With summer approaching, I suspect there will be a lot of buzz about the best ways to travel with kids. Kid-friendly airlines. Kid-friendly airports. Kid-friendly hotels, and the like.
I wish someone would write about parrot-friendly travel. Parrot-friendly airlines. Parrot-friendly airports. Parrot-friendly hotels. I sure could have used the advice 15 years ago when my wife, Kat, and I were returning from a trip to Florida, back to Boston. We had Shakespeare, a 20-inch, vocal, fluorescent green, Amazon parrot in tow -- he's family and whenever we fly the friendly skies, he does too (albeit in his carrier and in first class -- only the best for "Shaky," as we call him).
Shakespeare was hungry by the time we reached the airport. When he's low on fuel, he lets you know with great fanfare at ear-splitting volume. Back then security was easy; today the bird would have been feather-searched for sure.
Unfortunately, I forgot to bring his favorite breakfast -- sunflower seeds. Now, I have nothing against Tampa International Airport, but I can say with certainty that, at least at the time, it was not parrot-friendly. I walked around the food court and concession stands, but couldn't find a seed for sale anywhere, except those on the sesame buns. All that walking made me hungry too, so I bought an egg salad sandwich, a pack of mini-cupcakes, and a bag of Doritos to share with Shaky.
Next up, we had to find a parrot-friendly table in the food court. One table in the corner had three empty chairs; the fourth was occupied by a prim and proper-looking woman who was drinking a cup of tea. I asked if we could join her. "Why, yes," she said in a lovely British accent. I wondered if this was her first trip to the U.S., and perhaps she'd tell her friends about Americans who travel with yapping, glow-in-the dark, green parrots. The table was small, but we could make it work. We had to make it work because the tone of Shaky's squawking changed from "Yo, human, I'm hungry," to "Polly gonna call PETA."
I began talking with Kat while eating my sandwich, and then looked around for the Doritos. I noticed that in my haste, I'd placed them by the British woman's cup of tea.
"Excuse me," I said as I reached for the bag and then tore it open. I extracted a Dorito and held it in front of the grating on the carrier. Shaky extended his beak through the bars and snatched it out of my fingers with surgical precision.
After I had the last bite of my sandwich, I proceeded to open the package of mini-cupcakes. I confess, I have a sweet tooth, so I was eager to finish off my meal with a sumptuous dessert. I barely pulled the first cupcake out of the package when the British woman reached over and took one for herself. She smiled. I glared at her in amazement.
"Maybe it's revenge for the Revolutionary War," I thought to myself.
At the risk of starting an international incident, I grabbed the package with the remaining cupcake and placed it in my lap. I refused to look up as I finished the first cupcake and proceeded to swallow the second one whole. While I was busy stuffing my face, the woman asked Kat where she was from and introduced herself as Philippa. Kat and Philippa seemed to be getting along famously, which confused me all the more.
Philippa told Kat that she was on her first visit to America and couldn't wait to see more parts of the country. I was tempted to interrupt with something like, "Hey, I don't know about British customs, but in America you don't just take a person's cupcake." In fact, I didn't say anything because I was too flabbergasted to speak.
As boarding time approached, Philippa gathered her things, mentioned what a pretty parrot Shakespeare was, and bid us a good trip. She then walked by me and gave me a pleasant tap on the shoulder as she said goodbye.
Once she was out of earshot I said to Kat, "Did you see that? She swiped one of my cupcakes and didn't even apologize!"
"Actually," Kat said, "considering the circumstance, I thought she was pretty decent about the whole thing. You, on the other hand, could use a manners check."
"What are you talking about? She's a cupcake thief!" I wailed.
"Really Rob?" Kat asked. "I was ready to slap your hand, but I was too shocked to do anything and I didn't want to cause a scene."
"Huh? Too shocked? You're crazy."
Kat then explained how appalled she was to watch me reach across the table, snatch Philippa's bag of Doritos, give several chips to Shakespeare, and then gobble the rest of them down myself.
"Philippa's? Those were my Doritos," I insisted.
"Nope," she said shaking her head. "When you got back with the food, you put the Doritos in my travel tote while setting up the table for your lunch. Here. Take a look."
With that, she placed her travel tote on the table, and sure enough, right on top was a pristine bag of Doritos.
It took me a few moments to accept reality, and after several attempts to try and explain away the bag of chips in Kat's travel tote, I had no choice but to accept the fact that I was the rude party here. If anything, Philippa was Ms. Manners, who graciously tolerated my boorish behavior. Not only did she put up with my barging into her space, but she accepted my brazen act of stealing her bag of chips. There was no doubt about it, she wasn't a cupcake thief; I was a Doritos thief!
Kat then offered this explanation that made me feel even more foolish. "Perhaps Philippa now thinks it is custom in America to share one's food when you share a table. In turn, she may have thought you'd be insulted if she didn't eat one of your Hostess cupcakes."
My mind settled down by the time the flight attendant announced our arrival in Boston, at which point it dawned on me that Philippa was exhibiting three great human qualities: acceptance, tolerance, and forgiveness.
I wish I could meet my UK mentor again so I could thank her for the incredible lesson she taught me with her polite response to my outrageous action. I'd apologize, too, and hand her a three-pack of cupcakes along with a bag of Doritos. Supersized.
For more by Rob White, click here.
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