Tag Archives: transportation

Check-in Counter Quandry

I know we have all seen a version of this happen, maybe even participated in it. I am curious as to your thoughts about the following scenario, which I will use as an example.

On our flight home last month, we arrived to check in at the airport precisely 55 minutes before our scheduled departure. We still had to wait in line at the ticketing counter to get our boarding passes, check our luggage, and make sure that our traveling-with-pet status was indicated. The line wasn’t terribly long, but there was only one agent working for most of the time we were in it.

The woman just behind us was nervously surveying the line’s progress and finally asked us what time our flight departed. We told her 4:20pm. She said something like “oh, 20 minutes after mine” and “sorry” and proceeded to cut the entire line and go up to the agent. At this point, her flight left in about 20 minutes, ours in 40. The airline’s policy is that they require 30 minutes in this case.

She was told by the agent, who seemed to accept the line-cutting, that there was no way she could make her flight, especially since she also had a pet and bags to check. The woman was very upset and the agent looked some things up, took about 5 minutes, insisted on her initial assessment and asked the woman to go back to her spot in line (where she had left her luggage) and she would rebook her for a later flight when she came up. All in all, this probably only took 5-8 minutes, but there were probably 10 people waiting before her and at least in our case, getting dangerously close to being late for our own flights.

So, my question for you is this: Was it acceptable for the woman to cut the line because she her flight was about to board?

I don’t know the reason she was late, I don’t know if that matters or not. I don’t know if the 5+ minutes she took away from the people in line resulted in any missed flights, it’s doubtful. We had to rush a bit, but we were cutting it close on our own. We could have been her, I suppose. We were getting into the check-in line with no time to spare, the only difference was that we were just on the other side of the time-limit.

I know that had I been in her shoes, I might have seriously been tempted to do the same thing and I would have felt guilty about it. But as the person in front of her, I slightly resented her cutting and felt like it wasn’t fair because we got there at the same time and she was making me late and I had a pet too. And a toddler. (She told the gate agent it wasn’t fair to make her wait because her dog couldn’t be in the airport that long). I’m curious about what you think. Let me know in the comments if you like.

Flying with “Small Children,” aka an Albatross of Your Own Likeness

the plane back from the caribbean dehumidifying


Or How Uncomfortable Can You Stand to Be?

Baby Center re-posted their list of tips for flying with kids on my facebook newsfeed last night, just after I had arrived home from a whole day of air travel. You can see their “article” here:
“Flying with Small Children,” Baby Center, Oct 2011

This article, while containing many informative points on the technical requirements of traveling/booking a flight for yourself and an infant or toddler, seems to have been written only by people who don’t actually do this traveling. They have clearly done the research on the subject on many airlines’ and TSA’s website, but most of this information is known by the common air traveler, even if they haven’t taken kids before. I guess it’s nice of them to put this together in case you DIDN’T know, for instance, that you have to bring ID for your kid to the airport (duh) or that you have to like, um, tell the airline you are traveling with a lap child even if you’re not technically buying a seat for them…

The List of “Important Questions to Ask Before You Fly” on page 2 is HILARIOUS.

First of all, if you actually called your airline and asked even half of these, they would probably hang up on you for being a huge waste of time. If they were exceptionally nice, the call would end with them whimpering “can you please just go read our website?” The questions themselves are just priceless and show an astonishing lack of foreknowledge of how air travel works now. Let me give you some examples:

“Will you require proof of my child’s age and identity? If so, what proof is required, and when do I present it?”
No, you can just bring any infant through an airport without any paperwork, we trust you not to be trafficking babies implicitly because you look so disheveled you have to be a mom. If you have to ask an airline this, they are probably going to flag you for further inspection before boarding. Not to mention “when do I present this ID?” Um, anytime you are asked for it? You will probably be asked for it a lot? Have you been through security lately? Just assume you need to duct tape it to your kid’s head.

A better question would be simply “what proof of ID do I need to bring for the kid?” since sometimes a passport is necessary, and sometimes a birth certificate will do, and SOMETIMES you have to have both plus a letter from the child’s other parent, a copy of their visa, and their hospital bracelet, and a DNA sample.

