Taking flight in an age of glamour-less travel

***July 4th, departing Asia for our summer trip to America***

With a backpack and diaper bag pulling at my shoulders, I heave my youngest child onto my hip, kick the stroller to fold it up against the sky bridge wall, take my older child’s hand, and enter the airplane.

Passing through premium class I note the looks of fear my family group inspires on the faces of the single business travelers and read their minds: “Does the little one look like a screamer?” “Please do not let that woman sit near me.” “They shouldn’t allow children under five on long haul flights.”

They needn’t fear, as my three seats–booked at the last-minute after crawling for several weeks through the company’s bureaucratic travel approval process–are well in the rear of the plane, straddling the aisle and near the lavatory.

As I enter the economy class cabin, the very tanned steward looks me up and down and without lifting a finger says, “you’ll have to move that bag”–he motions toward the ugly brown diaper back with pink edging I’d bought on a whim–“around to your front.”

Still holding my youngest in one arm and tapping the older one’s back to keep her moving forward, I glare at the tanned steward, shove the brown bag under my child’s leg, and proceed down the aisle.

“You’ll have to move it further around as you may hit the seated passengers…” he calls after me. Since this is already my second long flight of the day, I snap back with a fake cheery, “ok!,” though I am already several rows beyond him, scraping past bulky arms.

I still have a nine-hour flight to go before gathering up my mountain of bags and pushing them, two car seats, a stroller and two weary children through U.S. Customs and Immigration. Frankly I don’t give a damn about the elbows of the tour group on their way back from visiting “Red” China: “I thought there’d be more bicycles.” “How can anyone live in that air?” “At least we know the airplane meal won’t be dog! Har, har!”

***4.5 Hours Later***

I glance across the aisle at my older child who is sleeping with her legs dangling off the seat, back arched at an inhuman angle, face pointed upward, and mouth gaping open. My youngest child has finally fallen asleep using my body as a bed. He lets out a small whimpering whine every time I shift in my seat, threatening to awaken.

Regretting my earlier decision to drink that bottle of water before boarding the plane, I ignore the increasing sense of pressure in my bladder and turn my attention to silently viewing “Casablanca” on the seat back TV of a passenger several rows up. I watch Ingrid Bergman’s dewy eyes and the dark shadows crossing the faces of the patrons in Rick’s Café Américain, and finally drift off to sleep dreaming of expat glamour.

14 responses to “Taking flight in an age of glamour-less travel

  1. Hilarious. Having just completed two 11 hour flights with teenagers, I can share the very happy news that it does get easier.
    1. They can get themselves to the bathroom
    2. They can carry their own hand baggage (and some of yours, if you are ‘lucky’ enough to have a burly teenage son).
    3. Their bladders get bigger, so they not only need the toilet less, but they can find their own way there (and back).
    4. If you supply earbuds, they will remain entirely silent for the entire trip, mesmerized by the extensive film selection / Gameboy game / iPad apps..

    And as final hurrah, they can exclaim loudly as the Cabin Crew member walks away
    “Wow, wasn’t she RUDE, Mummy! You would never let US speak like that!”. Every so often, the parenting fairy sends a very welcome gift:)

    • Ah! A light at the end of the tunnel. I can see the beginnings of this in my daughter, who will quietly watch movies on the plane for hours (but who needs lots of help navigating around the clumsy interface…).

      Love your final comment about them giving the flight attendant a not so subtle hint that he/she was being rude! Future comrades in the battle to make it from one continent to another!

    • Most are helpful and do remember that they are actually working in the “service” industry, but every once in a while you hit a bad apple in the middle of a hard day. Cheers!

  2. This sounds just like my last trip! The annoyed looks from others when I board the plane with two small kids drives me insane! I have had to put up with MANY annoying adults on planes – those who don’t shut up the entire flight, have bad body odor, or who get drunk and obnoxious – the list goes on and on. People need to get over their hatred of kids on planes and take a look at their own behavior.

    Then there are those select few who actually take pity on you. I don’t expect help from others, but it is always such a blessing when one out of 400 + people steps up and offers a helping hand – and it’s always a mom who has been there and done that 🙂

    • Exactly! The (very few) kids that are allowed to run up and down the aisle being noisy are annoying, and once in a while a small child screams part of the flight. But (like you said) “that guy” who leans on your seat back talking to his friend half the flight is annoying as is the person who hogs the lavatory to put on make-up or shave one hour before touch down when everyone else needs to pee.

      Very glad I don’t have any long flights scheduled in the foreseeable future! Hope it’s the same for you.

  3. Oh, I remember the days and there’s nothing glamorous about flying with young children. Reading your post brings it all back to me. I’m still flying often these days, and I’d much rather be helpful than moan and groan about kids on planes. Wishing you patience!

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