A blaze of comfort on a crowded plane with crying babies and grumpy passengers

A blaze of comfort on a crowded plane with crying babies and grumpy passengers

I hold on tightly to the little toy. I finger the heels and a wistful smile spreads across my face. Anyone watching me, although everyone is deep into their iPad or cell phone, would probably note a sorrowful peace. I place the toy back into my handbag and rush to get a bagel before my flight. Finally my flight is starting to board and the hordes of business people start rushing up to the front. The airline personnel announce that it is a packed flight and they will start taking away people’s large items. Nowadays traveling just seems so uncivilized.  Elbows are flying, tempers are flaring and egos are grandly ridiculous. Of course, I throw myself right into the mix of things. As a frequent flier with large accumulation of miles, I get to board early enough.

I make my way to my seat and stow away my backpack in the overhead and keep my handbag with me under the seat. I watch as people come on board and try to stuff what should ostensibly be a carry-on item into the overhead.  Some of these carry-ons weigh more than the owner.  I want to let them know that if I can have three changes of clothes for today as well as four pairs of shoes in my backpack they can trim down their luggage. I stay quiet, however, and just watch.

I rummage through my bag taking out my laptop, iPad, yellow notepads and Blaze. I lay them all out in the seat pocket but I hold onto Blaze. She is my designated companion and she is fierce. She was a Christmas gift my son received as part of a Sonic the hedgehog ensemble package. I carry her with me as an object onto which I can focus my flight anxieties. I also photograph her throughout my travels and then show them to my son upon my return home.

The flight is truly packed and it is packed with a lot of families with small children. A lot of infants are on the plane. As a matter of fact there is one infant in the row in front of me and one in the row behind me. It is a 7pm flight and I have not seen such a grumpy group of flyers in a long while. Nerves are definitely frayed. Right before boarding, there was a man on the airport floor yelling at some customer service representative on the phone while he was furiously typing away on his laptop. Those of us around him smirked a bit. However, we should have all taken that as a sign.  As the children start to cry as people are boarding, I grab my Blaze. I know how it is to travel with an infant. My son was fairly good on flights. Since I breastfed for close to two years, the breastfeeding helped quiet and calm him down on long flights. However, there were a few trips where he did he let out a huge wail or two. And yes, we got the looks and the evil death stares from some of the fellow passengers. Many tried to help by smiling at him and cooing. Because he has always been personable such directed cooing usually worked to quiet him.

The flight is very packed. People somehow have forgotten how to navigate a tight space and tempers are flaring. There is a traffic jam right in front of my row. The flight attendant politely comes over to see what is occurring.  The lady in front of me gives her a frustrated look and proceeds to yell at the flight attendant incoherently about the fact that she was waiting for people to move so that she could store her groceries. Her son was mortified. Her other older daughter, had an infant with her and at that moment the child started crying.  I grab my Blaze again and hold it. She is a mighty figure. Her pink heels really rock and her longer fingers show her strength. I think if I were a young girl I would want to be Blaze instead of wonder woman.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of wonder woman’s bracelets and lasso. But Blaze’s heels are too fierce to be ignored.

There is a couple in my same row. I am a bit perplexed by their relationship. I can’t tell if theirs is a romantic relationship or parental. They are friendly to me. However, they start commenting on the other passengers. They comment on the girl that couldn’t lift her carry-on above her head. They comment on the woman that is changing clothes. They comment on the crying baby in front of us. Their commentary is set within a mocking cruel tone. They turn to me and note how I had already changed before the plane and assume that I am as irritated as they are by the baby’s cries.  I just smile and raise my eyebrows. The woman in front of us hears their baby commentary and starts to get agitated. She starts yelling and cursing at her two other kids. She notes that she paid good money for her seats just like everyone else and her baby can cry all that he wants.  Everyone starts looking at the baby boy. Some feel pity for him. Some feel annoyed by his cries and others try smiling at him.  I smile and take out my Blaze and make funny faces at him. He has a sweet smile. However, the mother keeps increasing her outward level of agitation and continues to curse. My blood pressure is rising. The guy in my row starts saying how disgusting the woman is to be cursing like that in front of her kids and how horrible a mother she is. I keep thinking that this cannot end well.

The flight attendant passes again and I look up at her. I totally want a rum and orange juice but do not order one.  Here we are on a flight with a lot of families and ostensibly many had gone to Disneyworld. Shouldn’t they be happy? Personally I consider Disneyworld a nightmare. When one goes through the Orlando airport security line you are queued according to whether you are a family pack or a single traveler.  I actually appreciated that queuing mechanism as I was traveling alone. However, that should have been another warning sign.  I start to watch Arrow on my iPad and start typing away on my laptop. The woman next to me keeps trying to read what I am typing. How rude.  I read a recent news item in which a woman had to switch seats on a flight recently because the man next to her was watching porn on his electronic device.   Who watches porn on a plane? I am afraid to even type my password on any device for fear that that someone is looking over my shoulder.

The baby starts to cry again and my row-mates start shushing him. Really? There are other crying babies on the flight yet they seem particularly focused on this one. Perhaps it was because the mother has been a bit harsh towards her own children. I am being kind-hearted in that description.  Others have also looked more disapprovingly at this particular baby as opposed to the others. This poor baby has become the object of pity, derision and debate on the plane.

I completely get not wanting to travel with crying babies dispersed throughout the plane. I myself was trying to concentrate on a paper I was writing. However, we should all show some compassion as well. It is difficult to travel with children and not everyone (actually hardly anyone) has a nanny to help them out on the plane. Babies’ bodies will naturally react to the changes in cabin pressure. Also, we were all children once.  Would we have appreciated being looked at in disgust, pity or derision as a child? We probably would not tolerate such looks as an adult.    A simple shared smile could actually help temper things. Now the mother of this particular baby was definitely mean-spirited and unhinged. However, maybe she had a really bad day.  Although, I must say there is no excuse for cursing at one’s child. She could have given herself a time out and walked away to the back to cool down.

I grabbed my Blaze again and thanked my lucky stars for having such a well-behaved baby and for having been on flights where for the most part fellow passengers were kind-hearted to my child.  It just seems so many fliers these days are angry and intolerant of any perceived slight, offense or discomfort.  We all need a collective chill-pill. Breathe in and out and smile. Just smile. Such a small act can help diffuse many heated situations and bring civility to travel.

Inspired in part by the Weekly Writing Challenge of Object


Some other thoughts on Object:


8 replies »

  1. It is interesting that every group seems to generate its own distinct style and emotional everyone, I have found myself in a group of strangers and something ‘clicks’ and the group just gels. They are in sinc and move positively toward finding a common need to be happy. This is true also of groups of people that are just at each other as if they are a pack of dogs fighting over a bone. It is a lottery and may be easiest explained by the weather.B


  2. Good post! I’m rarely bothered by anything having to do with children. I’m a mom and a 16 year veteran of teaching–there are few noises that a child can make that would cause me to get grumpy. I do get bothered when someone is disrespectful to their children, or anyone else’s.
    How are kids going to learn public behavior if they’re kept at home? Mine were all good travelers, too. I guess that kept us both from getting too many sour looks.
    Blaze seems like a great traveling companion. As anxious as I normally am, It’s surprising that I’ve never been anxious while flying. I guess I figure a good flight is one that gets me there, and a bad one is one where we crash and burn. Since I have no control over either, I usually just people watch and sleep.


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