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I took the middle gel to Reagan this morning and put her on a plane for Flahrdah, there to spend a few days being lavishly spoilt by grandparents as a tenth birthday present.

Definitely an interesting experience.  On the one hand, did you know that U.S. Airways has its own kiddie mascot? His name is something like “Eustace the US Airways Airedale”, and he adorns the side of the folder that carries all the child’s travel documents.  On the other hand, it seemed at first to be about as far as the staff was willing to go in terms of softening the experience or humoring the little ones, as the stewardess to whom I handed the gel over at the gate had nothing more to say than, “Okay, kid, let’s go.”

Checking in with gel and grandmother after she’d landed, however, it became apparent that the gel had exerted her ample charm on both crew and passengers, as grandmother reported to me that everyone who got off the plane seemed to know exactly who she was and who she was waiting for.  Heh.

Several friends and family members have asked, “Tom, is she really old enough to be doing this?”  Well, granted it’s something of a big step, but of course I wouldn’t have let her go if I didn’t think she could handle it.  She’s responsible and self-contained and not likely to be a burden to anyone.  (This may also explain the initial staff indifference.  US Airways actually allows kids as young as five to fly unaccompanied.  Can you imagine that? Bet that’s a lot more work for the flight crew.)  Plus, it’s a non-stop flight and the security system is such that the airline wouldn’t let her out of its sight until she was o-fficially handed over to her grandmother.  So there was never much chance of her getting mislaid in Scranton or carried off by some child molester.

As for the bigger safety issues?  Well, as Mrs. R points out, although we’d probably never forgive ourselves if something happened, at the same time we can’t simply lock ourselves in a bunker.   All the same, St. Christopher, ora pro nobis.

One nice thing – it would seem that the gel has not inherited my almost pathological fear of flying.  Thank Heaven for that – it will make her life much less stressful.


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January 2010