In the Air Over There

Well good gracious.  It has been a full six weeks or so since I last posted, which means it must be summer vacation.  Which is, apparently, the most hectic time of the year.  You heard me: more hectic than back-to-school, more hectic than Christmas.  Heck.  Tick.

Mercifully, this hectic-ness is punctuated by sublime spurts of rest during which it seems wrong to fire up the old laptop and blog, when one could be doing nothing, for heaven’s sake.

So here we are.  Mid-to-late July.  How did we get here?  By way of five summer camps and Bridgehampton, for starters.  All while my office is under construction.  In fact, the internet will be shut off in exactly two hours and 45 minutes and there are grant proposals to write, but I feel like it’s been so long and Less on the Floor needs a little lovin’.

If you are a friend on Facebook then you know that earlier this month I managed to do what women have been doing for decades, which is travel alone with small children.  LittleMan flipped his Responsible Big Brother switch (thank goodness, because he also has an Intractable Old Man Trapped in the Body of a Four-Year-Old switch so it really could have gone either way), and Mommy flipped her My God But Isn’t This Just a Hoot? switch and — despite Babygirl’s relentless efforts to escape into first class — the three of us navigated security, waited out a delay, and finally snuggled into two seats in coach for the flight from SFO to JFK.

Babygirl is very busy.  She is busy wrapping her babies in blankets, and busy pushing the stroller, and busy packing her Hello Kitty purse and then shaking it out and then packing it again.  She is busy singing the ABC’s.  She is busy looking for her paci, losing it, crying, and finding it again.  She is busy waving “hello” to strangers, and busy repeating “hello!  hello!” until they smile and say “hello” back.

Being strapped to my chest in the steel tunnel of a Boeing 757 runs completely counter to Babygirl’s busy nature:  Um, Mommy, in case you haven’t caught on I have a lot of stuff to do and it’s kind of hard to move around in the Ergo.  But of course that sentiment is hard to articulate with a paci in one’s mouth, so after about 5 minutes she simply started screaming.

The flight was still boarding and very much oversold, and obviously the harried-looking woman in row 23 trying to soothe her screaming, 25-pound 22-month-old was the most popular person on the plane.  The window seat next to LittleMan (uncharacteristically silent in the thrall of the iPad) remained, for a long while, empty.  I crossed my fingers.

As it turned out, this was not a case of divine good fortune, but a case of denial on the part of the woman sneakily seated in the window seat in row 22.  Eventually, though, the truth caught up with her and she was forced to pull out her ticket stub and acknowledge that yes, in fact, she belonged with us in row 23.

All three of you are in these two seats?” she sneered, as I stepped into the aisle with my screaming bundle of Babygirl and entreated LittleMan to lift up his legs and let her pass.

“She’s a lap baby,” I muttered defensively as Babygirl pulled my hair.

“I’m sorry,” she continued condescendingly over LittleMan’s head as she took her seat.  “I mean, I feel for you right now.  But I have a headache and I cannot sit with these children.”  She pushed the call button for the attendant.

“Okay,” I replied.  I mean, what else does one say to that?  I nuzzled Babygirl’s hair.  Please take your damn paci and go to sleep.  It’s naptime somewhere.

After 10 minutes of last-minute flight preparations the window-seat woman became agitated.  She flagged down a passing attendant.  “I pushed the button 15 minutes ago,” she accused.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, we’ve been boarding a full flight.  I didn’t see it light up.”
“I’m going to need to speak to a supervisor.”
A whispered flight-attendant conference ensued in the aisle, as the window-seat woman demanded to be moved to another seat, of which there were none available.

Making every effort to ignore the uncomfortable shuffle we had incited, I pretended to be absorbed in LittleMan’s iPad for a few minutes, checked the snack situation in the seat pocket, continued to placate Babygirl while making as little noise as possible, and so on.  There is only so invisible one can make one’s self and one’s two children on an oversold airplane.  Finally there was another flurry of activity and tickets were exchanged over LittleMan’s head.  The window-seat woman gathered her things and we shifted to let her out.

A few minutes later, another woman stopped next to me.  “I’m going to be sitting in that seat,” she explained.  “We switched.”
“I’m sorry for…for our…,” I began mournfully.
“You have nothing to apologize for!” she said, and quickly settled into her seat next to LittleMan.

Babygirl gave up the fight and fell asleep during take-off.  Then she woke up, and ran up and down the aisle for the duration of the flight.  LittleMan did not take his eyes off the iPad.  The new window-seat woman closed her eyes and did not move.  Bless.

It was over 90 degrees in New York at 9pm as we stepped into the cab queue.  It had been seven years since my last trip to Manhattan, and as we crossed the bridge into the city, all sweaty with Babygirl drifting off to sleep again and LittleMan curled against me in the bumpy cab, I rolled down the window to let in the sticky city air, that familiar heavy smell of East Coast summers: of a July spent camping out in an NYU dorm in the West Village, of hitchhiking home from an East Hampton bowling alley over 4th of July weekend, of staying up all night after college graduation and walking back to a packed-up dorm room at dawn, the New Jersey air humid and still before the rain.

Leave a Comment