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Pepper on a Plane

Everyone was impressed that we made it through TSA. I find this shocking, given that no effort was put into hiding by either myself or my lap passenger. Maybe if I had tried to stuff her into my bag or been made to convolute an exciting justification for why we needed to go through and board together, the uncut surprise on the many faces of airport staff would be understandable. It is still understandable. Thoughtful appreciation might actually be the source of my own feather-fluffing experience on flight 946, STL > MSP.

It was Pepper that charmed. The young ponytail palm was cordial in her conversation, saying very little to those who stopped to give her an encouraging, “You made it!” which did happen. She shook a delicate frond or sat in complacent silence in the fragrant, though sterile, airport climate with Danny*, Shelia**, and two retired business mediators***.

But let’s go back.

Before taking the lukewarm ponytail passenger plunge, I did my diligent research. By that I mean that I texted my friend, who also crosses cultural lines with house plants and a kindred array of eclectic natural interests, about how she has taken plant passengers. Admittedly, I had done it once before. Once, flying back from Tacoma, I took a cling-wrapped tiny coin plant through TSA with one gentle green baby in each fist and was applauded by the agent who pulled my partner over to check her suspicious bag. The bag was filled with rocks and petrified wood which somehow impressed the TSA agent who told us to go take “the really good rocks from Hawaii.” I have always felt peculiar about that advice despite the woman saying she was native Hawaiian and so she knows how outstanding the rocks are.

Right. Fry shoots me back the classic advice that anything over two feet will probably not fly and to avoid sand-heavy soil. They will stop you. They will dig through your plant leaving you to go on downcast with a half-empty pot to memorialize the offal that remains of your prized succulent. In other words, if you get too fancy with your passenger plant’s soil, you will have a bad time.

Standing in the ready zone waiting for flight 946 to board, I named her Pepper because the explanation I gave folks for why I also thought the ponytail palm was “worth it” was that she was “so peppy.” Which were both velvety sentiments I saw wriggle into the beigish attitudes of those who approached me to express their curtesy for Lady Pepper. I did start to see her as a sort of airport royalty by the end of all this. One person even waved me into the line where my boarding number read two places behind his with, “Well, you need to go first, he said to the woman in front of us both, "She’s got a plant.”

Yes, thank you, sir. So very kind!

I did have a plant. It seems that the scanner machines, TSA pat-downers, flight attendants, and definitely my fellow passengers, wanted only to buffer Pepper and I with pleasant, endless, superfluous iterations of encouragement for the two of us to go on to wherever we would go on living together in a cloud of vibrant good things.

In summary, go forth! And be not afraid to accept a kindly gift from a loving source right through the ticketing desk, security checks, buttery bagel stand, Boeing 737, baggage claim, and airport shuttles. The generous shuttle driver even dropped me off at my address, as I was his last drop for the day, lived only two miles away, and because it would be a shame to have me wait for a Lyft with my plant in the chilly air. These are the days when a 18" passenger plant can expunge the drudgery of concentrated commercial travel from the mornings of total strangers.

Be well~


*Danny was a recently retired restraunteur traveling to celebrate his daughter's high school graduation.

**Shelia was a spritely grandmother who desperately needed an indoor tree, travel plans undiscussed.

***These lovely flowers were also recently retired and were ecstatic to meet up with five other women from their former department and paint Minneapolis red for the rest of that riotous week.

cover image credit to Phil Mosley from Upsplash

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