I flew on a plane yesterday. It’s been a little bit since I’ve flown, and yesterday reminded me that flying is essentially like riding a crowded bus in the air.
We pack ourselves in and ship ourselves par avion with a couple hundred other people, including babies, canoodling young couples, the four-year-old girl with ants in her pants across the aisle from me for six hours (can you blame her?), and dozens of grown ups watching Frozen (me included).
It was uneventful, as flights should be. It reminded me of a flight Dutch and I took our two young boys on eight years ago. Like crazy people, we decided to fly to the Big Island of Hawaii with a four-year-old and a two-year-old with as-yet-still-being-diagnosed behavior and cognitive issues.
Jack spent eighty-five percent of the flight messing with the portable DVD player. Not watching it, mind you. For four-ish hours, Jack:
A) Unfolded and folded shut the DVD player.
B) Ejected the DVD.
C) Manhandled the DVD, coating it in what Dutch calls “kid cheese.”
D) Replaced the DVD.
E) Snapped the lid shut.
Over and over, this happened. He also kicked the seat in front of him nonstop, which is another tale. It was before the days of iPads. He was a destructive, repetitive force on ye olde DVD player, but if I tried to stop him, he would shriek. And so it continued. Until…
Several hours into our journey across the ocean, Jack fell asleep mid-DVD manipulation. I slowly exhaled, trying not to move. I exchanged a hopeful glance with Dutch. Everything was blissfully quiet and easy for twenty-three glorious minutes.
Then the woman sitting across from me, the one who was traveling with her six-week-old baby (because who doesn’t want to take a newborn to Hawaii postpartum?) stood up, fumbled around in the overhead bin above Jack and me, and then slammed it loudly three or four times before actually closing it.
And that was it, Jack was up. For the duration of the flight. Cue the DVD destruction.
I wanted to leap from my narrow airline chair, shake the woman by the shoulders, slap her face, and scream at her sleeping baby to wake it up.
Instead I watched the woman nurse her baby, replace him in his infant bucket, then (for some baffling reason) stand and face the entire cabin of passengers as she wiped spit-up from the front of her shirt, making big, sweeping circular motions over her engorged breasts. Her chest was mere inches from my parents’ faces; their seats a front-row venue to this unsightly hygiene display. I saw them gaze uncomfortably at this woman’s baby-throw-up-soaked shirt, then turn and stare at each other in shock.
We called her Milk Boobs.
Still do, actually, eight years hence.
You never know what you’re going to run across on a flight. Basically you can have no expectation of reasonable quiet, ample leg room, an airplane cabin void of smells, or an absence of shirts covered in regurgitated milk.
Babies will cry, toddlers will fidget. Lactating women may give themselves a breast exam/shirt cleaning before your very eyes. A child may kick your seat, over and over again.
It’s a bus in the air. Unless you want to pay three times the going fare for first class, it’s your bus in the air.
And it’s okay, as long as it lands safely and you can nod your gratitude to the pilot as you disembark.