Disclaimer: The following post has (almost) nothing to do with writing or books or publishing.
Directly after Norwescon, I hopped on a plane with my family for a vacation in San Diego, where I have relatives. Thanks to the largesse of my parents, we visited Legoland and the San Diego Zoo. For context, both my children are diagnosed with autism. One is much more severe than the other–twenty years ago, my son would have been called ‘shy’ instead of ‘autistic’. Both are also great travelers; they can handle long plane and car rides.
First, I cannot be effusive enough in my praise for the Legoland Hotel. It’s pricey, but worth it. The staff are awesome in every way imaginable. The most demanding thing we had to do was accommodate my daughter’s soy allergy (this subject is worth a giant rant of its own, but never mind that now). They have two restaurants, and in both cases, when I told the server about the allergy, the chef came out to talk to me about what she can and cannot eat. The chef. The person who runs the kitchen at the Bricks Buffet came out during the breakfast rush with a genuine smile to explain which menu items are prepared with a griddle they use soy-based spray on.
This reflects the overall behavior of Legoland staff, both in the park and hotel. It seems they’re aware that people pay a premium to be there, and treat folks well as a result of it.
The San Diego Zoo was less fun, because the kids were already worn out from Legoland, and preferred that over a bunch of animals in cages. I’d been there before, so the relative brevity of the visit there didn’t bother me.
And now, the thing that made me want to write this post. I fly Southwest, because they have good prices, I had a very negative experience with American (it’s a Story about autism), and they tend to fly where I want to go. If you don’t, you may not be familiar with their boarding procedure. Seats are not assigned. Each boarding pass is assigned a letter and number, and they board in groups: A, B, and, C. A1-15 is business class, then everyone else goes in 15 or 30 person increments. Your letter/number combo are assigned based upon when you check-in for your flight, or you can pay a little extra to be placed at the front of the queue automatically. Because of my kids being the way they are, I always pay the extra, especially for the return flight, when I don’t expect to have access to a printer to print my boarding passes.
So, there we were, waiting for our return flight, holding boarding passes for A21-23. There are standing poles labeled with the numbers in increments of 5, where you’re supposed to line up. The woman holding the passes for A24-27 stood with her 3 kids at the pole marked 21-25. In what I thought was a polite way, with a polite smile, I showed her our boarding passes with the numbers and asked her to move so we could have some space.
This is where it got kinda surreal. She looked at the passes, then looked down at me–she was about 5’9″, and I’m about 5’4″. With a sneer, she said “So?”
I shrugged and pulled my kids in with me to get as close as possible to where we were supposed to be.
She proceeded to loudly say, “I’m glad none of my kids are that rude.”
I believe my expression more or less conveyed “WTF?” when I turned to look at her. Personally, when I’ve been in the position of standing in the wrong place for my number in line, I’ve always been surprised, checked the number and the pole, apologized, and moved. Sometimes, I make a self-deprecating comment (“I must be more tired than I thought!” or “Yep, I can totally count today. All the way to [my number-1]”).
Then she said–not to me, mind, but to the air: “So help me, if he hits me one more time…”
It seemed that my son was doing his usual behavior of twisting his body back and forth with a stuffed animal in hand, and that stuffed animal managed to be brushing against her. Possibly, a floppy limb of it whapped her in her abdomen a couple of times, which I’m sure hurt about as much as having cotton balls lobbed gently at you from three feet away.
Me: “He’s autistic.”
Her: “I’ve got an autistic one, and you don’t see him flailing around like that.” She gestured vaguely, I think indicating the teenager on the end of her group. For the record, my son is 9. “I raised my kids not to be rude.”
Me: “Every autistic child is different, you know that.”
Her: *eye roll* *irritated huff*
Me: “You could step back, then it wouldn’t be an issue.”
Her: “I’ll stand wherever I want.” (Maybe it was my imagination, but I thought she desperately wanted to say “bitch” on the end, yet restrained herself in front of her kids.)
At this point, I rolled my own eyes and ignored her while not disciplining my son for being himself.
Admittedly, I indulged in a little schadenfreude as this woman and her brood later had difficulty locating their luggage at the carousel, and then had difficulty figuring out where to go for their parking shuttle. Now home and with a good night’s sleep behind me, all I feel is sadness for her kids. Those three young people looked unhappy, and so did their mom. I wonder if they got up really early for some reason (the flight was at 10:50am, so not for that), or if their trip to SoCal was for a funeral, or if something unpleasant happened on their trip. Even if none of that was true, I hate seeing people so completely dispirited as they all appeared to be.
That’s why I chose to enter into publishing in the first place, really. I enjoy entertaining people, and this is the only medium at which I can hope to succeed at such a lofty goal.