Poop-tastrophes and Foolish Flight Attendants

I recently flew between Atlanta and Dallas on Delta Flights 2110 and 1710 (on September 11! #NeverForget) with my 13-month-old son. I checked in online the day before, with my app and my Precheck hoping to get my boarding pass so that he and I would not have to jump through any more hoops than necessary. My ticket listed him as “infant in arms” so the airline knew, and the TSA should have known, that I was traveling just with him and that we were assigned a single seat.

Seat Assignment Fiasco

The app refused to issue me a seat assignment until I arrived at the airport and went to one of the airport kiosks to print a boarding pass. Of course, when I arrived in Atlanta, after bumping into a former colleague who was very interested in hearing what I’d been up to since moving to d different company, I made it to the kiosk slightly later than I should have. And of course there was a massive line for checking bags and the like, but the kiosks were empty enough that I walked right up to one and got my boarding pass and seat assignment.

In Dallas, though, I did the kiosk check in and still wasn’t assigned a boarding pass. They insisted that I then proceed to the gate agent with my temporary pass to get a seat assignment and boarding pass. Surely that was a remarkably inefficient use of time and resources for everyone involved, considering that I was a ticketed and confirmed passenger for the entire trip.

Then I proceeded to the TSA Precheck line, armed with my boarding pass, ID, stroller-stacked-with-a-carseat, strapped-on diaper bag, and small, light carry-on suitcase. Needless to say, my hands were full. And people are very kind to parents traveling alone. I had several people ask if I needed assistance, wait to make sure I could manage my items, and even load some of the items on the belt for me as I wrestled the munchkin. They were very kind, and I sincerely appreciate their help.

In Dallas, though, the TSA agent couldn’t properly read my boarding pass to accept that I was traveling with pre-check and with an infant in arms. I had to show him both markings on my “temporary” document, another problem that could have easily been avoided had I been allowed to check in properly the first time.

Poor Design

Then, while trying to load all my piles of stuff onto the conveyor in Dallas, they have a table, a 3-ish foot gap, and then the conveyor belt. So if you loaded all your stuff onto the table hoping to slide it straight onto the conveyor, it was a no-go. Thank you, wholeheartedly, to the kind fellow passengers and the agent who helped me manage the luggage and stroller and car seat in addition to a squirming munchkin.

Something must have set off the metal detector in Atlanta, so I got hand-swabbed before being sent on my merry way, and then I loaded all my belongings back onto the stroller in reverse order and the munchkin and I got moving again. I think we hopped on the train after walking a couple of terminals, because the airport has an awesome ceiling display between Terminals A and B that I absolutely love.

The munchkin found this much less interesting than I did, although he napped on the MARTA ride into the Atlanta airport and was now awake. I was also eager to get to the gate so that I could change his diaper before we boarded. By the time I made it to the airport bathroom, set up my diaper changing materials, and popped his diaper open, I was surprised to find a perfectly clean diaper, which means not even a single drop of liquid making the blue stripe on the front of the diaper. So I wrapped him back up and loaded him back up and returned to the gate, having missed my opportunity for early boarding.

Once again, though, people kindly let me through, recognizing that I would need some additional time to get all my stuff situated with the baby. And a very kind lady actually did hold the munchkin while I folded up the stroller and carseat before we boarded.

So I popped our big bag in the overhead bin and D and I sat in our aisle seat, where he proceeded to wave at all the passengers and flirt indiscriminately with anyone who paid him a moment’s attention.

Really Poor Design

Since he was sitting on my lap, I figured when I felt some motion in his diaper area that it was finally time to change him. So I picked up diaper clutch and wipes and carried him to the bathroom. Where Delta had a ledge about four inches deep and 15 inches long on which I was expected to change my squirmy toddler. #NotGoingToHappen

The flight attendant studied my predicament and offered to put down some paper towels so I could change him on the floor, and a very helpful gentleman in first class had the clever idea of putting down an airplane blanket atop that so that we had a bit more of a barrier between the baby and nasty floor. And note that he didn’t suggest it. He hopped right up, told me to wait a moment, and DID it for me.

