSA agents laugh and smile as I called my daughter back the big TSA poobah in charge that of the line that morning looked as if he had swallowed some sour milk.

At the gate I could tell Spoilboy was eager to get on the plane and dump his uncool parents and sister. We had about thirty minutes to wait and while we tried to talk with him he mainly tried to ignore us and read the small textbook that goes with the class he would be taking. This was not the first time Spoilboy would fly alone, two summers ago Lady Trump brought him out west to stay with her a week and see the San Francisco sights, namely Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz, and the Monterey Aquarium which was his favorite. He boarded that plane a little nervous with a nice looking stewardess walking him aboard and I later learned who had kept an eye on him during the flight. His manor this time was one of a weary traveler just hoping that his luggage managed to find its way along to his destination. He had even thought ahead and made several PB & J sandwiches to eat during his two flights on his way out west. During his first trip, which was non-stop, he had to use his own money to purchase a hamburger for lunch and the price had quite frankly upset him. This trip he was not about to pay such a high price for a burger he compared to "dried buggers". Finally the call came for passengers to line up and board the plane for which my son let out a huge sigh of relief because that meant his sister would no longer embarrass him. Dragonwife requested and was outright refused a parting hug, I of course yanked him out of the line and not only gave him a hug but a sloppy kiss on his cheek to which he wiggled away while giving me a dirty look, and to think he was worried about his sister embarrassing him. Being an unescorted minor he was once again pulled aside and would be personally walked and seated on the plane. But this time he had the company of another little un-escorted boy about the same age now he was on his first trip. We would learned a few minutes later from his parents as they and Dragonwife talked that he was flying to Chicago to see his grandparents. This little fellow was visibly scared and on the verge of crying. But Spoilboy jumped in while they waited at the door leading to the plane and began talking with him calming his fears by showing him his Nintendo DS. His new friend was carrying one as well and soon they were both in a different world. After the regular passengers were boarded they were walked to the plane still talking about their games and with the younger boy no longer afraid. Dragonwife and the younger boys parents were a few feet away talking and I watched my boy through the huge windows overlooking the tarmac walk outside and then on the plane. At the last minute I saw him look back from the door of the plane, search around until we made eye contact then smile and wave at me. The door soon closed, then the plane taxied out to the end of the runway and took to the air. And me, I pride myself on keeping a "youthful attitude" but right then watching my son I realized that the boy I greeted to the world in the delivery room was growing up and that moment I felt old.

4 comments:

Keshi said...

ur not old...just a lil less younger ;-)

Keshi.

lime said...

funny the moments that make you feel like a geezer, huh?

hope he has a good trip.

Vigilante said...

See that next summer Spoilboy comes out to my California and takes some sailing lessons; no ink need be spilled over his required wardrobe here! And Dragons are not permitted.

Melvin said...

funny the moments that make you feel like a gee.....

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