Monday, August 27, 2012

Postcards from Parenthood: Flying the Friendly Skies

It was only five years ago that I genuinely enjoyed flying. I was amazed that human ingenuity had figured out a way for 300 people to be contained in an aluminum tube and for that tube to be able to make its way to 30,000 feet and stay there for hours on end, landing on the other side of the country or even the earth. I would get goosebumps on takeoff and landing, sometimes fighting back happy tears that I was lucky enough to live this life.

Not surprisingly, that changed pretty quickly after I started traveling for work. After about 6 months of flights that ranged from 1 to 17 hours, and in quick succession, I realized that not only did I not like flying, I loathed it. It got so bad that the smell of LAX was enough to make me nauseous. I eventually took a break from traveling, but the whole flying experience has never been the same for me. I look at it as a giant inconvenience that threatens to catapult my blood pressure and thin my patience to a dangerous level.

I knew flying with our then-9 month old foster daughter would be somewhat challenging. But we had practice last summer when we flew with our then-9 month old niece Madelyn. She was a fussy kid, but she was so great on the flight. Our little bee is such a pleasant kid, so we were a little concerned that the flight would change that. We were right to be concerned.

We took six flights for our "vacation" this year. Our flight from LAX to Pittsburgh connected in Newark. Our flight from Pittsburgh to Myrtle Beach connected in Charlotte. And our flight from Myrtle Beach to LAX connected in Atlanta. She did so well on almost all of these flights, even on the first one when a guy who I thought was drunk passed out right in the aisle next to us. She woke up from her slumber, confused, dazed, and looking like a junkie - glassy, unfocused eyes and messy hair - but she handled it and eventually fell back asleep. It was the flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles where she decided this flying thing was BULLSHIT and does everyone know how much this sucks or is it just me?

The brilliance of her decision to misbehave on the flight from Atlanta was two-fold. One, gina and I were in completely different parts of the plane. The people next to gina wouldn't switch with me because they were a couple and had been traveling for a long time and were just so tired (boo-hoo). The girl next to me was about 17 and was traveling with her parents, but her parents were a few rows up, so I thought for sure she'd switch with gina and the baby. I asked her, explaining that my partner was in the back with our 9 month old kid and would she mind switching, even though I understand it would be an inconvenience because the seat is in the back of the plane? She simply said, "I'd rather not." Thanks, bitch. So gina and I were separated for the entirety of the flight, and you can't cut a baby in half, so we had to take turns being on our own with her.

(Here's the thing - I fly a lot for work, and I understand it sucks to be in the back of the plane. If a newly married couple or a duo of girlfriends asks me to switch to sit in the back of the plane, my answer is always no. But when there is a baby involved, it's just plan rude to split up the parents. Period.)

Two, the flight was FULL of children. I was in a row with the 17 year old snot face and another girl, a newlywed who didn't get to sit by her husband. Gina took the first round with the baby, so I was alone and quiet up there with the 17 year old brat and newlywed. As the flight attendants were making their announcements, it sounded like an elementary school lunch room on the plane - just a loud general child din. Obviously this is not ideal, but I have no beef with loud kids on planes. Seat-kicking is another thing altogether (not okay), but kids are loud, it's fine. Well, crabass 17 year old and newlywed were talking about how many kids there were on the plane and they were sighing and rolling their eyes about how they hope it's a quiet flight. I thought, just you wait, bitch.

The entire row behind mine was taken up by a family. Two parents and five children, one of which was a lap child (who is supposed to be under 2 years of age) who was CLEARLY no younger than 3 1/2 years old. They were loud and annoying, and the guy across the aisle from me was annoyed by them from the minute he sat down. Lots of heavy sighing and eye rolling. I smiled and couldn't wait to bring up little bee to sit with me, so there would be MORE children to annoy him.

For about 30 minutes of the first 2 hours of the flight, little bee slept on gina's lap. I knew this without even seeing her, because the rest of the 90 minutes of those first two hours, I could hear her yelling and crying. Halfway through the flight, I went to relieve gina, took the baby back up to my seat. Little bee was over it. Done. Would NOT sit still, fussed, bitched, complained, and I let her. I told her out loud, "You cry as much as you want to, kid. This sucks being on this plane." She kept kicking Spoiled Teenager McGillis next to me, and I never once apologized. I did my best to keep her in my space and away from everyone, but when she did cause a fuss, I never said anything. Screw you guys!

The guy across the aisle from me finally turned around to the family behind us and yelled at the father, telling him he needs to control his kids, "I'm just trying to get to Los Angeles here, and you're ruining this flight!" The father laughed and said, "Maybe you should've taken a private jet." Grumpy guy was all, "I paid for my seat and those are not my kids, I shouldn't have to deal with them, they're YOUR kids." The flight attendant came over and spoke to the guy like he was a five year old, and tried to smooth things over ("Okay sir, did you ask him nicely to keep his children quiet?"). The whole thing was just so ridiculous - I already had my statement prepared if he turned to me and complained about my baby. I'll share it here since he didn't say anything to me and I didn't get to use it:

"You think you're miserable? She's a baby. She didn't choose to come on this flight. She has no idea what's going on. All she wants to do is roll around and play. The difference here is, you're an adult and should have the capability to deal with stressful situations. She's a baby, and hasn't learned that yet." Just try me, Grumpy Guy!

I said two things to gina when we got off the plane: "Thank God we will never have to fly again with her at this age," and later, "I can't wait to go back to work."

Where did YOU go on YOUR summer vacation?


KFell said...

This post was enough to make me laugh in lieu of you being here today. :) It has also taught me to have more patience with children on flights.

Katie said...

Never forget this tweet I read a while back: "Be nice to people traveling with small children. They are in hell."