So I got down to business and found when I opened things up that he was still wearing a perfectly clean, dry diaper. In addition to feeling very foolish now I am growing concerned. When D finally did his business, I knew it was going to be a big diaper. #LittleDidIKnow

So I return to my seat after the nice gentlemen offers to hold D while I pack up my stuff and tells me we had a good trial run and would be set for the real one. The flight attendant tosses the full towel/blanket set-up in the trash and I returned to my seat.

Then we got our drinks and snacks on a tray table that had seen better days. I put my seat-mate’s spare newspaper on the tray before accepting our refreshments, since D would drop his pretzels and put them in his mouth anyway, and the cleanliness of that tray was suspect. D really enjoyed his apple juice and pretzels. Shortly thereafter, we get our tables cleared and D starts squirming and fussing.

Poop-tastrophe

A few minutes later, in rapid sequence–I kid you not–the pilot turns on the “Fasten Seatbelt” sign and D moves just enough for me to notice a big brown blob on my pants. Then the pilot announces the descent and another flight attendant passing by refuses to let me change D’s diaper. “You should have done it earlier,” she says, as if I didn’t try to do just that and as if I have any control over anyone’s bowel movements.

I politely explain to her that I’m covered in poo and that the baby is covered in poo under our blanket (wish I’d used the Delta blanket that time). There was actually even poo on the edge of his pacifier, which has a stuffed animal attached. The poo was on the stuffed toy’s foot, so far enough from his mouth. But honestly, was I going to take away my kid’s pacifier before we descended and let him scream bloody murder on the airplane? No, I was not. Judge away.

Anyway, she was singularly unhelpful and awfully smug. And there was nothing I could do. Of course, having finally emptied his little belly, D fell promptly asleep for the entire descent. Once the plane landed and the folks in the seat across the aisle cleared out, I quickly slid over to start cleaning D up. After all, my seatmates wanted to get out and I couldn’t put the munchkin back in the carseat while covered in poo. So I spend the next several minutes cleaning up D, changing his clothes, collecting all the soiled items, which now include the changing mat, the blanket, his clothes and pacifier, and the dirty diaper and the wipes, etc. There wasn’t anything I’d be able to do about my own pants until later, but I wiped up the majority of the mess and the cleaning crew gave me a trash bag to contain all my stuff in. I was definitely the last person off the aircraft.

More Questions Than Answers

The big question, though, in all of this, is where are the changing tables in the airplane bathroom? They could easily install one over the toilet that folds down and offers enough space to actually change a baby and is much less gross (admittedly not for me but for other more squeamish passengers) than trying to change a diaper on a vacated seat. At some point as a parent poo stopped bothering me. But the plane floor still takes the cake for being an absolutely vile spot for diaper changing.

Shame on you, Delta, for not considering this critical way to make parents traveling with small children better able to contain their kids’ messes. It’s already overwhelming to travel with a small child, but then being stuck between two equally inappropriate choices when it’s time to attend to their basic needs is simply ridiculous.

As a resident of the Atlanta area, I’ve long chosen Delta as my airline of choice, but this lack of family-friendly aircraft, the ridiculous staff member, and the difficulty of getting an assigned seat, and it makes me question this decision to be a loyal customer. I also know just how many of my friends with small children also read my blog (thank you all!), and I hope they, too, consider the challenges they will face choosing an airline that can’t accommodate the basic needs of their children.

Thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Thoughts on Star Wars The Force AwakensWhile I’m about a month or two behind everyone else, I finally got a chance to see the new Star Wars movie in a theater. The theater experience was very nice—the seats fully reclined and I contacted nothing sticky.

Since I was seeing the movie so late following its release and so early in the day, the other movie-goers were mostly senior citizens who probably watched the original Star Wars: A New Hope, when it came out in theaters before I was born. They’ve all had to wait a lot longer to see the next installment than I have, so I found it appealing that we shared this experience together.

The storyline of Star Wars follows the classic epic, starting in medias res. Like the Iliad and so many other works we all learned about in English class, starting a story in the middle of things is generally good writing advice.

When writing Dark Empire, finding the right moment to start the story was the easy part. Only at the recommendation of several beta readers and my editor did I add a prologue from what was originally a flashback. I still haven’t found the exciting moment at which to start Book 2—the perfect first sentence—though the first chapter has a lot of action in it.

