Greetings from Houston! "Houston!?" you may well ask. It's not a city I know or have had any particular reason to visit. But a close New York friend has been here with her ailing mother, and someone needed to fly her nine-year-old daughter down to be with her for the weekend, and I was available (our Spring semester only starts Monday!), so here I am.
Getting here I've learned that, while you can't bring even a water bottle or a tube of toothpaste into an airplane terminal these days, you can take someone else's child to another state without anyone batting an eyelid. I'd been fretting. Surely someone would want to know why I was traveling with a little Ethiopian girl (and with a different surname)! Someone should want to know! Another of my best friends has worked for several years in Family Court in New York, and I've heard of many cases where a child was taken out of state - and beyond the reach of the State Courts - by an irate parent who had been denied custody or visitation rights. (Many of the "missing children" on milk cartons are in fact kidnapped by family.) Nothing can stop a car driving out of state, but I would have thought that at an airport (not least because of the vast apparatus of airport security) there would be some checks.
When I worried about this on the phone to my friend in Houston, she reassured me that children travel domestically without ID anyway; people would just assume I was her father. And in fact it went without a hitch. But I'm still unnerved. I'm glad we made it here, but it freaks me out that it should be have been possible.