Sunday, April 23, 2017

Flying With Teenagers

Expect to be scrutinized. The security lady in Düsseldorf called me over and I reached for my bag, which I thought she wanted me to open. She grunted no, whipped out what looked like a torn scrap of paper, and wiped it against one of my thighs, then the other. With a wave of her hand, she dismissed me.

What was that stuff she wiped on my pants? My husband thinks I was being randomly checked for explosives.

At Heathrow, the kids and I hunted for the gate to our next airline, finally going down some stairs where we saw American Airlines personnel. 

"Yay!" We're saved! said my son.

"What is the relationship?" asked the airline representative, staring at me intently. 
"I'm the mother and these are the kids," I said.
She turned to the kids. Where did they go to school? Did they like that school? Did they have a favorite subject? Did they have a favorite teacher?
My kids had the good sense to answer politely, and in detail. She turned to me. What did I do? I was a teacher? Where did I teach? How many students did I have?
"It depends," I stammered. "A seminar might have six. A lecture could have one hundred." After this very intense small talk and more penetrating stares, I offered to show the other passports my kids have and my German residency permit. Silently, she declined and waved me onto the bus that would take us to our gate.
What was she looking for? Was I suspected of abducting my kids?
On the way home, at the very large Zurich airport, I lost the kids. They were ahead of me getting off the plane, and I said, "I'll come when I can," and nodded to them to go on, since a large man in front of me had stopped moving. I thought they'd be standing by the plane door, but they weren't. I waited. A long time. When I thought they must have gone ahead, I went ahead. Then I went back. Then I went forward to the train, where I asked the guard to help me find them. With a big smile he told me not to worry, to go ahead to passport control, because they could only have gone in that direction. I waited for one more train, and when I didn't see them, I took the train. At passport control I found no sign of them, and since I had their passports, I knew they had to be behind me. Could the guard make an announcement? No, he said, sounding bored, but go ahead to Information--it felt a mile away--and they'd make an announcement. I went ahead. They announced, in what seemed a very soft voice. 
"Oh, they'll hear that all over the airport," the woman assured me. I asked her to make the announcement again. She did.
She insisted I stay there. Ground Control would find them and bring them to me. Finally, after ten minutes, she said I might take a look at passport control. 
There they were, my daughter in tears, a policeman ready to check me out again.
Zurich airport: they never did hear the two announcements. They speculate that they were on the train by then, but I think you need to make those announcements more loudly.
All's well that ends well. My son said, "How about my Hollywood moment!" When my daughter got upset, he said, "Don't worry! I'll find Mom for you!"
We had a great reunion before boarding our last flight and were so delighted to see my husband.

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