Meredith Carroll: Meredith Pro Tem
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado
Last week I nearly suffered a migraine by convincing myself (via a Google search) that my daughter’s ear-tugging and drool were signs that she was on the verge of cutting her first tooth.
It wasn’t so much the thought of her being in pain that upset me as much as the notion that she might be in pain on a plane. (Although just for the record, Children’s Protective Services, the thought of her in pain, in general, did upset me, too.)
For a child who’s flown almost twice as many times as the number of months she’s been alive, she’s thankfully proven to be a blue-ribbon traveler. On our first and second trips she slept from the moment we passed through security until deplaning. The third time she drifted off 30 seconds after takeoff, woke up for a mid-flight bottle and then promptly passed out after the milk was gone until we touched down. Her fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth flights (the downside of living somewhere that’s always two planes away from most everywhere that’s even remotely civilized) were similarly without incident.
However, none of the smooth rides helped quell the anxiety I felt as we boarded each plane. Much like a Madoff Investment Securities statement, the baby is only as good as her current flight. And for someone who prides herself on not caring (too much) what other people think, I get awfully concerned about the reaction from other passengers who might be less than thrilled to be seated near or next to a baby who has the aptitude to whine, cry or poop explosively while trapped in a pressurized cabin.
Thankfully I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how kind everyone has been. From the grandparents across the aisle on one flight who volunteered their seats as a changing table to the band of five women on another that silently arranged themselves into an assembly line to help me change a diaper and make a bottle less than 90 seconds before takeoff, flying with the baby has been generally banal.
In fact, the only slightly unpleasant encounter I had was on a flight when I tried to make eye contact with the woman sitting next to us so we could get the requisite acknowledgments out of the way (I’d say hi, she’d comment on my daughter’s inner and outer beauty) and get on with ignoring each other thereafter. But she was too busy from the get-go, taking out what can only be described as a portable apple box upon which to rest her feet, lest her 4-foot 11-inch frame feel self-conscious for being incapable of allowing its legs to touch the floor unassisted.
After she also took out an eye-gel mask and an inflatable neck pillow, she finally looked at me and then did a double take. Her eyes narrowed as she eyed the baby, silently yet unmistakably screaming, “The nerve of you to reproduce! Don’t you know that the sleeping monster in your arms could conceivably upset the serenity of my flight?!”
It was precisely that kind of look that I have expected to receive from every passenger on every plane. Which is what forced me to prepare for the five-hour flight last Thursday like I was responsible for keeping a cold war from escalating. (OK, the flight was actually three hours and 27 minutes. Apparently I failed to calculate the time zone difference or those fractional units that make up an hour. But come on ” who has time for that kind of advanced math?) I had an almost 6-month-old whose teeth were threatening to make a break for the surface, and I just wanted to keep the peace for everyone’s sake.
No one was presumed innocent on the flight. The flight attendant who issued the gate check tag for the stroller seemed suspiciously cheery when she told me we’d have a whole row to ourselves. The 12-year-old girls sitting behind us were sized up for their likelihood to kick the back of the baby’s seat and/or wake her from her sweet slumber with their tween squeals. The woman sitting across the aisle could easily have been disguised as a professional baby hater.
As it turns out, however, the flight attendant volunteered to watch the baby if I needed a break. So did the 12-year-old girls. The woman across the aisle gushed when we landed about my good fortune to have a baby who resembled an angel not just in her looks, but her aura, too.
An angel, by the way, who still has no visible teeth.
No matter that the ninth flight was uneventful though. We fly again in 23 days. Fortunately my husband will be with us, and it’s finally his turn to worry about the quality of the baby’s, my and everyone else’s in-flight experience.
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