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Lifetime of Flying Coach

January 13, 2010 Family Travel No Comments

Elementary school is designed to prepare students for middle school. Middle school is designed to prepare students for high school. High school is…ok, you get the picture.

But after Back-to-School night at the middle school, I am sure only of one thing. Middle school prepares kids for a lifetime of flying Coach. Who knows? That skill could be handier than a college degree.

In case you haven’t stepped foot in a public school recently, these are the two rules for Back-to-School night: Rule #1 is only parents are invited. I assume this is because teachers see enough of our kids and are sick of them. Of course, anyone who spends eight hours a day with 6th,7th, and 8th graders and isn’t sick of them by 3:30 p.m. might want to have a little chat with the school psychologist.

So while we parents try to stay awake as their teachers drone on about how homework counts for 20% of the quarter grade, our children are relaxing at home. While I try to not to herniate a disc in chair that is welded to a desk, my kids are bleeding the color ink cartridges dry, draining the batteries on the cell phone, and decimating any snack in the pantry that has “Trans fat” listed in the top three ingredients.

Meanwhile, my husband is pleased because to him this adults only event qualifies as a “date night” in his book, so now he is off the hook. And he didn’t even have to talk about our relationship.

The second rule of Back-to-School-Night is like something out of Fear Factor: LAX (Los Angeles International Airport). You must follow a micro version of your child’s class schedule. It’s sort of like a mad dash from your car to the gate because your flight is leaving in five minutes. Now imagine your kid navigating the same route carrying a forty-pound backpack and dragging a cello. Life Lesson: nobody in middle school holds the plane for you. Get used to it.

So you see, there are a lot of parallels to modern day air travel. Some comparisons are obvious—good luck trying to find a parking place, and no there is no cell phone lot—but other eerie similarities aren’t so apparent. For example, did you hear about the young woman who was recently blocked from her Southwest flight because her skirt was deemed a bit too short? There isn’t an eighth grade girl out there who isn’t rolling her eyes in sympathy. Every middle school female worth her Maybelline extra-length mascara can tell you that skirt needs to hang at least to her fingertips. She might get bumped for not turning off her cell phone, but never, never, never for a dress code infraction.

So I passed by the school principal as she was smiling and greeting parents. My first instinct was to avoid eye contact. I don’t want to get hauled in for secondary inspection or a PTA position. I just want to find the next classroom before the seats are all filled.

Finally, I find Computer Graphics. It was located in the educational equivalent of the “Z” terminal. I was holding a beverage that I hoped was jacked with caffeine. After I sat down, I remembered the 3-1-1 rule. Or was it the 9-1-1 rule? Anyway, I’m sure my liquid had to be banned in this room. What to do? How embarrassing if it were confiscated. And I’d heard stories about this teacher. He might make me army crawl it to the trash can while he played the theme to “Mission Impossible.” I ended up sneaking it into my carry-on, I mean purse, when he hit the lights.

At least P.E. met in the auditorium. We sat in Row 32 E amp;F deliberately. Less risk of being seen and closer to the lavatory. I needed it after gulping the entire soda from a straw sticking out of my handbag. My daughter has been complaining about the size of her P.E. locker, which is about the size of a shoebox. All I can tell her is welcome to the world of carry-on. If she doesn’t learn now how to cram as much stuff as possible into a tiny suitcase that is–in theory–supposed to fit into an overhead bin, but won’t because the bin is already full of someone else’s overfilled carry-on, when will she?

For most of us, life is living with a garment bag stuffed under the seat in front of us. Life is sitting behind the guy who always has to recline fully. As much as we deserve First Class, most of life is Coach.


Jody Payne

Mom Living Out Loud

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