A Viral Hamster Incident

I don’t know if you heard about this, but earlier in February, there was an incident involving Spirit Airlines. A young woman says that they told her she couldn’t bring her emotional support hamster on board the airplane, and suggested instead that she flush the animal down the toilet.

I’m not making this up.

I texted the link to a few friends, in the category of “people are crazy, y’all.” I don’t even know where to start listing all the things that are messed up in that story. That poor hamster.


There is plenty of crazy in the news these days, so I didn’t think any more about it. I mean, I had my first flight ever with Spirit coming up on the 17th, but I wasn’t attempting to bring a live animal of any description along with me. So it couldn’t possibly matter to me.

I got up stupid early on Saturday to catch my flight to Tampa, where Paul was picking me up, having driven down with the boys before me. He’s either insane or a saint. Possibly both. I didn’t even need the alarm that I set across the room to force me out of bed. I was at the airport in plenty of time, even awake enough to feel real empathy for the guy beside me on the parking shuttle who suddenly, awfully remembered that his passport was still at home. Bad morning, that.

With no suitcase full of medical equipment and no manic children in tow, security was a breeze. Everything was smooth like buttah.

When we hadn’t started boarding 15 minutes before we were scheduled to take off, I texted Paul and told him we’d likely be delayed. A few minutes later, a yellow lab walked by with great purpose, wearing a TSA-issued DO NOT PET halter, handler at a speed walk. Either somebody had to go to the bathroom or something interesting was about to happen. So I did what I do because I am a dork, and I cracked a joke about it on Facebook.

A couple of minutes after I posted, I looked up to see the pretty yellow lab standing next to the gate agent for my flight, patiently waiting out a very serious conversation. Um.

A couple of minutes after that, a black lab and handler joined the conversation, and the other passengers around me were starting to crane their necks rather obviously. Not me, though. I was minding my own business. I always do, after all.

Long story short (I know, I know, too late) we were delayed an hour so TSA could sweep the plane because of a security concern. I was armed with headphones, a laptop, and snacks, so the wait didn’t bother me even a little. After about a half second of wondering whether I should get on the plane, I decided that at this point it was likely the safest plane in the country, and stopped worrying about it.

We landed safely in Tampa, and even the people trying to make a connection to New Orleans had plenty of time. No harm, no foul.

I had considered deleting the dumb Facebook joke, but left it up because people had responded to it, and it wasn’t hurting anything. One of my high school teachers commented later that we’d made the news. So I looked it up.

It was because of the hamster.

That whole thing was because of that poor hamster. There was a note in the bathroom of the plane, I guess, referring to the incident, and the pilot wasn’t comfortable with the possible implications of the note. I’m not mad at the pilot or TSA. I appreciate them taking security seriously. I’m not mad at anybody. I just can’t quite believe that a bizarre news story about a hamster affected my actual life.

I was out walking early this morning and I crossed a couple of Beachy Amish folks on their three-wheeled bikes, and my mind started down rabbit trails, as it does. And I thought about life before motor vehicles, which is in the grand march of time really just a hot second ago. And I thought: If you could pick up a person from 1875 and sit them down in front of a newspaper (I was going to say a computer, but let’s try not to freak out our friend from the 19th century too quickly) and had them read the headline “Flight Delayed After Note Found Referring to Viral Hamster Incident” … they wouldn’t even be startled. Because none of that would make a lick of sense. All of those are words, but they don’t go together in that order. They couldn’t possibly.

And yet, they do. It’s a world gone mad.

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