Chicken Pox on a Plane

OR

AND THIS IS WHY WE DON'T FLY SOUTHWEST AIRLINES, PART 2

 

This story epitomizes everything endearing and yet perplexing about my youngest child. Ramsey has always been that kid who does more, wants more, and definitely gets in MORE trouble – at least in his early years. Weekly calls home from his kindergarten teacher about cutting his shoelaces off, or cutting his hair or cutting his neighbor’s hair (HOW ABOUT WE TAKE AWAY THE SCISSORS, LADY!) were pretty common. But with his innate sense of curiosity came more heart. You won’t ever meet a more caring soul. He feels things more intensely and I have seen angry teachers and neighbors and strangers just melt when he asks with tears in his eyes if he can clean up the mess he just made.

For the most part, the pattern with him has been this: he does something ridiculously over the top because he just doesn’t think it through, then he sees the result and learns an important lesson, and finally helps you pick up the pieces with hugs and lots of laughter.

So Ramsey was 5 and itchy. He had this weird allergy to raspberries sometimes that we now know manifests itself as a rash all over his body. At the time he was just an itchy mess and we thought he might have chicken pox so we carted him off to the doctor. It turns out his allergy was really mild, but if he doesn’t eat in moderation and ends up eating 2 pints of raspberries (Thanks, Mom!), then he breaks out. So we got lots of calamine and some prescription cream, clearly labeled with a date and directions that say (and this is important!) “Use liberally on swollen, itchy skin caused by allergic reaction.”

And with that he was good to go. This was good because that weekend he had a big trip to his Grandfather’s house in Pensacola. He was excited because he would get to see his cousin Matt and fly by himself to New Orleans.

The day of the trip I had to work, so my sister-in-law, Bradie, offered to take him to the airport to take him through security and send him off as an unaccompanied minor. I explained the process and they were good to go, the clearly labeled prescription cream packed in his carry-on.

All went well. The weather was clear. The plane was on time. He boarded without a hitch.

Bradie watched them close the door and the plane get pushed back from the gate. But then it sat for a few minutes and came right back to the gate. A gate attendant marched over to Bradie, who was dutifully waiting for the plane to takeoff, and asked her to come with her. She followed and found a crying, confused Ramsey -- off the plane and standing with an angry flight attendant.

The way I understood it there was a conversation that went something like this:

“Are you Mom?”

“No, I’m his Aunt.”

“Well, why did you put him on the plane with the chicken pox! He just infected the whole plane.”

“He doesn’t have chicken pox!”

“Well he says he does and he can’t fly. Everyone on the plane is very upset. He told the passenger next to him he had chicken pox.”

At which point all Hell apparently broke loose. And while the plane sat there for a bit and everyone was inconvenienced, Ramsey cried and Bradie tried to be nice and show them the prescription cream and explain the situation.

I was called and from what I remember, and from what my coworkers tell me, I did a lot of screaming about HE IS 5! I DON’T CARE WHAT HE TOLD YOU HE DOES NOT HAVE THE CHICKEN POX!

Bradie asked a now scared Ramsey what happened and why they thought he had the chicken pox. He said the nice lady next to him asked him why he was itching and he had said, “I might have chicken pops.” Real proud, because the “chicken pops” he had heard about sounded very dangerous and he liked to live on the edge. At this time in Ramey’s life it was just impressive enough to convey to the lady that he was REALLY itchy. Dramatic effect was Ramsey all over.

Unfortunately, the woman thought he must DEFINITELY have chicken pox and the conversation stopped there and panic ensued. And even though Ramsey was 5 and clearly not a doctor, the diagnosis was made.

From what we understand the nice lady got really loud and there was a lot of yelling and people threatening to sue the airline for allowing a sick, contagious child on board. People might die. Typhoid Mary was mentioned.

I was informed that unless we took him to his doctor and came back with a note dated that day saying that he was chicken pox free that he could not fly.

I do remember screaming, “BUT HE ALREADY SAW THE DOCTOR AND HAS PRESCRIPTION CREAM.”

“He said he has chicken pox.”

“HE IS 5! LOOK AT THE CREAM!!!! LOOK AT THE DATE WE GOT IT ON THE LABEL!”

“But he told someone on the plane it might be chicken pox.”

“HE IS 5! HE HEARD US SAY IT MIGHT BE CHICKEN POCKS, BUT HE DOESN’T UNDERSTAND! HE BELIEVES IN SANTA CLAUS, TOO!” (I don’t think I said that last part but I can’t write what I may have actually said because it has a lot of bad words in it.)

“Well, we have to have him seen by a doctor.”

“WHY DO I NEED TO TAKE HIM TO THE DOCTOR AGAIN FOR THE SAME CONDITION? WHY DON’T YOU JUST REQUIRE EVERYONE THAT COMES ON BOARD TO HAVE A DOCTOR’S CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH DATED THAT DAY THEN?”

“But ma’am I can’t put him back on that plane without a doctor seeing him or the people on the plane will be very upset.”

“HOW ABOUT YOU TELL THOSE PEOPLE THAT HE IS 5 AND HE DIDN’T KNOW WHAT HE WAS TALKING ABOUT AND TO SHUT THE HELL UP!”

It was then determined by the nice people at Southwest Airlines (see my disclaimer about Southwest Airlines in my last blog post) that the plane should be sent on to New Orleans without Ramsey. Clearly this was a good decision for al,l and I thanked Bradie later for being my buffer because I might have been arrested trying to tell the people on the plane that a 5 year old is not a doctor! But at the time this sent me over the edge as Grandpa was driving 3 hours to New Orleans from Pensacola and this would mean an even longer day for him – especially if we could not get him on the next plane in 2 hours.

So a compromise to get him on the plane was reached. Apparently there is a doctor on staff at most major airports and they had to page him and get him to the gate so he could take a look.

The doctor saw him about 30 minutes later. It took all of about 15 seconds. He told Ramsey to lay off the raspberries and said he was good to fly.

Bradie and I both coached Ramsey for the next hour that he was not allowed to say the word Chicken Pox or Chicken Pops or mention being itchy or to scratch himself when he got on the plane. He knew this was serious stuff and I don’t think he scratched anything until he got to New Orleans.

Bradie and I held our breath until they were airborne.

 

So in New Orleans, Grandpa arrived early to pick Ramsey up. When you pick up an unaccompanied minor, you go to the Southwest Airlines check-in desk and show your ID and get a pass. I had managed to get in touch with him and give him the story, luckily, because when he gave the counter agent Ramsey’s name to get his pass, and the agent looked him up the name, the counter agent started cracking up. Apparently an entire file of the events of the day had been written and attached to Ramsey’s record locator. “Hahahaha. He had everyone in the plane in a panic and they believed the kid! Hahahaha.”

Ramsey was famous on Southwest as the kid who cried chicken pops and had a watch alert on file at age 5.

And this is why we choose not to fly the friendly skies with Southwest…. Because having a security dossier on you at 5 it is not a good way to start your flying career.

 

I often wonder if the people on Ramsey’s first plane were ever told that Ramsey was not indeed a Chicken Pox infector and was not contagious with anything. I like to think that a quirky flight attendant got on the PA and said, “Hey ya’ll, that poor little kid everyone was mad at had an allergic reaction and didn’t have the Chicken Pox after all! You all freaked out over nothing and maybe next time you should be adults and not take the word of a 5 year old that can’t even say Pox right!”

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