“Are bassinets available on the flight? When should I reserve one?”
I’m sorry, you are flying coach on a commercial airline? What do you think this is? The 60s? Nothing is available anymore. At this point, if you want a bassinet on a plane, you should probably look into buying your own plane. (Okay, okay, yes a minor number of international flights may offer them, but they have to put in you the bulkhead row and if the flight is super full, as they all seem to be these days, this is going to be tricky and you’ll probably have to pay more).

“Do you allow preboarding for families with small children? If so, will there be a preboarding announcement or do we have to ask at the gate?”
Look, there is pretty much ALWAYS an announcement. Even if there isn’t, can’t you just go up and hand over your boarding passes when they start boarding the plane regardless? It’s not like they’ll turn you away if you have a small kid. Do you really need to ask this ahead of time? Plus, I question the logic of having people with small kids board first. Unless you are desperate for precious overhead bin space that seems to run out somewhere in the 60%-of-plane-boarded range, you really don’t want to be the first people on the flight. You want to enjoy that gate lounge for as long as they’ll let you. Can you let everyone else board and then come get me? That should be what you ask the gate agent. As little time spent contemplating how much you miss having enough space to put down your tray table, the better.

“Can we bring our stroller on board?”
Have you seen the aisles of a commercial aircraft? See above bit about running out of overhead bin space. Even if they SAY you are allowed, you better believe they’re going to make you gate check that shit.

“Do you have diaper-changing facilities on the aircraft?”
Oh, you must mean the tray table!

“Do you offer children’s meals? What’s included? How far in advance should I order one?”
Are you serious? They don’t even offer adult meals anymore! Unless you are flying long-distance international, expect that all they will have is a snack or sandwich available for purchase at outrageous expense. Bring your own damn food, there’s your answer.

“Are diapers, formula, baby food, or other amenities available on board?”
Bwahahahahahahaha….. I really want to be there when someone asks a flight attendant before takeoff this question after having been informed by someone at Customer Service that “sure, we stock all kinds of baby supplies on our flights.” No. The answer is no. Unless duty-free carries diapers now…

“Can my spouse or loved one get security clearance to accompany me to the departure gate if I need assistance?”
Does your spouse have a ticket? Then no. Would you like to buy them the cheapest ticket possible for that airport on that day? Then, have them accused of being a terrorist because they are flying one way on the cheapest possible flight and you and their progeny are going off on another plane? That sounds like fun for the whole family. If you think you need assistance from the check-in desk to your gate, you are NEVER going to survive this whole air-travel thing. Stay home.

“Do you offer assistance with maneuvering through the terminal when making connecting flights? How can I arrange for that?”
Okay! Finally a good question! A useful question! Short answer: you can probably pay for it. Or wait around for a golf cart person to come collect you and some other disabled person from your flight. But at that point, your toddler will have run to the nearest moving beltway, so what’s the point?

I have half a mind to write my own list of Air Travel with Small Children Tips, not that I’m an expert by any stretch. I have done it quite a bit since my daughter was born, but only between 3 countries, and I never take strollers or plane-seat car seats or anything, so I can’t help you there. To be honest, much of this information about car seats on flights confuses me as I have NEVER seen anyone use one. Even the tiny babies are held, the older kids get their own seat once they hit two years old. Almost everyone is trying to avoid paying anything extra for kids under 2. When September rolls around and my daughter can no longer fly free, I may never go anywhere again.

So I guess I better get these Tips written out soon before I forget. In the mean time, this blog has a pretty amazing post on the subject:
“Tips for Flying Alone with Kids” at Aintnomomjeans.com

Montreal Metro vs. NYC Subway

The other day, I was amazed to see an entire train car of passengers watching with rapt attention a free-style rapper perform in the center of a green-line car. Passengers were turned in their seat, leaning to see around people, and they almost all applauded him when he was finished.

That would never happen on the NYC subway.

