Last year on March 15th, I was with my mother and two kids at the airport looking forward to a flight back home. After I had rolled in my luggage for the skycap to slap on some tags, he asked to see our boarding passes.
"And for him?" he probed, nodding over to my son.
"He doesn't have a ticket because he's not quite two yet. He'll be sitting on her lap." I said, pointing to my mom.
"Do you have his birth certificate with you?"
"In order for him to be a lap child, he needs paperwork proving he's underage."
I was stupefied. Stuttering in shock, I explained to him that I had never been asked this kind of information before. He apologized (yeah, whatever) and directed me over to the check-in desk.
I've traveled a handful of times before, and not once had I been asked for a birth certificate. Dude, does he really look like a two-year-old? Have you heard him try to talk? A month previously, we had a much-anticipated flight to see our faraway families on a one-way ticket from a different airline. The airline was provided with his birth date when asked, but nothing more.
"I'm sorry, ma'am. It's our policy and you'll have to purchase another ticket," droned the woman behind the counter. Behind her unapologetic eyes, it was as if she were saying to me, Did you really think your lying, cheating face was going to get away with this? You can plead all you want. I feel no sympathy for you. All we care about is your stinking money.
I repeated to her what I said to the skycap: My son wasn't two...I've never been asked for documentation before...my mother was accompanying me on the flight so I could manage the airport and a four-hour flight home with two children under two...I was trying to get back home on the last possible day before he required a plane ticket. My jaw was quivering and the tear drops couldn't be kept at bay any longer.
And then somewhere in my blubbering, I mentioned that today was his birthday.
"Oh, so he turns two today? He'll need a ticket then."
Something about her tone of voice, made me lash out my infuriation.
"Excuse me. If you're going to be technical with me, he's not two years old. Not until 11:28 tonight, if you really want to know."
I don't recall what she retorted back at me, but the airlines won of course. If my anger bubbled up any further, it's quite possible that I would have been escorted away in handcuffs. Now that I think of it, I had never traveled on this particular airline since I had kids. And never will I again.
A few hours later while we were miles above ground, I was still rattled. What if we had traveled the day earlier? What if Boy had the day off then to pick us up from the airport and not today? What if I had behaved out of control in order to gratify my frustration? What if my mom wasn't at my side so I could cry like a little girl into her shoulder? What if I had an all powerful blog that could persuade my millions of readers to boycott this airline to their everlasting doom? What if the airlines discovered that their billions of lost profits came directly from my almighty blogging power and begged me for their forgiveness and a full refund so I could graciously nod my royal head to end their annihilation? I remember looking at that surprisingly behaved little boy next to me and thinking, "Happy Birthday, Finn."
A year later, the Ides of March turned out much happier. And the kid can speak in sentences now. Lots of 'em. And he's technically not quite three yet.
To the best dimple-faced, blue-eyed, mop-headed, energetic, Curious George-loving, seeker of all things fun and novice bookworm that I know: Happy Birthday.
I have yet to travel on an airplane again. And I have yet to make a cake worthy of being proud of.