June 1949: This summer, Daddy couldn’t leave his laboratory or his teaching. If I wanted to spend the entire summer with Cousin Mabel, I would have to fly. By myself. For my first air travel. I was 9 years old. With my parents’ calm assurances that I’d have no trouble, I boarded a prop plane in Kansas City. Once we were airborne, the stewardess escorted me to the cockpit so I could meet the pilots and watch them at work. They gave me a pin in a winged shape, I think with “Junior Pilot,” printed on it. At La Guardia Airport (now Kennedy) in New York, the stewardess handed me over to an airport official who led me to a small waiting room, then to my flight for New Bedford, where Cousin Mabel met me. In the years after that, I made the trip with without assistance, including once a helicopter flight between airports. Mom and Dad, with my young brother, would drive east in August for their month at White Rock Farm.
August 2013: Grandson Mitchell, 11 years old, is flying on Delta from Portland to Minneapolis-St. Paul for two weeks with his other grandmother. Ruthanne and Philip took advantage of our being there to leave younger Ruth and Christian home, since Mitch had to check in at 6 a.m. and it wasn’t even guaranteed that both parents could accompany him to the gate.
5:30 a.m. Up and off to the airport! It happened that a few days before some airlines had “lost” a young traveler (She was found after considerable panic) because the “escort service” failed to meet her plane, so Philip panicked about sending his son off, and the pre-departure “Where’s your jacket? Did you pack your toothbrush?” included “If nobody meets you, don’t you move one step away from the airline desk!”
6:00 a.m. Ruthanne and Philip leave with Mitch for the airport. Because Skus and I are here, they don’t have to take Ruth and Chris, who would not respond well to being dragged out of bed early to spend 2 hours in lines at the airport. They, and we, go back to sleep. .
7 a.m. I think I hear Ruthie and Chris talking. I suppose they’ll turn on cartoons, but I’d better get up and check on them. Skus hears nothing without his hearing aids. I move carefully out of bed, have to put on supportive shoes to walk safely, check on the children who are sound asleep. The phone rings again, and I can’t move fast enough to answer, but there’s no message this time. The third time it rings, I pick it up just as Ruthanne is obviously panicking on the other end. She left her address book at home, has Grandma Sandy’s summer address but not her winter one, and if they can’t fill in the unaccompanied-minor papers to exactly match Sandy’s driver’s license, Mitch won’t be released into her care. Sandy is not answering her cell phone, is driving 5 hours to the airport. Meanwhile, Philip has called a friend who lives only part way across town and is now on the way to rouse us and find the address. I find the book, give Ruthanne the address just before the friend knocks loudly, rings the doorbell, and yells. Hope the neighbors don’t think we need 9-1-1.
10 a.m.: Ruthanne and Philip come home with the rest of the story. Delta claims no one has paid the unaccompanied minor fee for the flight. Grandma Sandy paid it for the return trip only, per airport computer, so if Mitch is to catch his flight they need another $100. It’s Saturday before Monday paychecks and there isn’t $100 on the debit card. Yes, the airline will take a check, but why is that good if the debit card isn’t? Ruthanne thinks quickly. “It’s in another account.” With 8 minutes to spare, Mitch is escorted onto the plane.
11:00 a.m.: Ruthanne, now home, calls Delta, asks why they didn’t tell her the $100 wasn’t paid when she inquired twice in the last few days whether everything was in order for the flight. Some excuse about not going back far enough in the computer record, but they still think the $100 had not been paid.
2 p.m. Grandma Sandy calls. She has Mitch. They’ll stay with friends tonight so she can take him to a science museum before they go to the family’s lakeside cottage. Yes, she DID pay the $100 fee, but not at the same time as the return flight fee, because she had to check some of the information that had to be filled in. She has the receipt. Grandma Sandy will have a few words with Delta.
Yes, Delta did refund the extra $100.