Airport Fun, Part One: The Bathroom Miracle

We traveled yesterday, Martin and I, to visit his excellent Track Two doctor. I intend to post the doctor’s comments (at least, my interpretation thereof) once I’ve had a chance to ponder all she said. For now, I want to discuss the trip, and more specifically, positive and negative experiences we had underway. It will be another two-part post, starting tonight with the positive.

Going to visit Martin’s Track Two doctor means a schedule something like this: We rise early and eat breakfast and take morning supplements at home. Adrian drives me and Martin to the airport, where the two of us clear security and fly a couple hours. Upon landing we take a quick bus ride to a car-rental office. Then, in what I consider the most challenging part of the day, I make Martin wait inside the rental car—there’s just no way I could keep him safe in a rental-car lot with my attention diverted—while I install the toddler seat. Whatever the season, it invariably seems to be either sleeting, pouring rain, or freezing while I spend 20 minutes with my backside hanging out the passenger door, installing that damn toddler seat.

(I am yet to find a car-rental company that will install a toddler seat for me. If you know one, please send the information to

Next I drive us 40 minutes to the doctor’s office for a two-hour (give or take) appointment. After that we head back to the airport, surrender the rental car, ride the bus, clear security, wait around, and fly back to New York, where Adrian meets us at the airport, usually between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m. During this whole process I feed Martin food that I’ve cooked at home. For myself, I drink a lot of coffee and pick up what I can, here or there.

It’s an exhausting day. A lot of moving from place to place. A lot of walking hand-in-hand.

And, of course, a lot of visiting strange potties.

Yesterday we hit four airport bathrooms. Don’t worry: For a change, I will not address any, ahem, bodily functions in this post. The topic du jour is what happened outside the stalls.

Bathroom No. 1. No paper towels! The bathroom had only hot-air hand dryers. Martin loves paper towels and fears hot-air dryers. (Oddly, he likes hair dryers. When I dry my hair, he waits for me to whoosh his bangs back with the hot air, scampers away, then returns repeatedly for another whoosh.) In the past, a paper-towel dearth might have caused a meltdown. Yesterday when we finished washing our hands, I said to Martin, “Oh! No paper towels. But you don’t have to use the electric dryer. Let’s go see if we can find paper towels anywhere else.” He accepted that, and we exited the bathroom peacefully. I planned, if Martin persisted in seeking paper towels, to grab some Starbucks or Auntie Anne’s napkins. (The paper-towel supply in my backpack was too precious to surrender, meant instead for in-fight snacks, spilled drinks, runny noses, training-pants accidents, and whatever else the day had waiting.) The napkins proved unnecessary. We strolled wet-handed to the gate, and Martin let go of his paper-towel dreams.

Bathroom No. 2. We were in a hurry. While he was throwing away his paper towel, Martin glanced up and saw that I was already leaving. In such a situation, Martin’s typical reaction has been to dawdle, maybe turn on a faucet or play with a stall door, and generally ignore me until I return to retrieve him and drag him out by the hand. Not yesterday. When he saw me leaving, Martin dumped his paper towel, ran across the bathroom, and took my hand. Paying attention to my cues? Picking up his pace to meet mine? Glory be, whose child was this?

Bathroom No. 3. I was so inspired by the Bathroom No. 2 breakthrough that I designed a little experiment to see whether I could replicate the success. After hand washing, I directed Martin to a wastebasket at the far end of the bathroom to discard his paper towel. While he was thus engaged, I moved to the exit area—it was one of those set-ups with no door, where you instead exit by maneuvering through a U-shaped passageway—and called, “C’mon, Martin, let’s get out of here.” Then I ducked behind the first part of the U-shape. As an unanticipated bonus, a full-length mirror on the bathroom’s near wall enabled me to watch Martin’s reaction. He looked up, realized that I had left, appeared briefly startled, and again came running. It’s not that long since I had to worry about Martin wandering away without so much as checking my location before he took off. To have him hustling and mildly panicked when he knows I’ve left a bathroom—well, that’s a plain miracle.

Bathroom No. 4. We were in a hurry again. The plane was actually boarding. I threw away the paper towel for Martin, grabbed him, and ran. So nothing to report, except maybe, Hey, did I tell you about Bathroom No. 3?

Coming attraction: The security-line tantrum.

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