Dawn on Day 6 saw us shoving just-used toiletries into the cracks and crevices of already overstuffed suitcases, swallowing down large quantities of coffee in record time, prepping snacks and a straw-cup of apple juice to bring with us for Samantha, and hugging our gracious hosts and amazing new family members goodbye as we headed out the door to the airport.
Personally, I don't mind air travel all that much (stop laughing, Steve - just because you still have the imprints of my nails in your wrist doesn't mean I mind it - it just means I'm mortally terrified of turbulence...). I don't even really mind the interminable wait at the gate for the flight to board. What I do mind, however, is having to schlep so much stuff around. Even that short walk from shuttle bus to check-in is sheer torture before we can ditch the large bags, but even carry-ons are hideously cumbersome. I've always felt that way, even before the addition to our family nearly 6 years ago. With or without child, I've always found it impossible to travel light (okay, Steve, I still hear you laughing...).
Anyway, the queue at the security gate was short, and we quickly and expertly removed our shoes and metal-buckled belts, dumped coats, watches and spare change into the bins and dropped everything onto the conveyor belt to be x-rayed. I'm rarely under any illusions that we'll breeze through without some sort of inspection or pat-down - it's just the way things are these days, with the electronics we travel with, the silver jewelry I wear that just isn't worth the effort to remove, and the watered-down juice we always have for Samantha.
TSA has reduced the formerly stringent rules around the posession of drinks for children, and now allow you to bring those liquids into the secure area with the stipulation that they may need to test them in some way. We all passed through the metal detector without incident. Steve was briefly questioned about the chargers we were carrying (assorted, for the Android tablet, phones, camera, etc.). Then they held up my carry-on and asked, "Whose is this?" Uh oh. My mind raced to recall what I could possibly have in there that might make them pause (reminded me of the story of my step-mother and the incident with the gun-shaped laser pointer she had confiscated from one of her students shortly before she flew out of town and had forgotten she had put in her purse...). After claiming responsibility for whatever transgression I may have been party to, the agent opened the bag and pulled out Sammi's cup of juice.
Samantha had a fit.
"That's MY juice!" she cried, whining the words over and over.
Yep, you don't mess with her stuff...
The agent was really, really nice, smiling and suggesting to Samantha that she and I join her to see how she tests liquids. That seemed to be more agreeable to Samantha, but she still eyed the agent suspiciously, eyes filled with tears.
She stuck the whole cup in some sort of contraption that looked like a cross between a bread bin and a toaster oven, but it set off an alarm. Great. She told me apple juice sometimes does that.
After waving a litmus strip over the straw, she determined that the cup's contents were no longer a threat to national security or air safety or whatever it would be considered, and Samantha snatched it back from the agent, sticking the straw in her mouth and sucking it back, sniffling.
I actually laughed. I mean, it really was funny. We weren't in any kind of hurry, so there was no urgency on our part. We weren't trying to sneak anything dangerous on board, so we weren't nervous.
Although I am curious about what property in apple juice sets off their sensors. I tried to Google it, but came up empty. Any thoughts? Does it mimic something creepy and viscous?
We then went to eat breakfast at the Wolfgang Puck Express (ohhhh, the breakfast pizza is awesome!), and then sat at the gate until it was time to board. While we were sitting there, Samantha was reading one of her books. You know, actually reading one of the books that isn't designed for little kids to read, but more for the parents of little kids to read to them. Some guy sat down next to her, checking his iPhone for messages. When he realized what she was doing, he did a double-take, then looked up, surprised, at me, who nodded and smiled sweetly at him. Steve shot him a look, wondering who this random guy was who was suddenly taking an interest in his daughter. I noticed he was wearing an Alaska Airlines fleece jacket, so I asked him if he worked for the airline, to which he responded yes. After chatting for a few minutes about Samantha and the flying conditions that day, he jumped up, said goodbye, and said it was time for him to go to work, then he disappeared down the walkway to the plane.
We forgot about him until we boarded, when one of the flight attendants said, "Is this Samantha? Captain Gary wanted us to give her this," and handed her a wrapped pastry. Captain? Too funny! And funnier still, when he made it a point, after we'd settled into our seats, to come down the aisle to say hello before locking down for flight.
Ohhhh, that child...I marvel each. and. every. day. at how she affects people. At that beautiful, positive impression she leaves. Every. Day. My heart swells with pride and admiration for this girl.