Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Well-Spent Childhood In Our Friendly Skies

Actual podiums my mom worked on Maui, c/o
When I was but a little lass, my mother worked for a nonspecific but very patriotically named (hint hint) airline. She worked the check-in counter at the main lobby of Maui's first commercial airport when it first opened, abandoning LAX for paradise -- or so she thought. She caught an STD (namely me) off some male model-nee-tour-bus-driver, and grew so fond of the little parasitic wart, she didn't bother to go get it fixed. (This is still me, not him. That wart dropped off of its own accord.) But the long and short of it was that now she was a young mother in a strange place with a demanding job. She did the best she could by smuggling me to work with her while I was still small enough to be smuggled inside things. (Really, REALLY not in the traditional airport-smuggling place of choice. Just FYI.) So if you wondered why your checker seems so harried, distracted or ready to cry/kill you, it might be because there is a fussy baby hidden in the podium between her and you and it is down there that her thoughts are truly centered. Is it going to cry? Spit up? WHY has it been fussing for four hours? If it throws up, I'm going to lose my job -- or maybe just my lunch.  Just for your future consideration.

What was nice about Mom's early job for Patriot Airlines was that we could fly in unprecedented style. You know, whenever she could afford to be doing something other than working. We flew to California see my new grandparents, who were as happy with me as they were mad at her; thirty, unmarried and now a bastard child? ("Awww, lookit that, Hal! She spit up on herself. Isn't she an angel.") They took me to Disneyland so many times I had the layout memorized, and would blithely inform my mother that I would meet her "back at Minnie's house" like I was house-sitting for the mouse. But even more fun than Disneyland, as anyone who has flown to California will tell you, is First Class on an airline. There should be a theme park to commemorate it. I haven't had the privilege of inspecting First Class compartments any time recently, as my mother moved on to another job when I was seven and if a Coach Class flier even looks too hard at the First Class cabin, burly flight attendants ask you to leave and you get stranded in Seattle AGAIN. And while Seattle may be aces at coffee, it's deuces at sandwiches -- two guesses as to which one of those I actually like, and da firs' one don't count.

"We're making money RIGHT NOW."
Brian Regan describes it pretty well in his skit; First Class people are lords, nobility who are disgusted that we commoners even get to walk through their special court on our way to the ox-stalls. And I've seen for myself that way they look up at you after they've pre-boarded and you're just shuffling by; they're sitting in their massive leather easy-chairs, laptops and PDAs already out, obviously making money even now. Only a fool like you would pay for the privilege of that sky-borne cattle car back there; they're getting paid to sip mimosas from underneath the corner of a complimentary hot towel, and put their feet up on baseboard storage compartments.

And that is where this tale comes at last to its long-awaited point.

In all the trans-Pacific travels of my childhood, whether for my mother's surgeries at UCLA (carpal tunnel is a big reason why she eventually quit Patriot Airlines) or those legendary grandparents-and-Disneyland sojourns, I spent most of my time in those baseboard storage compartments. They were huge compared to the overhead storage, just right for one little girl's BatCave. I'd drag my chosen toys of the day and their sundry paraphernalia off to one of the empty ones, and set up camp in there. It got so regular in my young life that everything started to have its particular place, and all baseboard compartments were in essence One; dolly's bed went over here, and the little bag I carried to show I was a "big girl" like Mommy (filled with more toys and crap) went over here. It was a constant in my travel-filled life, and I got fond of it. But now, as a slightly less self-centered adult, I wonder what that had been like for the hundreds of First Class passengers who had not realized you could store children in the baseboard compartments*. I imagine it would go something like this:

Livin' the high life - mimosas and hot towels await

Huh? Wuzzat?

Was that a GIGGLE?

But what can you say? "Excuse me, Miss,
I'm hearing crazy things at 40,000 feet?"
That's it, I'm getting to the bottom of this!
I'm a high-powered business executive and
I won't stand for this sort of mystery on my flight!
So as long as nobody's looking...

I hope it's not a talking animal, I hate that Disney shi-

Holy monkeys, a kid!

I would like to think that my rabid little child face did not peer up at them in the sudden light amidst my mess like some sort of feral weasel found in one's garbage bins, but I don't think I should fool myself; I was most likely published at least once as the "Wild Child of the Skies" before my mother could shamefacedly claim me. I probably bit at least one of them, in a child's experimental, easygoing way. It was probably a really big deal for a while, with a picture of the bitten passenger under the headline and my crouched four-year-old figure as the side panel shot, with the caption "An unexpected flight hazard of the Friendly Skies." Maybe I even damaged Patriot Airline's profit margin as they damaged my mother's wrists. I would find this highly acceptable.

*First Class people lead charmed lives that would prevent them from finding out about such unfortunate things as babies and the need to take them with you places. I have decided that the First Class decided that babies come from nannies.


  1. dear kana,

    sometimes, when i visit a blog for the first time, i want to stab my eyes out with a rusty butter knife. today, right now, that did not happen. i would just like to thank you for sparing me that vicious pain.

    you are hilarious. you are a fabulous writer. also, you have now given me the hankering to curl up into the baseboard compartment.

  2. Holy Monkeys did you really wear your hair like that? I love your drawings in this post.

    Wait I love your drawings in all your posts.

  3. Thanks, Elizabeth! With your hankering, I consider my mission accomplished. I shall also make sure to give you no butterknives...yikes!

    Linlah, I take no responsibility for what my mother did to my hair as a child. I imagine it would have been inevitable - I was far too small pink, blonde and cherubic NOT to. Now I wear my hair like this ( which I'm sure you know is FAR more mature. ...Ish.

  4. That is just the coolest story. I remember there was nothing cooler than having your own little fort as a kid. Except yours was WAAAY more glamorous than my sheet over a table.

  5. I remember, as a kid, always being fascinated with little cubbies I could crawl into and outfit with my toys. What an awesome story! And cool drawings! I'm putting you on my blogroll. Today.