This literary component has absolutely nothing to do with my fandom, which actually dates back to watching the movies in a junior high music class to learn about themes in music.

While I can hear all the themes when I watch the movies these days, at the time, seeing the films in their entirety for the first time, I was so engrossed by the plot that I nearly failed the class because I heard the music without recognizing its significance.

I have childhood memories of other scenes from the films, most vividly the one with Luke Skywalker sliding down the chutes at the end of Empire Strikes Back, but only in middle school did I watch them all the way through in order. Much later, the three prequel films came out, and I eagerly anticipated and enjoyed all of them. However, I’ve never read a single Star Wars novel, nor do I expect I ever will.

So what did I think of the film?

The nostalgia of seeing the faces of the three actors reprising their roles held a lot of honesty—the actors have aged, fairly or not, and at least two faced a lot of criticism for their appearance. By comparison, the new cast members seem so young.

There was a lot of mirroring in the story to A New Hope, and—without spoiling the ending—in the position within its trilogy that this one takes place as compared to A New Hope and The Phantom Menace.

Really I expected some more originality to the plot.

But all we have is another character for whom the Force is strong, and who, by virtue of being a woman, it does not appear anyone intended for her to be the main or most sympathetic character. I strongly suspect that the next film’s release was delayed because they had to replot the film a bit to bring Rey to the forefront of the story to appease audiences. In view of the absence of Rey-related memorabilia and the hubbub of upset children and parents, my suspicions only grow.

But Rey showed a disappointing lack of character growth through the film. She’s just a fangirl of the original players who turns out to be very Force-ful. She miraculously develops abilities without any training that allow her to do amazing things. I had expected her to be another twin, sibling to the somewhat forced villain of this film, especially considering her interactions with both Leia and Han Solo, but that connection has yet to be proven.

She mirrors Luke Skywalker quite strongly in that she dresses like him and comes from a dead-end job on a desert planet, but she actually wants to return home, while all he wanted to do was escape. Interestingly, the flashback to her family was the only one I recall seeing anywhere across the entire series.

Then there’s Finn. From the moment his helmet was marked with bloody stripes as he cradled a dying comrade in his arms, I knew he was no ordinary Storm Trooper. Yet he doesn’t quite feel like a hero the way Rey does. And given what we eventually learn about his actual occupation as a Storm Trooper, I was disappointed that they didn’t do a great deal more with him. Usually persons of his profession (and postal delivery personnel) turn out to be the perfect whodunits because they can seem invisible. And when you wear the exact same uniform and helmet as everyone else, you really gain invisibility.

Which leads me to how anyone could expect to wander an enemy spaceship without being detected if it were as densely populated as it sometimes appeared to be. And why does no one ever explain why spaceships have perfectly functioning gravity? This one even appeared to have its own atmosphere, though Rey’s desert-origin arm warmers must be some spectacular fabric if she wasn’t cold despite Han Solo wearing a heavy hooded coat.

Then there’s the hotshot pilot and a bunch of cheater narrative. How, given the circumstances of the crash and the lack of general resources, he got from Jakku to anywhere else in time to save the day was never explained. We were just supposed to accept this gaping plot hole and celebrate his return.

More cheater narrative occurred with the bar owner and the fortuitous availability of a famed light saber. How she got it, why she had it, why it was not terribly well-guarded but still available for the right character to find at just the right moment…none of this was explained or presented in any way that would be believable.

I also admit some frustration with the scene between the villain and the person trying to redeem him. I’m going to try really hard not to offer any spoilers here. One short conversation at the end of a movie—particularly not the first movie in a trilogy—is just not going to cause a change of heart. His pretending to go along with it had me scratching my head in doubt, so I was surprised but vindicated when that scene ended as it did.

Leia offered a surprising emotional connection throughout the story, but I was very surprised at Carrie Fisher’s receiving third billing in this film considering how much more screen time she had compared to the second biller. (See that, no spoilers.)

Even the fight scenes and graphics were reminiscent of the earlier films, and the Supreme Leader/ultimate bad guy bore a massive scar that made me think he had to be suffering the effects of a frontal lobotomy. I also wonder if he’s not really the Emperor who somehow survived.

All in all, I enjoyed it but found the plot and the special effects designed to be nostalgic rather than original.

What did you think about the latest Star Wars movie?