The following conversation took place in August of 2008 when I was flying home from Singapore. The dialogue was recorded immediately after the conversation ended, hence, I'm willing to stand by the accuracy of this post.
Here's the deal. I left 7-month-old Sam with John while I went to Singapore for a youth pastors conference with a few of my colleagues. Since I was still nursing, my pump became my closest traveling companion.
On the flight home, while reclining in business class I realized the need to pull out the pump. The timing was perfect. The lights were down for "fake-airplane-night", and more importantly, my seat mate was asleep which meant I didn't have to worry about wet willies (and those of you who know the guys in my program know exactly who I'm talking about). So I pulled out the pump, the cover, and began my task as modestly as possible at 40,000 feet. In an effort to travel light, I had taken my pump out of it's carrying case and was simply toting around the pump's engine.
There I was pumping away when I saw a flight attendant freeze about three feet away from me. He was mid-fifties, slightly overweight, and sweating profusely.
Him: Young. Lady. What. Is. That. Metal. Box?
(He spoke haltingly, bug-eyed, terrified)
Me: What? Oh! It's a pump. A breast pump. I'm pumping.
(I explained quickly. It hadn't occurred to me that a small, whirring metal box on my lap with two tubes running from the engine and twisted wires attached to an external battery pack could look a little suspicious. I turned the machine off and started packing up my gear to try to prove to him I wasn't a terrorist.)
Him: Oh good good good good good. (He falls to the ground, head between his knees, breathing deeply.) I thought it was a-- (he leans in close until his face is inches from my own) you know what I thought it was.
Me: Yeah. It's not.
Him: Oh good. What's that? (Pointing to the two bottles that the attached to the tubes.)
Him: Oh. OH! (He finally gets what's going on).
Him: Please don't ask me to take care of those for you. That would just do me in.
Me: No. No. I'm fine.
Him: Oh good. Why were you all covered up like that?
Me: I was trying to do this discreetly.
Him: Oh. Were you embarrassed?
Me: A little bit.
Him: So where's the kid?
Me: Home with my husband. That's why I'm pumping.
Him: Wow. So do you want some Gatorade or something to replenish yourself?
Me: No, I'm good.
Him: What do you do with....it? (Gesturing to the milk--before I can respond he gets in my face and starts talking wildly) They can't make you dump it! They can't make you throw this out. This is a part of you. You have a right to keep this milk.
Me: Yeah. Thanks. I'm actually just going to dump it out.
Him: Ah. So what you're doing now, if you don't mind my saying so, is you're 'priming the pump' to keep up the supply.
Me: Well, I'm already prime. I've been doing this for the past 10 days while I've been away.
Him: So what do you do that's so important that it took you away from your son for 10 days?
Me: I'm a seminary student--I was speaking at a youth pastor conference.
Him: So you're a priest?
Me: Actually, I'm a pastor.
Him: So you're a priest?
Me: I'm a pastor.
Him: You're a priest.
Me: (Sigh) Kinda.
Him: Man, I used to pride myself on being able to spot the nun in the room.
Me: I'm not a--never mind.
Him: Yeah, I can spot the nuns. Now if I could only find a date.
Me: Hmmm. (I attempt a sympathetic nod)
Him: Well my eyes have been opened today between that and this (gesturing to the milk). I should introduce you to my friend, Annie. She's a sweetheart. She hands out penny tracts to convert the Chinese.
Him: Do you want me to send her up here to talk to you?
Me: No, that's okay.
And that was pretty much the end of it. Every time he passed my seat he'd say, "Hiya, Rev," and wink.
That's my story. I'm sticking by it. No exaggeration. No stretching of the truth. Here it is, plain and simple. Now Homeland security has a whole file on us.