Generally a child whisperer, it is rare I’m caught on the wrong side of a toddler. A two-year-old, however, got the best of me on a cross-country flight last week. I’m as surprised as anyone the chubby cheeked towhead did not claim my heart.
Surprised because I, unlike most of my girls, am not a baby person. They’re fine but they don’t make my heart beat faster. I’m rarely the one to reach out to have a hold. Once they toddle and form words, they become irresistible.
I’d like to say it was the bargain flight; which began at sale price but as each necessity became a charge, ended up only mere dollars short of a “real” airline. I question jumping through hoops and bag measurements to save so few pesos.
Irritation begins at boarding. My legs are a little longer than average but a giraffe I am not. My gyrations to fold into a seat sized for a pygmy goat create amusement for the little one. He is parked on his mothers lap diagonally—aisle to aisle, his seat in front of mine. He laughs at my struggle to fit my gams under the seat in front of me. I shoot him a wink.
He smiles and his little chubbette face crinkles. He wings his pacifier across the aisle to his brother. And then he screams. It is not a squeal of delight small children often exude but the screech of an owl under attack and the pitch of a hyena in heat. The sound is so jarring heads crane around to get a look.
Evidently, his mother has yet to perfect her death stare.
Blondie screeches again. His family laughs. Mum rubs his little towhead and I think the flight may be longer than anticipated. Luckily I am a plane sleeper. The engines whir, my eyes fall shut, and I wake to, “As we make our final decent…” It’s a gift from the flight Gods. And the reason I cannot be a flight attendant.
I stretch my stems out the side of the seat in front of me, adjusting my sandaled foot away from being lost to the beverage cart and little one laughs at the close call.
Whimpers come first and then screeches. I adjust a bit and wrap my sweater about me. Eyes closed. Deep sigh. My long abandoned infant startle reflex is reignited with the next screech. He wants to lie in the aisle. His words have not yet caught up to his wants and all that comes out are screams and cries and screeches. For three hours. Nonstop. For three hours. Did I say the flight was three hours?
Screeches fill baggage claim. Passengers mingle on one side leaving the family alone on the other. I feel a twinge for the mom with tangled hair, sucker stuck to her bedraggled backpack and a little one screeching in her ear.
I feel like an asshat for not helping more. And then I am reminded that the only towhead smiles came from the pain of arranging myself in my seat and the artful dodging of keeping my foot from getting run over. Who’s the asshat now?