"London Center this is Airline X Flight 123." (I forgot the actual name of airline and flight number. Really.)
"Airline X Flight 123, go ahead."
"Yeah, is there any way you can send a fax or get a message back to Hungarian Airlines, to Budapest Operations. We, uh, have a mom onboard, who, uh, says she forgot to arrange to have someone pick up her kids at school and uh (we pilots say 'uh' a lot. I don't know why.), we have a phone number for the grandmother. Is there any way you can pass along the message?"
OMG. All I could think was, "Thank God that's never happened to me," because, as you know, London Center isn't known for granting favors.
Seriously though, I was thinking it would be all too easy for that to happen to me and there but for the grace of the Universe go I. With all the juggling and plate spinning and mixing of metaphors that I do, a school pick-up could very well be the mouse that got away. At least this mom remembered before her kids were left standing outside their school for hours. (It would have been around eight o'clock in the morning in Budapest when we heard the radio call.)
Yet the Captain I was flying with was outraged. "That is just irresponsible," he said. This from a guy who gets to come home from his trip and go down into the basement into his man-cave for an hour. The impossible dream for me. Mostly because I don't have a man-cave, but also because I've tried to get my family to agree to something similar to that and it just never, ever works out. [ No Talking Dogs Allowed]
"Oh no," I said. "I will not judge her."
It takes no imagination for me to understand a mom preparing for a trip overseas, arranging via a trail of Post-it notes for playdates to happen and for permission slips to arrive at school and reminding everyone there's no music lessons this Tuesday and could someone please pick-up the cat's prescription meds at the pharmacy on Clark and Dickens? As a woman who completely forgot her own dentist appointment, I can see how getting the kids picked up from school and to whomever they would be staying with while she was gone could easily be the one detail that got away. I'm giving our Budapest mom the benefit of the doubt in assuming she'd at least arranged for her kids to be staying with someone and she'd only forgotten this one logistical detail.
London Center was amazingly helpful and cooperative in what could possibly turn out to be one of the most expansive games of Telephone on the planet. (Frantic mom to Flight Attendant, Flight Attendant to Pilot, Pilot to London Center, London Center to Hungarian Airlines' Budapest Operations, Hungarian Airlines' Budapest Operations to Hungarian Grandmother.) By the time the confused message got to the grandmother, it could have asked her to drop the pickles off at the pool. And why couldn't Macaulay Culken's movie mom have thought of this route? I guess if she had, we wouldn't have had Home Alone and one of my favorite movie quotes from John Candy, when he said the bit about how Kids are resilient and how his son finally started talking to him again five or six weeks after having been left alone overnight in a funeral home.
We never did find out how our airborne drama played out, if the grandmother was notified or if those kids ended up waiting outside their school for hours, forced to fend off some sort of Hungarian version of the Wet Bandits with broken Christmas tree ornaments and a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Michael Jordan.
Post Post-it Note to Self: Maybe take back every nasty you've said about London Center.