I sprinted up to the United Airlines counter, passport and boarding pass soaked with sweat in my left hand, one high heel wedge sticking haphazardly out of my oversized purse. I lost my grip on my laptop bag and twisted my ankle a little on the freshly washed lemon-vinegar floors of the late evening airport and when I screeched to a bedraggled halt in front of the coiffed man at the counter, he looked thoroughly unimpressed.
I looked at my boarding pass: 8:20 boarding for an 8:55 PM flight. We both looked at his large silver watch: 8:42 PM.
“Oh, man, I missed it, didn’t I?” I was aware that I looked like I’d just rolled out of a filthy livestock bus, with all the running hysterically through the noxious fumes and consuming fury of LAX, and I didn’t even try to charm him.
He looked to the attendant to his right and frowned.
“Yes!” There was hope.
“Next flight leaves tomorrow morning at 9:30 AM. You’ll have to get a hotel.”
I slumped against the counter, letting my head rest on the cool marble. My Mom had arrived at my house at 5 AM that morning, I had been on a 6:30 flight and I’d finished four business meetings. And then been steamrolled by LA traffic before being punched in the face by the Red Tape at the car rental place. I knew my brother was looking after my son, but even on the flight I was supposed to be on, I wouldn’t have been back home till after midnight. Tomorrow was too late. My son expected me to be there when he woke up. Not to mention what staying the night in LA would do to my work load the next day.
I looked up at the gate attendant and drew in a breath.
“Listen,”I said,”I’m a single Mom and I need to get home to my kid tonight. I promised I would be there when he woke up and he trusts me. I don’t think the airplane door is sealed yet. Is there any way I can get on that flight?”
He looked at me, surprised, and his face softened.
“I was just pulling your leg,”he said,”I’m sorry. Look, will this help?”
He passed me a boarding pass: 3A. He’d upgraded my ticket from economy to business class.
“Now, not cause you’re late, mind you,”he says,”And not because you’re a single Mom, either. I’m sorry about LA traffic, you know.”
I resisted the urge to kiss his nose and ran on to the plane, ignoring the fact that one of my heels had fallen out of my purse in the concourse. I had a lucky break this time, but it made me think: should single parents get perks when travelling? I remember standing in line behind a woman in Newark who said she had to make a flight to get home to her kids. This was back before I had children and I remember thinking: suck it up, lady, I have to get home to my boyfriend.
Now that I’m a Mom, I think differently, of course, and would hope travel employees would try to accommodate parents returning home to their kids as much as possible. It’s not an obligation of the airlines to over serve single parents, maybe, but I think it’s an awfully nice thing to do.