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Terror in the skies

Submitted by on Sunday, 1 June 2008 No Comment

Originally published May 1, 2007, thehive.modbee.com

To the gentleman sitting in 20C on Delta Flight 1006 April 18, I apologize. If you’ll drop me a note, I’ll gladly cover any expense related to permanent ear damage.

Little Guy was having a bad day. A really bad day. Which meant most of the passengers on a Boeing 757 got to enjoy his misery for roughly four hours and 24 minutes between Sacramento and Atlanta. Mr. 20C, who was directly in front of Little Guy, bore the brunt of it. And there was nothing I could do.

Worst of all, I hadn’t even seen it coming.

My kids are veteran fliers – we usually go back east twice a year to visit family – so I wasn’t concerned. I remembered the first trip with Big Guy, a mere eight months old at the time, and got cocky. The man seated next to us tried every trick short of bribery to get the flight attendant to move him, but the plane was full and he was stuck. Big Guy was angelic, he congratulated us, and I wondered why people get so uptight about flying with kids.

This year’s flight to Atlanta was a little longer than our usual first legs to Chicago or Dallas, but I wanted a redeye and paid about $40 extra per seat for it. If I could let the little boogers snooze uninterrupted a little longer, maybe I’d get a little more cooperation during the plane change. That’s the only time Big Guy has melted down.

The first hint of trouble was in February, weeks after I’d bought the tickets, when Delta changed the 10:55 p.m. departure to 6 a.m. So instead of being able to load two blissfully drowsy kids on a plane, I’d have to wake them at 2 a.m. and force their grumpy butts into car seats. And I had shelled out an additional $160 for that privilege.

The second hint I completely missed – Little Guy’s impending Terrible Twos. The year Big Guy was that age, we hadn’t gone back east because I was pregnant with Little Guy in the spring and out of vacation time in the fall.

The net result: because I’d never had a bad kid flight experience, I glibly assumed that the trip would go as smoothly as the others had.

I loaded new backpacks with snacks, books, crayons, tiny Tonka cars and Crayola Model Magic (a less-messy, better-smelling Play Doh) and thought we’d be good to go. Bring enough stuff to keep them occupied, all the Web sites recommend.

Little Guy’s backpack remained virtually unused, other than the crackers he threw at me. Even his favorite Thomas book couldn’t stop the wailing. Every trick I tried failed – funny faces, goofy songs, making his elephant dance, cartoons on the monitor in front of his seat.

He took brief breaks – half hour, 45 minutes at a time – to nap, but then he’d wake up and remember he was supposed to be screaming. It reminded me of the time I drove from North Carolina to California with my cat who hated cars. Except 757s don’t pull over for rest areas.

At one point, Mr. 20C put his hands over his ears and shook his head wildly, the picture of toddler-induced madness. I was right there with him.

The longer it went on, the more I wanted to sneak into the restroom and disable a smoke detector in hopes of being thrown off the plane. I wondered if there were any air marshals on board and what it would take to get them to shoot me.

Anything to get away from almost 250 people who thought I was the worst mother on Earth.

I still don’t know what caused Little Guy’s angst. Maybe his ears popped and he couldn’t get settled after that. Maybe it was a fatigue so deep he couldn’t work his way out of his misery.

I do know one thing, though. If Mr. 20C doesn’t already have kids, he scheduled a vasectomy April 19.

Copyright 2007 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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