As a single man, there’s a lot about kids I have to come to understand over the years that a lot of parents probably realize pretty quickly. Take, for example, a child’s ability to walk. I was walking through the north terminal the other day and saw this kid, maybe 3, just doing a Flash Gordon to, well, nowhere in particular. But he was getting there in a hurry, by God. And power-walking behind him was Mom. Which is funny as hell in itself. Seeing a grown adult crab-walking to keep up with a sprinting toddler. And the look on the kid’s face was even better. They have absolutely no worry about colliding with the giant rolling bag or 4-wheel dolly loaded with soda and water or the wheelchair attendant Michael who would absolutely cackle if a kid ran head-first into his chair as he rolled away with a screaming senior citizen. They just don’t care. And their parents know they don’t care and so have to keep constant, moving, vigilant tabs on where their child is going.
The best part about it is the look on little Johnny’s face. It is apparently that specific day in his intellectual life that he realizes that A) His legs will sustain the weight of their torso and B) There is at least 10-15 things in a given room that he can’t wait to explore that he decides in his little germinating brain that the only way to get to these things is at maximum velocity. And he is beaming ear to ear with no regard for the fact that he’s about to kiss the marble pillar he’s bearing down on yet oblivious to.
But in an airport terminal, there is the looming prospect of so many things that Mom and Dad have to be mindful of. The edges on drinking fountains, trash can lids at eye-level, the shady looking Arab (oh, don’t get all sensitive on me. It’s post-September 11th and it’s an airport. I’ve seen the stringy-haired dude with the Guns ‘N’ Roses T-shirt get some raised eyebrows).
As I was thinking about all this, I saw something that apparently is a fairly common remedy of the “wandering toddler” problem. A woman was walking along, examining her ticket and boarding pass and behind her, wailing away, was a little boy on a leash. I have never had to actually clamp my hand over my mouth to stifle laughter until that moment. Even that didn’t work too well because some spittle and a little snot ended up on my thumb and I’m pretty sure I snorked at least once. I immediately posted on Facebook how hilarious I thought this was and got three comments from parents about how awesome those leashes are and the freedom they grant the parent to walk at their own pace. I know, yet another example of a simple solution to a first-world problem I thought was hysterical but hadn’t really considered the sound, pragmatic practicality of said solution. In fact, I’m kind of surprised my friend Scott, the music lover, in his zealous support for the leash, didn’t elaborate to include perhaps a generator belt for Dad’s cell phone and IPod. I mean, I always joke to passengers that sometimes I feel like a glorified pack mule as I haul them, the chair, and 2 or 3 bags around Eppley. Might as well put Junior to work, I say.
A couple days later, I saw a little boy careening through the south terminal and coming dangerously close to the path leading past the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint, the literal point of no return unless you want to go through the whole grueling process of the metal detectors and Superman vision scanners, and back out towards the ticket counters and restaurants on the main concourse. Mom broke into a frantic run and managed to loop her arm under her little boy’s jaw and heave him back over her body into a sitting position directly behind her. And the kid freakin’ lost it. Mom didn’t seem too happy with herself either as she picked the little boy up and sweet-talked him all the way to the newsstand to buy him the biggest piece of chocolate (Price: $37) they were hockin’.
But what choice did she have? TSA has got their panties in such a bunch they probably wouldn’t have let the kid back through without his boarding pace and photo ID. And honestly, I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised if Mom had seen what he was doing and just said “Screw it, I’ll have another kid. This boarding pass to Rochester cost $400.” And it was at that moment that I got an idea …