She was flying United Airlines via Chicago to Taiwan, with escort service. Paying for an escort service means there will be someone to escort her when she changes planes in Chicago, and when she disembarks in Taiwan. It also means, unbeknownst to us, we are her appointed escorts until she boards the plane.
Meaning, my husband, whose name is on the paperwork, is her escort up until her departure, and at first the United staff wouldn’t let anyone but him through security to wait with her for the ensuing hour and a half. Eventually they allowed my daughter to accompany them as well, but first I had to make yet one more circle around the airport in the family minivan, what I had been doing for the past 20 minutes or so.
Originally, I expected to drive around for only the short amount of time it took to get Esther on her way and to the security gate. We hadn’t been informed of the requirement that we provide the escort service up to departure, which would not have been necessary had we simply dropped her off and left her to fend for herself.
The irony of this seemed to escape the airline employee, who couldn’t offer any excuse for our not being instructed of this constraint beforehand. We would not have awakened our two other children at 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning and dragged them to the airport for what was now going to be an hour and a half wait. We would’ve said our goodbyes the evening before.
Our airport-circling abruptly came to an end. We headed back to Dunkin’ Donuts, bought another round of doughnuts, coffee for me, juice for the boys, and hunkered down to wait.
Conversation proves to be enlightening in these unscheduled interludes, where time passes like the hours spent awake in the middle of the night, sleep an impossible dream.
Two Boston Crèmes later, my youngest son complained of a stomach ache, something he’d often done while living in China. Having recently spoken about matters of the gastrointestinal system with my mom during the previous weekend’s visit, I knew the right questions to ask.
So I cut right to the chase.
“Do you have regular bowel movements?” I said, leaning over for some privacy.
“What?” my youngest said at full volume. I leaned in closer, his older brother following suit, our three heads nearly touching.
“I said, ‘do you have a bowel movement every day?’” I repeated in an exaggerated whisper, hoping he’d copy my quiet tone. His brother began snickering. He’d gone through the same interrogation when my mom was here, and had been equally clueless to what she was talking about.
“What’s that?” came the anticipated reply. He was giggling now, taking his cue from his brother, who went from sniggering to outright laughing. So much for being private.
“It is when you go poop. Do you do this every day?” I queried, feeling as if I should have a doctor’s notebook out, pen at the ready.
“Uh, not usually,” he said.
“You don’t go poop every day? How often do you go then?” I pressed.
Clearly, I wasn’t the informed mother I thought I was. I had lost track sometime around the age of three when he insisted on going by himself. He was now eight and possibly constipated for months, even years. What had I been doing as he sat there, all backed up for who knows how long?
“Usually I go when I play Gamecube,” he answered, now being very serious.
“You mean you only go when you play Gamecube? Do you go any other time?” I asked.
“Yes, I think it just happens when I sit still for awhile. It must be that,” he said.
“Oh, well that’s good. That makes sense,” I said.
Armed with this information, I felt confident he wouldn’t require an immediate visit to the doctor for an enema. Even with video game limits, he has enough allowed play time to serve as a sufficient laxative-inducing substitute. However, his stomach aches would need continued surveillance, doughnuts or no doughnuts.
This instructive dialogue now done, we moved on from funny conversations to bigger and better things. People watching.
I was sure that the janitor that kept sauntering past our table had a walking problem. It appeared that something was attached to his back side and impeding the normal progress of his gait. In other words, he walked like he had a stick up his butt.
My older son insisted that this was the way he chose to walk; he was walking cool. No, I argued, he has a problem and can’t walk any differently than this due to some impediment. Besides, he was way too old to walk “cool,” even if this was supposed to be an impersonation of cool and not a handicap.
Five minutes later he strolled by with no sign of obstruction. His backside was absolutely unhindered, all right.
“See, he was walking cool, Mom.” he admonished. “I told you.”
Either that, or he’d had a stomach ache and resolved it with a quick trip to the men’s room. Doughnuts or no doughnuts.