Do you remember me? I was the forty something mom, a little too tan and rather average looking, one of the thousand moms that boards your airplanes each day. This is a picture of my son and I, just a couple hours before we made our way to you. Remember, I told you we had fled the hospital from his outpatient surgery this very morning. In the moment captured by that photo, I was feeling nervous and hopeful, not yet fully awake but awed and comforted by the kind staff at Yale Children’s Hospital. Amazing how a change of locations can bring a blow to the spirit, a sharp contrast to kindness right around the corner.
I know I appeared frazzled when I finally reached you. I no longer was neat and tidy. No, my hair was pulled back in a messy ponytail, my dress spotted with baby tylenol and blood. My son’s tongue release had caused lots of bleeding and wrestling a baby waking from anesthesia was bound to be a struggle. Oh well, I am a mother and I can handle most any fluid that comes my way. We reached the small Connecticut airport in good time and hurriedly tried to make our flight.
It would be fine we were reassured and so, I waited with my son, crying and exhausted, while my bags were gone through carefully and my hands were swabbed and checked. Amos, though nearly three years old, will not walk alone through the security line, much less after surgery and so, that necessity demands additional time. In that moment, I trusted the world to be sensitive to a mother juggling an unhappy toddler, a couple bags, and a petulant stroller, unwilling to fold. A wistful thought but sometimes the world is inflexible and in this case, it was you Delta.
My mother stood at the entrance to the gate, just thirty feet away, and she kept telling me to come on. She and the Delta agent could see I was powerless, a prisoner of the TSA and their machines that were slow to work due to calibration. Finally, I was released and as I made my way to the door, it closed and my mother was on the verge of tears. Unlike the other airlines who seemingly had copious amounts of personnel, you had just one lone wolf, likely tired and exhausted herself from shuffling passengers and juggling duties. I wore the dismay on my face, pleaded to get on the airplane but I was told absolutely not in no uncertain terms. I took the punishment and stepped back but held hope, maybe she would change her mind?
She stood firm and espoused how the plane was to leave in five minutes and how it would be delayed if she were to usher us forward. Through the window, I could see the people making their way up the steps but no use. She instructed me to move back and I did. It was not until she instructed some minors to come forward, two teenagers, and she opened the door for them to get on the flight. Maybe I shouldn’t have protested but if I don’t stand up for mothers, who else will? Certainly not Delta. Again, I pleaded with her to allow us to board. Couldn’t we scramble on with the teenagers?
“Move back! One more word and you won’t be on any flight today,” she said in a clenched voice. “I just ask for kindness,” I mumbled to her but more to myself. I moved back though, making my way to find a seat for the next three hours, struggling to maintain composure. I sat a while and then thought to myself, I am a mother and I matter. Amos matters. I moved to the Delta Airlines desk and as I shared my experience with the woman standing there, I began to cry. She fled for the manager, likely frightened by the rumpled mother, weeping and dotted with blood smears, holding a barefoot toddler, a mother who had given up her toothpaste and now missed her flight by just seconds.
Of course she apologized and so did the gatekeeper. Profusely. They offered me drinks and snacks, multiple times. They both seemed sorry and I understood, I make mistakes too and sometimes say things I don’t mean. I’m sure I have hurt some needy person’s feelings without considering their story. Three hours later, we made our way to the same agent and she apologized again. Is that enough though? She had given me a seat that ensured free alcohol. Forgive and forget?
Forgive, absolutely. Forget, I don’t think so. I appreciated the upgrade and your apologies seemed genuine, but even a heartfelt apology, as I remind my children, doesn’t erase an error of unkindness. I can’t punish you really and don’t even wish you ill will; I’m a bigger person than that. Minutes after I boarded, I gave up my preferred seat, without being asked, for a passenger that had a disability. I told the flight attendant no thanks was needed. It really wasn’t, I wasn’t being a martyr. I had been reminded though, that there is inherent value in being flexible whether you are an airline or a mother.
I may just be a mother but all of us deserve the gift of kindness. Even you, Delta.