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One Hamster, College Bound

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`WE don't have any family plan to include hamsters,'' the laughing airline reservations voice said. Would you believe this happened? My neighbor would. Because she heard it all. But she hadn't phoned the airline to take part in late-in-the-day jests. The car that she had planned to drive from Phoenix to the San Francisco Bay Area had just quit - who knew why. Her daughter was due at a Bay Area university the day after tomorrow for freshmen pre-registration. And new freshman clothes, frilly bedding, Peanuts calendars, some Country Day School memorabililia, and a hamster named Dancer would now have to be transported to that campus by plane. Almost right away.

``If ...'' the voice said, straightening its tie, ``if the - ah - hamster cage will fit under the seat, the animal can be taken in the cabin and travel right with you. One animal to a plane.''

``Fine,'' my neighbor said, ``good ....''

``But you will need a ticket for it - for him. Let's see. Phoenix to San Francisco is ... ''

``We want to go to Oakland.''

``Well, on this flight you can go nonstop right into San Francisco and then take the helicopter service over to Oakland. Now that extra ticket for ah, him, will be $25. And a carry-on cage'' (he sounded as though he were reading from a book), ``which is 17 by 12 by 71/2 inches would cost you $12.''

``For a hamster? He only cost $2.95, wheel-cage and all, new.''

``Twenty-five dollars. Under the seat.''

So my neighbor went to the ticket counter - a day early, just to be sure - and picked up Dancer's ticket and cage.

At flight time the next day, a check-in attendant smiled and asked, ``What's that?''

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