Dreading being seated next to or near a baby on your next flight? You should probably be just as concerned about the adult passengers. Recently I’ve read two accounts of teen-aged girls (one of them an unaccompanied minor) being molested by adult men at 35,000 feet.
As we used to write from the city desk, “Police said alcohol was a factor.” Then again, plenty of people drink on planes and don’t grope strangers. Liquor may break the chain and free the beast, but only if the beast was already there.
The moral of the story: Save the stinkeye for creepy drunken dudes and give parents of small children the benefit of the doubt.
Recently a blogger named Revanche wrote about flying with her husband and toddler (aka “the JuggerBaby”). Although the JB is heck on wheels at home, zie* is surprisingly containable when flying the friendly skies.
It helped that her parents thought ahead and brought snacks and (quiet!) playthings. Revanche’s conclusion: “Flying with your toddler won’t kill you.”
Sometimes it can get messy for fellow passengers, though.
Clean-up in Row 17
Once I was seated next to a woman with an infant and a seat-belted toddler who’d begun sobbing, “Want to get DOWN! Want to get DOWN!” long before the plane took off.
His extremely young mom (21, tops) hadn’t brought any toys or books for him, and was distracted by the nonstop fussing of her younger child. Also by the glares coming from across the aisle and from those walking past our row.
Takeoff caused much infant screaming, with the baby repeatedly spitting out the pacifier. Meanwhile I tried to get the toddler interested in pictures of animals and vehicles in the in-flight magazine. (“Wow, look at this truck! It’s a red truck! What color truck would you want?”) Ultimately he calmed down a little and was thrilled when his mom put out some snacks.
The young woman bought a box meal and I asked if she’d like for me to hold the baby so she could eat. Instantly she thanked me and handed him over. The kid stared at me for a minute, grinned and vomited. Not just a little spit-up, mind you: It actually splashed me, a la “The Exorcist.”
“Oh, no!” said his horrified mom.
“Well, now we know why he was fussing,” I said.
And it was true: Once he’d puked he was the happiest li’l guy imaginable.
Flying isn’t always fun
The upside is that I found out flight attendants have these MAGICAL WIPES — industrial-strength towelettes that could clean the smog off the Taj Mahal. Ask the flight attendant for one if your kid ever throws up on himself or spills something on you during a flight.
Do I like being in a plane with crying (and possibly vomitous) children? Of course not. Their parents don’t much like it, either. While I wish that all moms and dads were as proactive as Revanche and her husband, fact is that sometimes kids can’t be distracted for long.
They want to get DOWN. They want to get off the plane. They want to get back to their usual routines. Can’t blame them. I don’t like sitting in one place for five or six (or more) hours at a time.
But I have the perspective of an adult: “I’m not comfortable right now but I know that eventually I’ll be back on the ground.” To little kids, right now is for-evah. Too, some children have neurological or cognitive issues and can’t help acting out at times.
Fact is, few people are at their best on planes. Myself, I’d rather be next to a wailing baby or tantrum-y toddler than a drunk and belligerent adult – especially if he couldn’t keep his hands to himself.
*Revanche uses “zie” and “hir” in order not to reveal her child’s sex, for reasons of anonymity. (Hint: “Revanche” isn’t her real name.)