Mama Bear

June 4, 2009

I had a dramatic learning experience during our recent trip to California. After our 24 hour trip, we finally landed in San Francisco. Grubby,tired, and eager to finally arrive (sometimes domestic air travel truly is worse than those long international flights) we stood up to exit the plane and within seconds an enormous bag came hurtling down from the overhead bin where its stupid owner was trying to get it down with one hand. It narrowly missed the kids, bounced off of me, and hit Adam in the back. Adam yelled. The guy barely turned around and fled the plane. The flight attendants were concerned but eager to unload the plane. I was shaking, Adam was in pain, and the kids were oblivious to their near miss with serious injury. As we were walking off the plane, I started to get angry. Angry at the careless and rude bag owner, but also angry at the airline with it's increasing fees for checked bags. It was obvious on all of our recent flights that folks are now carrying on bigger and heavier bags to avoid the fees.

When we got off the plane, we stopped to file a complaint with the staff member at the gate. She suggested that we also speak with the supervisor at the Delta ticket counter. We found the supervisor and that's when I lost it. I really did. We described what had happened and expressed our concern about the relationship between the high baggage fees and the increasing weight of carry-ons. His first response was "I have a hard job" and from there it just got worse. His nonchalant attitude, lack of eye contact, lack of concern, lack of apology...all of it became a fuel for the fire that was starting to build in the pit of my stomach. And then some sort of switch was clicked deep within me. The message I was getting from this man was that my family's health and safety was worth less to him than his job and his damn baggage fees. Before I knew it, I felt this roar growing and exploding from within me. I started to yell in a voice that I have never heard or ever used before. All of the activity around us stopped, there was silence except for me. It was a dramatic moment in the San Francisco airport.

I am not proud of yelling, especially in front of my children who were distressed and didn't understand what was happening, but I did learn something from it. And after feeling initially shaken and ashamed about losing control, I actually felt a strange level of relief and confidence.I have often wondered how I would respond if my kids were in serious danger. It's not fun to admit this but I am a chicken. I don't like scary movies. I don't like conflict. I am a worrier with a vivid imagination and I can get myself pretty worked up over noises in the middle of the night. And here's the truth. Prior to this event, I worried that I wouldn't be able to protect my children if we were ever in a scary situation because I would be paralyzed with fear and hiding behind them. But now I can say with confidence that I would be able to protect them. I felt as if my children were being threatened and I reacted in a way that was unlike anything I have ever experienced before. A primal, mama bear reaction. Not proud to have reacted in such an extreme way, but glad to know that protective reflex is there. Might sound weird but it's a part of me that felt somehow defective as a mom, until that moment in the airport.

Needless to say, that bewildered supervisor left the scene pretty quickly and we met with his boss who responded in a much more professional and appropriate manner. We filed another complaint about the baggage policy and the previous supervisor's poor customer service skills. Later that evening we received a phone call from another high ranking airline staff member who added her sincere apologies. I would like to think we might have made some impact or change in the baggage fee issue, but probably not. So if you are traveling in the near future, here are a few words of caution/advice: be prepared to pay outrageous baggage fees, deal with grumpy staff and passengers, and most importantly be very careful when those overhead bins are being opened.
morninglight mama said...

Good for you-- I think there is an expectation for women especially, that if a 'higher up' isn't responding in a way that we deem appropriate, that we are supposed to simply slink off. I say no to that. I've sought out managers without hesitation before when in situations where the 'customer service' people just weren't doing their jobs.

Sorry that you guys literally felt the pain of these high fees-- hopefully your future travels will be less eventful!!

vanessa aka Nessie Noodle said...

so glad your mama bear came out to show you that she was there-
I had to make a small complaint/concern known today at daycare (one of the teachers smokes and my kid's blankie stunk the other day-ewwww). I remained calm, but I do find that so far I am a total chicken to say anything for fear that I am going to look like a crazy mom. sometimes we just have to be heard, esp. when our kids safety/health is at risk.

hope mama bear has calmed, not gone into hibernate, but calmed a bit.


Dana said...

Sorry to hear that horrid story. I've had a mama bear moment as well. . .it is a bit of a relief, but I had no doubt that I had it in me as my personality is not quite like yours! lol!
Yikes....after reading this I am not looking forward to our upcoming flights. Luckily, a lot of it is in a car :)

Dawn said...

Sorry to hear it happened but good that something postive came out of it all...
Thanks for sharing moments like this... it is good to know that I am not alone in some of these feelings!

lisa said...

Good for you!! I HATE conflict too and have a tough time standing up for myself and have that same fear when it comes to my kids. I really feel it on the playground when another child is behaving badly and I don't have the guts to say something, I usually just steer my kids away. Anyway, thats beside the point. You aren't alone in feeling the way you do and I say good for you to cause a scene!! Honestly-- its going to take someone getting *seriously* injured by a falling bag, and the airline getting sued before something changes, but hopefully you got some vouchers or something?

I will say the one thing about complaining about anything when it comes to the airlines-- I think they are so immune to complaints that your experience with the low level supervisor isn't unusual. Sad as that may be.

The Clan McCawley said...

Oh my friend, it sounds as though you were truly channeling me in that airport. Honestly, I have reacted that way more than a few times to extreme frustration while traveling! I'm so surprised you would ever doubt your ability to protect your precious little ones! I have always thought of you of such a strong person, one who stands up for her beliefs and has one heck of a backbone. And now you see what we have all are one heck of a mama bear!!
Good Luck on the move and enjoy those beautiful sunsets. I'm green with envy!

Cami said...

I totally understand. I get so angry when people don't care about the safety of my children, but it usually takes a while to sink in. So by the 4th person, I'm am livid. Also, on our way from Maryland to Utah once, I paid as much for bags as I did for the dang ticket. Seriously. Ridiculous. I can't believe that guy who dropped his bag didn't even stop to see if everyone was alright. That is seriously obnoxious.

Alexis said...

Good for you!

Emily said...

wow--so strange to randomly click my way to your blog, and then see a post where another mama has had the exact same fears as I in regards to being courageous enough to stand up for and protect my children!!! i hope someday i have a moment such as yours...

at any rate, good for you for standing your ground. that's awesome.

Bev said...


We just got back from Ca, including San Francisco. We loved it too.

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