I proceeded with cat in the bag, and the rest of my stuff (I must have looked homeless with all the stuff I still had even after checking one bag) to go find the gate. Naturally it was the one that was the farthest away. Down two moving sidewalks, past the newsstands, and alllll.the.way.to.the.end.of.the.terminal.
I took the, erm, opportunity to bump my way through the Newstand and grab a bottle of water and some snacks so that I wouldn't starve to death on the flight to LA, which by the way takes longer than flying from DC to IRELAND. It was at this time that I decided if and when I ever hopefully have children, I will be a horribly overly protective, bitch of a mother bear. I kept Mel in her bag draped across the front of me messenger style, trying desperately to shield her from being bumped, poked, prodded, smashed, pushed, shoved and the like - much to my chagrin. I felt like a football player with the ball. (Not that I know what that feels like because I don't think I ever actually got to have the ball in any sport that I ever played. But it's my perception of what that is like that made me purposely avoid the ball in 7 years of softball and 3 years of basketball.) Not only were the aisles nonexistent, but no one cared that I had a live cat in the bag that could eat them alive should I decide to set her loose to perform her own act of wrath on everyone in the surrounding area. They should have.
Armed with water (okay, yes, for both of us - here was the perfect opportunity to shrivel her up and give her payback and I couldn't bring myself to do it) and snacks (not for both of us - Mel likes to lick the salt off of Goldfish crackers, but, like Chinese food, she's not particularly fond of actually consuming them), we made our way to the gate. And made our way to the gate. And made our way to the gate some more. And finally got to the gate.
I snatched up the first grouping of (middle) seats that I came to in the waiting area, placing Mel on one, and myself on the other, my airplane pillow, laptop, purse, and bag piled up into a fortress around us. Hopefully we'd be left alone. If anyone decided to object, I figured I would let Mel speak up for herself and they would quickly shut the eff up. :)
Naturally not more than two minutes after we sat down, the traveler who had to be the most obnoxious person in the entirety of the airport and surrounding vicinity thumped down on the seat next to Mel.
And continued to readjust and thump on the seat next to Mel. And finally THREW HER COAT ON TOP OF MEL'S CARRIER.
Now I admit, my little princess has a Sherpa bag and I am her Sherpa.
She does not have a plastic box to travel inside of. She travels in style. So MAYBE the woman didn't realize that she had just THROWN HER COAT on top of my cat, but she was probably one of those people who wouldn't have cared anyway.
Being in the pissy mood I already was in, and having had two hours of bonding time sherpa-ing Mel at this point, I reached over and flung the COAT THAT SHE HAD THROWN on my cat back on her.
I did it somewhat subtley, but there is only so much subtlety when you are throwing someone's coat off of your cat and back onto them.
I proceeded to inform the woman, "My cat is in that bag, if you don't mind."
Mel punctuated my statement with a loud and rather resounding hiss which made the woman squirm, as well she should have.
She also wrinkled her nose at which point I wanted to throw a lifetime collection of cat hair on her and her coat, which had it been a fur one, would have been pointless and I would have started a lecture instead.
Finally it was time to board the plane and Mel and I boarded priority.
What? They do it for children.
The flight attendant eyed me as I approached. Now here is where you have to understand something about my life. People constantly think I'm the bratty teenage kid trying to break the rules. I'm not, I just am usually the exception to the rule and I look ten years younger than I am. I find that I fight this lack of respect from a good portion of the adult population on a fairly regular basis with adults saying things to me that I know they wouldn't dare have the audacity to say if I looked 26 and they saw me with makeup, in a business suit or if they heard me talk national security issues. People constantly make me feel like I'm doing something wrong because of this. Does it bother me? Yes. Do I go around in my life prepared for it? Most of the time.
I handed my ticket to the attendant and said, "I have a cat and I'd like to get her settled in so that I don't have to clunk her around with everyone else, if that's alright with you please?"
Phew. She agreed and let me board the plane with other parents and their unhappy children.
One of which we had the pleasure of sitting next to. As mom came on I saw the top of a blond head periodically rising above the seats all the way down the aisle. An unhappy, hyper child. Fabulous.
Immediately he launched himself into the seat next to me and began jumping up and down as I sat glaring at and punching my Sudoku with the pencil. After mom told him to sit, he began wildly swinging his legs in Mel's vicinity.
I snapped. "Excuse me sweetie," (though sweetie was what I said, it came out sounding more like 'hey asshole'), "I have a kitty cat in that bag down there. See? And if you kick her, I'm going to have to kick you."
Mom looked at me appalled. "Well he's just excited."
"Me too, but not about my cat being kicked."
And this was the beginning of an almost seven hour flight.
Mom assigned Dad (almost just as useless) to sit with Monster Child.
It took Dad six and a half hours, but shortly after the announcement that we would be landing shortly (and my elevated dramatic hand flourishes and checking on Mel and repeatedly asking his son to stop wildly swinging his legs, in addition to prolonged glares), I finally kicked the child's foot back and Dad spoke up. To his son, not to me. And yes, I really did. The child was lucky I didn't strangle him silly by hour three. At the end of the flight to make up for it, I gushed about how well behaved he had been for most of the flight. Gag me.
I kept wondering what Mel was thinking with all the noise as we took off from D.C. I wondered if she got that weird feeling where one feels as though they are being pulled apart as you hit certain points in take off and then suddenly feel light again. Did the pressure changes confuse her?
And then I started to feel really guilty.
Here was my baby, pushing herself up against my feet so that she knew I was there. Confined to her Sherpa bag all morning and now when it sounded like monsters were coming to get her and probably felt like it too with the occasional toddler foot hitting her bag. Being jostled around, run into, clunked, having a COAT THROWN ON HER by a MORON, and now it sounded like the Red Dragon and the White Dragon were fighting and she was caught in the middle. What had I done? This was a horrible idea.
I took the next fifteen minutes convincing myself that I was a horrible pet owner, that I didn't deserve to have Mel in my life, that she was going to hate me forever, or worse - ignore me forever. Oh no, no, no, this wasn't good.
Having been explicitly reminded that pets must stay in their carriers under the seat and that carriers must stay closed at all times, I unzipped the top and reached it to pet her.
Perhaps she had been vibrated to oblivion, but she didn't move except to lightly sniff my hand (probably because she reads my mind, and she knew that when I petted her and didn't get a reaction at first, I wondered if my cat was still alive in my rather dramatic moment of regret and contemplation of how a cat's body handles air pressure changes).
Overall, it's a great thing that I took Mel with me. She did great on the way back too and TSA again let me know that I needed to "hold onto her tight. We had one escape the other day." Thank you. You can let my cat be in charge of homeland security now methinks.