The Mile High Snub

27 May

Planes, elevators and port-a-potties probably top the list of what get my neurotic juices flowing.  My husband, who loves to laugh at me, enjoys flying with me because the face I make during turbulence trumps all my other idiosyncrasies. He even has a name for it: ‘the monkey face.’  Oh, and it comes with complimentary monkey noises too.  Very attractive.  The antidote for the monkey syndrome came when our daughter was born.  Babies know when you’re faking it, so when she was four months old and we took our first flight as mommy and baby, I had to replace ‘monkey face’ with ‘game face.’

My in-laws flew me up while my husband was away at work, and being alone with our baby girl Phoebe meant I would have no back-up in the event “the monkey” made an inadvertent appearance.  Thankfully, flying with a little one who is still nursing brings a set of challenges that completely distracted me from my usual preoccupation with falling out of the sky in a ball of fire.  Fear was quickly replaced by an apologetic air while Phoebe screamed, and then an even more apologetic air while I stuck her head under my shirt so she would stop.  I lay a blanket over my shirt to shield the spectacle and relaxed while she enjoyed a snack that would fill her tummy and pop her ears.

To say the man in the seat next to me was “visibly uncomfortable” is the understatement of the century.  He had eyed me earlier as I made my way down the aisle toward his row with all the joy of someone anticipating root canal.   He recoiled from my aisle seat and hunched so far into the fuselage wall and window that I thought he might actually have a parachute strapped to his back.

Just in case I wasn’t picking up the vibe, he proceeded to ring the flight attendant bell and ask if there were any free seats, “… any at all anywhere else on the plane.”

“I’m sorry,” the female attendant said without sympathy, “It’s a full flight today.”

When the attendant was out of sight, I addressed the man who was now unsuccessfully feigning sleep with a scowl on his face.

“Listen, I’m not going to apologize for feeding my daughter.  You either deal with the most natural thing in the world or deal with a baby screaming in your ear.”

And then the turbulence hit.  I could feel the monkey coming on.  The monkey who was stopped dead in his tracks by the sound of my precious baby farting and crapping so loudly it could be heard over the steady roar of a 737.

Ah the sweet sounds and smells of comic relief.  I didn’t even care that the plane was being tossed about like one of my daughter’s toys.  After about fifteen minutes of baby grunts, and the unmistakable sound of a diaper filling up, Mr. Uncomfortable felt compelled to actually speak to me.

“You should take care of that.” He eyed my daughter like she was a Hefty bag that needed to be taken to the curb.  The new mother in me resisted the urge to slap the hostile look right off his face.

But he had a point. She stank.

The thought of changing her diaper at 37,000 feet in a cramped space the size of a genie’s bottle that doubled as an international germ factory was bringing on a round of anxiety that threatened to dash my calm veneer.  I had been so good.  No monkey noises.  Phoebe wasn’t picking up on my fear because I’d kept it in check.  Taking her to that closet with a vacuum that posed as a toilet just wasn’t an option.

And then I took a deep breath in an attempt to shore myself up for the task, but inhaling just shored up my gag reflex.  At a mere four months, my daughter had managed to produce a stench that could rival the dumps on Staten Island. (FYI for the non-New Yorkers- those suckers can be seen from space.)  Sour milk and garbage.  This is what she had created.  My urge to hurl subsided considerably and my baby was content in the way one can only be after a great meal and a spectacular shit.  I held her in my lap and debated whether stripping her down in an airplane toilet while the plane was still bucking against a headwind was the best option.

As Mr. Uncomfortable had no emotional attachment to the source, he couldn’t suppress his gag reflex and he retched several times before issuing a reminder.

“Take care of that.  Now.”

I usually play well with others.  I swear.  But this was war.

“Sure thing,” I said, syrupy sweet.

Cradling my daughter in the arm nearest the aisle, I reached into the diaper bag to pull out a diaper and baby wipes, then began unbuttoning my daughter’s pajamas.

“You aren’t going to change her right here are you?” Mr. Uncomfortable’s eyes were enormous.

“It’s not safe to get up during this kind of turbulence with a baby.  And we’ve already started our descent into LaGuardia.”

He studied me to see if I was bluffing.  I wasn’t.  I had changed this kid on my lap, on sidewalks, on backseats.  I gave him my best “try me” look and finished unbuttoning Phoebe’s pajamas.  Without that extra barrier of clothing the shit was intense.  Mr. Uncomfortable gagged while I smiled and handed him an air sickness bag which he snatched from my hand.

“Should I just wait until we land?”  I offered.

He nodded.

The captain came over the cabin speakers.

“There’s a little bit of a backup at LaGuardia tonight due to high winds.  We’re going to have to circle around for awhile until we get clearance for landing.  We’ll have you on the ground in about thirty minutes.”

For thirty minutes I bounced Phoebe in my lap and sang to her while she smiled and continued to reek of sour milk and garbage.

Mr. Uncomfortable just clung to his air sickness bag, staring at the back of the seat in front of him and enduring the longest thirty minutes of his life.


One Response to “The Mile High Snub”

  1. terrilyn June 9, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

    WOW! I actually pitied ALL of you! How FUNNY, though!

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