If Airline Travel Makes You A Little Uneasy, Try It With An Infant
Oh, the joys of travel
Under childless conditions, the incompetence, disorganization and just plain tackiness of the airlines are good for a derisive chuckle, which can help distract your attention from that little voice in your brain saying "We're gonna crash We're gonna crash We're gonna crash ..." Having a baby causes your body to produce abnormal amounts of Protective Hormone, which can severely impair your sense of humor to the point that you fail to see the fun in being trapped at 30,000 feet in a giant metal can with a belly full of flammable liquid and the aerodynamic properties of Raymond Burr.
The way they stumble through it, you'd think they didn't give this speech several times a day. You can only hope that they devote a more serious effort to their other job duties, like handing our peanuts or serving as flotation devices in the event of a "water landing." They stammer and giggle, as though the other crew members have played a practical joke and handed them a copy of the text written in Esperanto on the back of a cocktail napkin.
This time-honored skit is performed over a public address system that sounds like soup-can-and-string technology. When the pilot eventually comes on to mutter self-importantly about cruising altitudes and winds out of the southwest there's so much static, crackle, and hiss it makes him sound like he's broadcasting from Mars. How are they supposed to communicate to the tower when the back half of the plane seems to be out of range?
We sat in the tail section of the plane, so we were the last to get served our Sodium-Roasted Peanuts in a kevlar-graphite-mylar packet that can only be opened using both hands and your teeth. The packaging costs more than the nuts and can withstand fifty pounds of tensile pressure; at which point it tears open suddenly and scatters the nuts around the cabin. But if you gather up the pieces and actually eat them, they do their job, which is to make you thirsty and frustrated enough to buy a $4 Bloody Mary.
Airlines will permit you to take your baby along without purchase of an additional seat, provided you are able to hold the baby on your lap for the entire flight. Makes sense, right? Everyone says flying is safer than driving but with baby Emma relaxing on Julia's lap, it suddenly felt risky just having her in our arms.
You can't do that in a car; they tell you scary stories about how hitting a pebble will catapult your baby into the next block. It started me thinking that a hefty chunk of turbulence could toss her into the ceiling pretty easily. Then I started feeling guilty for being too cheap to buy the additional seat.
I'm surprised the airline even gives you the choice, considering how strict they are about everything else. Too much slack in your seat belt gets you a rap on the knuckles (except in first class, where they tighten it for you and apologize for the inconvenience), and failure to stow carry-on luggage in the overhead bins or under the seat in front of you is now an act of high treason. In the event of turbulence they don't want briefcases, backpacks and fruit baskets bouncing around the cabin whacking people, but show 'em an untethered 25-pound baby and all they do is start making goo goo talk.
The good news is that the airline rightfully recognizes your parental condition as a legitimate disability, and if you present your offspring at the gate they let you board first along with the rich people and anyone on a hospital gurney.
Today's Travel Tip: If you have too much carry-on luggage, just disguise your extra bag as a big baby. You can board first and then hold it on your lap and periodically burp it. Believe me, no one will bother you. They won't even sit near you.