This guy wasn’t too bad, but he wasn’t amazing or anything. I have seen entire mariachi bands, dressed to the nines, perform flawlessly on the subway in NYC and people don’t even look up from their iphones. I have seen lovely renditions of ballads performed while people gave the singer death-stares for blocking the doors.

As a former NYer, I found the change startling, somewhat charming, but a little awkward?

The other big difference, which I have come to loathe, is the aggressive politeness of Montrealers in giving up their seat for a person carrying a baby (both pre and post-natal). You may politely refuse to take the seat several times and they may keep insisting. You may refuse a seat from one person only to have the person next to them decided maybe you prefer the view from their angle and offer theirs. People will walk halfway down a car just to point out an empty seat at the other end for you. If you so much as eye a nearby seat and you are carrying a kid, people will scramble to clear out of it for you. And even if you are happily standing in a crowded car, someone will be tugging on your sleeve to tell you they are happy to give you a seat that you have no chance to actually get to among the bodies.

I do not miss the “stand clear of the closing doors, please” recording. It’s nice that they have very few announcements here.

My daughter loves riding the subway, she likes going onto the train herself and holding onto the post by herself. She likes finding people to wave to. Most of the passengers think this is positively adorable. Even when she’s in the way. I’m pretty sure she would have been run down in NYC by now. I get a little worried at the big transfer stops when it’s busy that someone won’t see her down there, so I’ll usually pick her up. But people are mostly cautious and not that pushy. The last time we rode the train in NYC, someone totally body checked her into a post. She was 8 months old. I’m not going to postulate about the virtues of Canadian politeness because I think the generalization is not always true, but at least in this case, the atmosphere is a bit more laid-back.

Last, since the Montreal subway shuts down every night and the system is newer, the trains are a bit cleaner, a bit more timely, and have less glitches in service. The bad part? The subway shuts down! Every night!

Blows my mind.

My complicated relationship with strollers

(Enters the room, greets therapist, lays down on the couch…)

I am very conflicted about strollers right now. I have a kid who weighs enough that carrying her around, especially with one arm, is kind of miserable. And she’s starting to protest being “worn” in her Ergo unless she’s super tired and going to fall asleep.

I’m in a bit of a sticky situation.

(Therapist nods, makes notes.)

I guess this is why they invented strollers, huh?

Sigh.

But you see, I really dislike strollers. I feel kind of abused by them. I used to live in NYC, and when I’d go out there’d be all these GIANT strollers and I was constantly faced with stroller-blockage. One time, in a small shop, I attempted to go down one aisle, failed due to this woman and her massive stroller, so I was perfectly okay to try another aisle. Well, she moved. So, I tried a third and realized she was now completely blocking the check-out and thus the exit. And she was checking out. So, I waited. Even though there was another cashier just beyond her. Well when I finally got over there, she looked at me and said “Sorry.” I just gave a nod, as I was signing the receipt. Well then she got all pissed off and went on a rant. It went something like “well SORRY for ruining your life! I didn’t do anything wrong. But I apologized anyway, and you don’t have to be so rude.” I was kind of shocked and said the only thing that I could think of: “I didn’t say anything…” I hadn’t even given her a dirty look. She was just SO upset that I hadn’t met her “Sorry” with a “oh, no problem! It’s nothing at all!” What I really wanted to ask was “I’m sorry, were they all out of the LARGE strollers, so you had to settle for this small one?”

(Therapist looks up, frowns.)

Well, I’m sorry! I can’t help it. I just kept having these awkward run-ins with “stroller culture,” usually on super tiny sidewalks, shops, or on the subway. I foreswore them. FORESWORE, I tell you…

And having them, sure it’s probably a huge convenience to haul your kid around and your bags. But you have to take elevators or lug them down stairs when there isn’t one. It can’t be fun. I know back pain isn’t fun either, so what choice do we have?

I’ve looked at small ones, easily foldable ones, because god knows I don’t have anywhere in my apartment for even a medium-sized stroller. But they all seem so poorly made. And if you find one that looks like it could handle a Montreal winter, it’s like $250. For a stroller!

