AND THIS IS WHY WE DON'T FLY SOUTHWEST AIRLINES, PART 1
Let me just say first and foremost: I love Southwest Airlines. I have worked with their company on some ad campaigns. I have flown with them from California to Florida and everywhere in between. I think that they are the happiest airline to work for or fly with for sure. But there are some things that happened that sort of put them off the radar for my family as an airline of choice, especially for my boys. Let’s just say they keep records of these things and we just don’t want them pulling us off a flight. We try to avoid any further public embarrassment if at all possible.
It was Luke that started this rocky relationship on Southwest when he was 6 and we lived in Dallas. Luke was, and still is, an avid lover of animals. We have had dogs and cats and lizards (yes that is plural – with my least favorite of this species being Liz who was a 6 foot long iguana that hated women, but that is another story) and tarantulas and fish and snakes and birds and hissing cockroaches (don’t even ask) and some more I probably have blissfully forgotten.
There was a point in time when we ordered our crickets IN BULK and our mailman hated us because we would get these monthly boxes or chirping stinky crickets. We would always be his first mail stop on those days. He would bring them to the door and look at my pityingly and run away. But I digress…
So Luke really liked animals. And being a kid of divorce he had a cat at his dads and a zoo at my house, and spent every other weekend flying Southwest Airlines back and forth to his Dad’s. He had been doing this for a year already and we had a routine going. The flights were cheaper than gas, and way more convenient then driving the 300 miles round-trip to the halfway point/potty stop between Dallas and Austin (which is also called Waco). Plus we had this ritual of getting McDonalds Happy Meals at Love Field, and he and Carsen even got to know some of the other regular kids that flew unaccompanied to and from Austin. They were happy little frequent flyers. Luke thought Southwest was like his own private car in the sky.
So when he found a snake at his Dad’s house and his Dad said that he wasn’t allowed to keep it there, Luke saw no problem bringing it back to my house.
On the plane.
In his pocket.
Now let me say. Luke is exceptionally smart and he did know, even at 6, that this was probably not allowed. He also knew he might not be able to keep the snake in his pocket without him wriggling out in flight, and he was pretty sure it might want to eat or drink as well as have fresh air, but he figured all that out. He simply stuck the snake (I believe his name was Bill, but this may be wrong) in a Ziploc with some wet leaves (Do snakes eat leaves? I should be grateful he didn’t give Bill crickets.) and tiny airholes. It was a fabulous plan.
Security, even in the post-9/11 era is not really set up to scan for planes or for wet leaves or Ziplocs with airholes, not to mention 8 inch long writhing grass snakes. So there was no issue there.
Getting on the plane with a snake was also not, apparently, an issue for his Dad. I have never really gotten the full story on if his Dad approved this plan or not. I like to think he did not know about it. But going to all this trouble would have been hard to miss, wouldn’t it? Maybe? Like I said, Luke is pretty smart.
Anyway he got on the plane. And apparently in the air he had to take it out of his pocket for a minute because “snakes don’t like take-offs” and “he started really moving.” That’s when Carsen became aware of what was going on. And Carsen is sort of an alarmist. So she, being 8, and the Little Mommy, freaked out and told Luke he was crazy and “Mom is going to be so mad” and “The flight attendants may be scared of snakes” and “Did Daddy let you do this?” and things like that. She was a pretty smart too, and told him to PUT IT BACK IN YOUR POCKET RIGHT NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW BEFORE YOU GET CAUGHT.
So he did. And he made it the rest of the flight. He may have tried to take it out again to share his complementary soda with Bill, but Carsen put the kabash on that, thankfully.
After landing, they sometimes bring the unaccompanied minors out first and sometimes last, after everyone else deplanes, depending on the flight crew. On this day, Carsen and Luke and the 2 or 3 other unaccompanied got escorted off first. Me and other mothers were already there, with our IDs out and ready to sign the papers to retrieve our little well-behaved children, which I was told mine were. So I signed and gave them each a hug and before the Flight Attendant that brought them to us could even say goodbye, Luke pulled Bill out to show me. He was so happy to see me and he just could not wait to share his secret snake.
“LOOK I FOUND A SNAKE AND I NAMED HIM BILL AND DADDY SAID I COULDN’T KEEP HIM AND I DIDN’T WANT HIM TO DIE SO I BROUGHT HIM HOME BECAUSE I KNEW YOU WOULD LET ME KEEP HIM. ISN’T HE CUTE? AND I MADE SURE HE HAD AIRHOLES AND WATER. AND HE DID NOT LIKE THE TAKE-OFF! HE WAS WIGGLING ALL OVER THE PLACE.”
Now at this stage of Luke’s life he had no volume control. None. If he was talking everyone within a 100 yards could hear him. We thought there was something wrong with his hearing at one point, but nope. He was just loud even when he thought he was whispering.
“IT’S OK MOM, RIGHT? I CAN KEEP HIM, RIGHT?”
And that is how the Flight Attendant and EVERYONE getting off the plane and the agents at the counter and a passing security person knew that there had been a snake on their plane. I wish I had a picture of their faces. It is still sort of burned in my brain. The shock. The horror. A SNAKE WAS ON THE PLANE?
Of course, I did what any good mother would do. I grabbed Ziplocked Bill and stuck him in my purse while walking very rapidly with both kids towards the exit. “Thank you! I am glad they were good on the plane! We are late for something!” And then we ran to the car. As we went I could hear the security person saying “Ma’am? Ma’am?.....” But we were gone. Carsen saying most of the way, “I told him so, Mom, I told him so!”
And that is how we came to have Bill, who eventually escaped from his cage and disappeared for a year only to reappear as a much bigger snake in the hallway one morning and was set free because he was too big to stay in the house.
And that is also why Carsen and Luke took a break from frequent flyer status on Southwest for a year.
At this point in life I thought Southwest might still be a viable option for us. But that was before Ramsey and the Chicken Pox......
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