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The Flight Across the Atlantic

“Mommy…. I don’t want to go pee.”

“Mark… do you need to go pee?”

“Noo….?”

I sigh. Mark involuntarily masters the rhetoric art of litotes, he often states a negative to affirm a positive. I’m sure he needs to pee.

The Greyhound left the Ottawa station minutes ago and we are going full speed on the 417 to catch up for the fact we left late and that the bus is full of passengers to Montreal’s Trudeau Airport, on their way to exotic  journeys and time-sensitive check-in processes.

“He doesn’t need to go,” Feng assesses, always optimistic.

I’m the practical parent and I look at Mark again. Yes, he does need to go. Besides, we are an hour into a half-a-day long trip, this is not the right moment for an “accident”.

“Come on, let’s go to the bathroom inside the bus.”

“I’m gonna fall in the hole!”

“I’ll hold you.”

“Mommy why is the water black?”

“Because few brave souls use the toilet onboard Greyhound buses.”

“What?”

“Never mind. Don’t look, don’t touch anything and pee. Lucky you, you’re a guy.”

I almost want to wash with hand sanitizer once we are done.

We walk back to our seats and once again, Mark is amazed by the fact that there are no seat belts. Me too. Safety rules in North America are puzzling. When you drive your own kid, you must strap him in an approved car seat, but when a stranger is at the wheel, apparently nothing can happen.

Mark rests his head against the window and watches the scenery going by. No pacifier, not a word. My little baby is grown up. He seems to enjoy the moment.

I close my eyes.

Suddenly, he grabs my hand, hugs me, kisses me and whispers: “I love you.”

“Me too,” I reply.

No one witnessed that perfect mother-and-son moment but I don’t care. It’s already stored into my forever-cool-moments-with-Mark database.

After a while, I grab my laptop and make him watch a documentary I wanted to see. Nope, I’m not playing Kung Fu Panda. My laptop, my rules. Then I play some music. You know what song sucks when you share earbuds with your kid? California Dreamin. I only hear the Papas, he only hears the Mamas.

“I like this song. What does he say?”

“Its… about drugs.”

“Oh,” he nods wisely. “And this one?”

“Generally? He is sad about life. Sometimes, music is sad, sometimes, it’s happy. How does it make you feel?”

“I like it.”

We finally arrive at Trudeau around 9:30 p.m. We are taking the last flight of the day and the airport is unusually empty. We get the boarding passes and realize there is a bit of a problem: the three of us have different seats, all over the aircraft. “Nothing we can do,” Air Transat staff shrug. “I don’t think anyone will want to parent a three-year-old for a six-hour flight,” I reply. “Isn’t it logical that when three members of a family, including a child, buy a ticket, we are seated together?” More French shrugs. “You should have shown up earlier.”

All the food options are closed at the boarding gate and the three of us are starving, including Mark who refused to eat before leaving Ottawa because “I want to eat in the plane!” I should have planned better, but it’s always hard to do so: flying always involves showing up at the airport early, waiting, etc. The last meal was hours ago. I’m not traveling with snacks.

There is a bit of drama at the gate: a family of three handed out passports and passes, but apparently one of the passports isn’t valid for three months beyond the length of stay as per Schengen requirements. I had the same problem a few years ago when I crossed from Costa Rica to Nicaragua but I bribed the official. This time, no such luck: the family argues but they aren’t allowed to board and all the bags must be taken off the plane to find their belongings. I feel sorry for them, it’s a genuine mistake anyone can make. I can’t believe the airline didn’t catch it before boarding!

We board, ask around to change seats but the flight is, in fact, half empty so we are able to move and get two rows for ourselves. Suddenly, our shitty situation turns into a super comfortable flight, although it’s freezing cold in the cabin and I soon realize that no meal will be served. Ooops. We flew Air Transat before but we flew so many airlines over the past few years and I regularly forget what perks they each offer. We make do with the small “complimentary sandwich” and give the one blanket we carry to Mark.

Feng and I watch Deadpool, a superhero movie that is refreshingly blunt and offensive. Mark watches cartoons and sleeps for a couple of hours. Next thing you know, we are landing in Nantes. I love direct flights.

Passport control is as relaxed as usual, luggage pickup is as chaotic too—French don’t like to queue. My parents are waiting in the arrival hall, behind the glass wall, and when Mark spots them we make funny faces. What a change compared to the previous trips… now he knows where we are, he understands the traveling process and he handles it well. It also helps that we don’t have to worry about diapers and milk bottles anymore.

I’m tired but I won’t waste a minute and by the look of him, neither will Mark.

Time to explore France again!

In the Greyhound bus to Montreal
In the Greyhound bus to Montreal
In the Air Transat flight to Nantes
In the Air Transat flight to Nantes
The empty Air Transat cabine
The empty Air Transat cabine
Taking off for Nantes
Taking off for Nantes
Mark sleeping on board
Mark sleeping on board

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