We'd boarded our flight from San Francisco to Minneapolis. A flight attendant escorted a young girl -- maybe 9 or 10 -- to a seat across the aisle from me. She seemed a little pensive, if not a tad apprehensive. A woman in her 20s was next to her, and I thought maybe she'd take the lass under her wing (so to speak) but she didn't.
As we taxied I asked the youngster if she'd ever flown before. "With my parents" she said. I asked if she was OK for takeoff. She said yes, with a thin smile.
During the flight the girl pulled out an Ipod Mini and listened to music, then watched a movie on a portable DVD player, and tried to get her cell phone to work. (No, I did not tell her you're not supposed to use cell phones in flight. And the plane did not suddenly veer off course into Alberta, no matter what the FAA, the FCC, and Northwest might claim.)
At one point she asked me what time it was. I looked at my analog watch, adjusted for Central time, and told her. I kidded her about having all those gizmos and none of them could tell her the time. She laughed.
When we landed, she confidently called her aunt and her mom on her cell. Obviously Mom, aunt, and child were all in sync, long before the plane reached the gate.
Gone are the days when an unaccompanied minor on a commercial flight just gets a pat on the head and a piece of plastic airline insignia to wear. This kid was plugged in. It reminded me of the old Thurber story:
The Little Girl and the Wolf
by James Thurber
One afternoon a big wolf waited in a dark forest for a little girl to come along carrying a basket of food to her grandmother. Finally a little girl did come along and she was carrying a basket of food. "Are you carrying that basket to your grandmother?" asked the wolf. The little girl said yes, she was. So the wolf asked her where her grandmother lived and the little girl told him and he disappeared into the wood.
When the little girl opened the door of her grandmother's house she saw that there was somebody in bed with a nightcap and nightgown on. She had approached no nearer than twenty-five feet from the bed when she saw that it was not her grandmother but the wolf, for even in a nightcap a wolf does not look any more like your grandmother than the Metro-Goldwyn lion looks like Calvin Coolidge. So the little girl took an automatic out of her basket and shot the wolf dead.
(Moral: It is not so easy to fool little girls nowadays as it used to be.)