There are two types of people: those who have kids and those who don't. (There are also those with no kids who have dogs, and oftentimes they fall into the first category by default. People with cats are on their own.)
I never thought much about the distinction between the two until earlier this month when it took a village to raise my child. Thankfully the people in my village all fell into the first category.
My daughter and I were in New York seeing family when she fell grossly ill with a stomach virus. It started the second night of our visit at around 2 a.m. when she projected everything that's ever been in her stomach (ever) on to me while we shared a twin bed (she had made it abundantly clear a few hours earlier she wouldn't sleep in the Pack 'n' Play at Grandma and Pop Pop's house). I tried my best to simultaneously tend to her and deal with the mess, but ultimately, it was a job for a real mom -- namely, mine.
When I woke her up and relayed the sordid details, my mom swiftly, silently and sympathetically went to work clearing the mattress pad and pillowcases, laundering the soiled sheets and offering blankets fresh from the dryer as well as more sympathy.
A few days later when my daughter was still stick, it was all hands on deck. My dad went to the store to buy bananas and Imodium and then called the pharmacist for advice on how to get the baby to not throw up the Imodium for a fourth time. My mom mopped and sanitized the kitchen after each failed Imodium attempt. My sister offered advice that rivaled that of the pediatrician (perhaps making my sister the only attorney in history who spends more time practicing medicine than she ever did law).
My parents probably thought they were done with sick kids when I left for college (or at least after I graduated from college or at the very least after I moved out of the state). My sister probably thought her role of caretaker stopped at her three kids (and her husband). But everyone pulled together for my daughter, making our village a busy one. Sort of like how I imagine Disney's Celebration Village in Florida, only with fewer Mickey Mouse ears and more diarrhea.
I thought back to the flight on the way to New York when two kids got sick on the plane.
"I'm so glad those aren't my kids," I thought, looking with pity at their parents, and with even more pity at the people in their rows who were not their parents.
So it was with that in mind -- and the fact that my dad, sister, youngest niece and I (and a few days later, my mom and husband) had come down with versions of the same rotavirus -- that we took the pediatrician at her word when she said the virus was extremely contagious and called upon a Frontier Airlines customer service agent to try and delay our flight back to Aspen for a few days.
"Your ticket was paid for with frequent flier miles," said Frontier supervisor Britney (who, like Cher, apparently has no last name), icicles dripping from her voice. "The only availability on flights for this week is for people with cash tickets. The next time we have an awards seat available is 10 days from now. Those are the rules."
"Okay, then forgetting that the idea of a sick baby on a plane seems borderline cruel -- what about your other passengers? The baby has a very contagious virus, and since you actually have room on flights before next week, is there any way you can make an exception for the sake of the other passengers?" we asked politely.
"We have rules," Britney repeated matter-of-factly. It became clear to me at that moment that people who work at Frontier Airlines don't have kids. It might actually be another one of their rules.
So we woke up early the next morning, my daughter eerily listless, and left the comfort of our little village for the Frontier "No Child Left Behind if The Ticket Was Paid for with Miles" Airlines flight. The plane landed an hour early, which would have been ideal any other day except it added an extra hour to our already four-hour layover. My baby was still showing signs of dehydration when I made it over to the Frontier customer service desk in the Denver airport and pleaded softly with the woman behind the counter to help get us on an earlier flight on another airline so we could get home and, if necessary, to a doctor or hospital.
"Your ticket is worth nothing because it's an awards ticket," the lady behind the counter said, barely peering at me over the rim of her glasses. "There's nothing that can be done. Those are our rules."
Our village has rules now, too. Actually, it's only one rule, just two words long, and really, it's more of a mantra. Both words in the mantra start with the letter F. The second word is Frontier. Did I mention the first word starts with the letter F?