When kids fly… (Part I of Series)

I just got back from a whirlwind trip to visit my sister and my newest niece in Vienna, Austria and then a few days in Rome, Italy to say hello to the folks and the in-laws. Surviving a long flight is always a challenge and despite stocking up on crayons, cars, books, videos, lots of patience and a seat in the middle there is nothing that will ward of a toddler’s boredom on a plane.

The outbound flight plan was to connect through Rome enroute to Vienna so that the return trip was a less painful direct flight from Rome to New York. Praying that there were no delays that would reduce our already minimal two-hour window in Rome’s Fiumicino airport, we survived the crush of people at JFK’s security checkpoint where apparently people are encouraged to trample families with small children and the elderly. Much like in a video game, the TSA staff gets points for ripping your child’s blankie from them and shoving them through the metal detector as you juggle your shoes, the stroller, the diaper bag, the Ziploc with the diaper cream, the laptop and the carry on we had packed to avoid inevitably losing any luggage when switching planes with different airlines in Rome. I was tempted to use my belt to temporarily lasso my son as my wife and I got dressed again after the metal detector found the iron in our stomach from the spinach salad we ate the night before. “This way!” was his battle cry and it never corresponded to the direction that we actually had to go. Luckily there were plenty of take offs and landings to keep him moderately entertained at the gate until we were mercifully allowed on board first along with all the really rich people. We found a spanking new A330 with seat back touch screens and camera views of what the pilots saw on takeoff/landing and what was below us throughout the flight. My son got bored after ten seconds and switched his and mine off – ever so thoughtful. Take off was into a strong head wind and the fearful silence in the cabin as we bumped along was pierced by my son’s delighted laughter. Soon after reaching cruising altitude and as the stench of airplane food overtook the cabin we took out our packed dinner that was met with shocked looks from our fellow passengers (emancipation always seems to evoke jealously from others, but I digress). When people started settling in to their routines and the lady next to me decided my shoulder was more comfortable than her pillow, a flight attendant showed up with a female passenger and indicated the two empty seats in front of us in the central row of four seats with both aisle seats taken. They then left and as if electrocuted Sleeping Beauty (more the former) bolted from her seat and settled in next to what turned out to be her husband occupying one of the aisle seats in front of us. At this point I was savoring the empty seat that was left next to me and the possibility to stretch out a bit, until the flight attendant came back with the passenger and her young daughter. The exchange went something like this:

Flight attendant: “Madam, I had promised these two seats to this woman and her daughter.”

Sleeping Beauty: “But this is my husband!”

Flight attendant: “I understand, but this little girl is sitting several rows from her mother and is very frightened. Do you mind moving back to your assigned seat.”

Sleeping Beauty: “But this is my husband!”

Flight attendant: “I am asking you ‘please’”.

Sleeping Beauty: “But this is my husband!”

Turning to the man sitting in the other aisle seat the flight attendant asked if he would not mind moving back one row to sit next to me leaving two empty seats for the mother and daughter.

S.O.B.: “No. This is my seat.”

Visibly taken aback by not one, but three inconsiderate schmucks, the flight attendant looked around for other solutions.

I offered that the daughter could sit next to us and the mother could take the aisle seat diagonal from her daughter, but the daughter clung tighter still to her mother’s leg (mental note: shave before talking to kids so as to appear less menacing?).

The mother said: “Some people do not know what it is like to have children…”

“Amen!” I said out loud raising my arm a bit like a reverend.

Sleeping Beauty actually turns around, looks us both over and says, “But this is my husband!”

Luckily a few other good Samaritans volunteered to play musical chairs and finally the mother and daughter were sitting side-by-side.

The rest of the flight was fairly uneventful other than my son falling asleep with only an hour left in the flight and having stripped his seat down to the aluminum frame.

The switch in Rome was surprisingly painless and we got to our gate for Vienna with an hour to spare before boarding. This, of course, gave my son an opportunity to display to the world what a toddler on one hour of sleep after an eight-hour overnight flight and with no afternoon nap the day before can do in an airport. I’m sure many of you have seen it or can imagine.

We reached Vienna after a brief one and a half hour flight and my son’s favorite uncle (my brother in-law) was waiting to take us home. We gladly released our overly excited kid into his arms and even endured a brief tantrum when he left us in the car to pay for parking and my son told us to get out and that he only wanted his uncle. My wife and I were very tempted to comply.

 

(Next Post in the Series: When in Vienna…)

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