I know there are plenty much MUCH more expensive than that, but I just could not possibly justify it for something I’m not going to use all that much, for that long!

(Therapist is about to say something…)

Look, I know what your going to say. Maybe buy a used one, maybe sell it when I’m done, or just be willing to get a cheap umbrella stroller and see how it goes.

There’s something ELSE I haven’t told you. My kid hates being strapped into things. Like really hates. I have only JUST gotten her to be cool with sitting in her highchair at home for longer than 2 minutes. Let’s not even talk about car seats. She always refused to be in her swing when she was little and I think that was a sign. She rode in a stroller once, it did not go well. Maybe it was the circumstances?

Maybe I’m projecting…

(Therapist looks amused. Writes furiously.)

But I just don’t see this relationship working out. Spending money to have something both my kid and I merely tolerate, at best, or at worst, hate. How many more months do I have before she’ll be cool walking places at reasonable pace??

Oh is my time up?

(Therapist nods.)

Shit.

Taking the Train with a Toddler

Yesterday, I took the train with my daughter to go to Grama’s house for Christmas. We have done this trip several times now, so we have our system down, but that’s not to say that it’s ever easy. It’s do-able. It’s 8 hours. It’s not fun. We manage.

-People smile at her, What a cute baby!

Oh people, you don’t realize if you are nice to her that she’s just going to keep coming back to see you. You’re fine with that, you say? Oh, we’ll see about that.. after the 11th time she stops at your seat to see what you are up to. Not so cute anymore, huh? I told you so. Shut up and watch your Office reruns on your iPad and try not to let my kid see it.

-There is a critical toy-per-hour chart for each child at every age.

You can’t burn through all your toys in the first 30 minutes (though you will really be tempted too). You have to pace yourself. You also have to leave the most interesting toys for last. That last 2 hour window might kill you. For some reason, no matter how long my trip is, if it’s over an hour, the last hour always sucks. I know some people who buy new toys for their trips. That’s nice too. For my daughter, nothing beats tearing apart my toiletry bag and putting things back in it over and over and OVER.

-Layovers help.

You would think that schlepping bags and a kid would be awful, but even with all the back strain, it’s really good to get off the train for just a little while (our layover is usually only 30 minutes) and grab a drink/snack. If it weren’t for our having to change trains in Toronto, I would seriously lose my mind after the first 5 hours of the trip.

This particular layover my kid spent running around the Via terminal in Toronto like a prisoner who’d done months in solitary experiencing a sunlight meadow for the first time. I was trying not to leave my bags “unattended” lest they be stolen/reported to the authorities, but she’d just take off and there wasn’t much I could do.

-Pack a bottle of water, snacks. For yourself too.

The food and beverage on trains, if they even have them, are so overpriced. You’ll probably need to buy a stupid bottle of water anyway, because your kid will have knocked yours over on your lap and an hour later, you’ll be parched in your mouth but damp in your lap and $2.50 won’t seem so bad. But at least you’ll have saved yourself the first $2.50.

-The critical napping window.

You should consider carefully when you want your child to nap. It helps to have your departure/arrival at times that don’t interfere with napping. Sometimes you don’t really have a choice and ultimately, it’s up to your kid if they will or won’t nap. However, I have been able to successfully tweak nap-time by a combination of bedtime and wake-up variation that I usually get my toddler’s necessary train nap to come about 30 minutes to an hour into our trip. This is most ideal for us because it leaves us plenty of time for her finish the nap as well as fewer stops during that nap that might waking her up.

-The last hour you’ll probably spend walking up and down the aisle anyway.

This is where taking the train beats car trips soundly. When all else fails, you can just walk back and forth from the front to the back of the train saying hello to all the baby-friendly-now-totally-annoyed people you met on your first pass. You’ll also discover EVERY feature of your train: the trash compartments, the seat bases, the variation of decor in each car, the window blind technology…

-There will be about 30 minutes where you swear you will never ever do this again.

But it sure beats the hell out of flying, even though it takes a bit longer. So you endure.