I'm flying with my toddler... again. This is her ninth round trip on a plane. Six of them have been with me wrangling her solo. Like a true act of insanity, I keep doing the same thing expecting to get a different result. No matter what, it still ends in blood, sweat and tears.
I remember when flying used to be manageable and cooperative. Sure, TSA would do a body search because I had an underwire in my bra, and my bag would end up in Beijing while I was at the carousel in Seattle, but these were "simple hiccups" in my travel compared to the hurdles of my four-hour flights with the banshee.
I envy those who travel without children. Sometimes I dream of spitting in Barbie's face when I overhear her complain at the food court that she can't get to her boyfriend's pad on time because her flight is 15 minutes late.
I wish I had the simple luxuries I no longer possess: having two hands all to myself, a small weekend bag on my shoulder and if I'm stranded at a terminal, having a bar nearby where everybody knows my name.
Now I am a new kind of beast when you see me travel. You can identify me, maybe even smell me, a mile away. I carry a bag that's big enough to hide a small horse filled with toys, snacks, emergency clothing and enough diapers to last a week. If we are ever stranded on an island, you will surely survive in my tribe.
I push a car seat that is bungee-corded to the stroller and yet, there's no child sitting in it. No, she does not sit. She is sprinting in whatever direction the toddler in her desires to spring; climbing the opposite direction of the escalator, breaking "I heart NY" mugs, banging on terminal windows trying to get the planes' attention (it never works). Additionally, the road runner is covered in dried vomit. This was her third shirt ruined within the first two hours and we haven't even boarded the plane.
When the cheerful flight attendant goes on the speaker, I am praying that he is going to let parents with small children board first. Airlines claim they do this, but it all hinges upon whether Jimmy happens to remember or not. He surely has to make note that the Star Alliance and First Class people get boarded first. After all, they need assistance hanging their coats and getting a drink at their large, cushioned seats. Lucky bastards.
Finally, we are boarding. I am trying to keep a hand on my child, fold the stroller and make sure the car seat is labeled, identified and generally has more paperwork than someone going through immigration. When we get to our seat, I am trying my best to lay out all the goods: Food, toys, booze.
I can feel everyone watch me. I know some are dreading sitting near a small child, others are remembering what this was like and are happy they are no longer the poor sap I am at this moment. Someone next to me asks the flight attendant if they can switch seats away from me. Lucky bastard. Why didn't I think of that? The person sitting with me either loves loves loves kids or is the clone of Miss Hannigan.
Hannigan is giving me the stink eye. How dare I take my child in public? Why don't I leave my child in a kennel when I fly?
My child is finally exhausted. Thank god. She has to cry for a good 15 minuets to let me know that this William Wallace isn't going down without a fight. A passenger says, "It's her ears. You need to give her gum." It's not her ears. Not this time. And I'll punch you in the throat if you bring up candy in the presence of my sugar-craving child.
Finally, she is out like a light and I have to pee, but I can't because I'd rather wet myself than wake up the child again.
Suddenly, the seat in front of me drops onto my child's head. The passenger sitting in front me decides even though he isn't sleeping, he is going to take whatever legal space he can get in economy. My injured child wails from the pain of the seat pushed on her head while my bladder lets loose from the pressure of her cranium in my pelvis.
I'm livid, but I know screaming at this guy isn't going to help. So I simply comfort my child and let Miss Hannigan go after him. It isn't so bad having her fight for my child's loss of brain cells all in the name of having a quiet flight vs. his leg space. I buy her an overpriced rum and coke for making a grown man cry. We're best friends now.
Finally, the plane is starting to descend. This is the longest 30 minutes of my life. My child is suddenly aware that we are going to leave soon, but has no concept of time. I throw any Hail Mary moves I can think of -- Goldfish, juice, Frozen, her teddy bear -- heck, a million dollars if she knew what it meant. She will not back down, though. Instead, she decides to go for a double hitter: She throws up AND shits herself.
The moment the seat belt signs are off, I know everyone is thinking, "How the hell can I get off the plane any quicker?" My thoughts are the same. But as we all know, no one ever leaves a plane quickly. Cattle going unwillingly to the slaughter house move quicker than passengers off a plane.
When I finally make it out of the hell on wings, I smell of piss, feces, vomit and rum. I say to myself, "I will never fly with a f*cking toddler ever again."
Two months later, I'm told my Aunt Myrtle is dying and wants to say goodbye 3,000 miles away from my home. Guess I'm buying a round trip ticket to hell and back with a "lapped infant" again.
It'll be better this time, right?