...while sitting near a screaming toddler. Who hasn't been there, either as a parent to the child, or as a passenger sitting near one of the little anklebiters? I've been both. It's a toss up which is worse.
I remember one memorable trip to London with my husband. The plane was delayed by several hours, with various excuses made over the loudspeaker by the gate crew - "mechanical difficulties" was the first, "awaiting a part from Toronto" was the second, "wrong part sent" was the third, "awaiting another part" was the fourth...
Sitting nearby in the airport lounge was one particularly virulent, screaming child in a stroller. He repeatedly smeared thick snot caterpillars across his cheeks with his chubby fists as his exasperated mother tried to wrestle him under control. He'd fling himself backwards, his back rigid in indignation until a coughing jag released his spine like a switch, then he'd gag and sputter and gather enough energy to start up again. Please God, do not let him sit anywhere near me, please, please, please, became my mantra that night. This was not fair, I argued. I have been there, done that, chugged the gin to erase the memory. And while I feel sorry for his mother, we left our own kids at home and this was supposed to be a romantic vacation.
Well, it seems God doesn't like to be bothered by such mundane and clearly selfish requests when He has bigger and better things on his mind like famine and floods and pestilence, so he punished me in biblical proportions by not only putting that kid near me when we boarded the plane at midnight (after a seven hour wait in the lounge) but directly behind me. The little hellion further enhanced my torture by punctuating his screams with angry kicks to my chair. We hadn't even left the ground, and there was a whole ocean to cross.
We sat on the tarmac for hours until 4 a.m. when we were asked to leave the airplane due to "more mechanical problems." I would have gladly leapt from the airplane in a swan dive over the runway at that point.
So when faced with an eleven hour flight to Hawaii a while back, I reckoned I needed a backup plan. My sister asked me why I wasn't using Bose noise-cancelling headphones. I'd actually bought a pair for my husband years ago, but had never tried them myself. You gotta get the Bose, she insisted. With the cries of that toddler still ringing in my ears, I splurged and bought myself a pair.
Oh, baby. Oh baby, baby, baby cry your heart out, 'cause mama don't care. When Bose says "noise-cancelling" they ain't kidding. There actually was a screaming baby on board but as soon as I slapped those puppies on my ears, I was literally in my own head space.
If you have a long trip ahead of you, beg, borrow or steal a pair. Seriously. I am not getting any kind of kickback for endorsing Bose products, but I believe.
And if you want to read an absolutely hilarious account which triggered my memories, go to "How to Survive a Mid-Air Disaster" by Johanna Stein. She's a self-described "first time parent and long-time neurotic" who says in her bio "I was born in Winnipeg, Canada, to a pair of American hippie intellectuals who have smoked 73 varieties of marijuana combined. As a result I am a dual citizen who is pathologically easygoing." This essay on flying with her child, which also appeared in the New York Times Magazine last weekend, just slayed me.
And if you want a pair of Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones (le sigh) and you live in Canada, go here and check them out. I know they're expensive, but I'd rather have a pair of those than a big sparkly ring. Honest. (Unless I can use that ring to carve out a hole for an escape route next time I find myself sitting in front of a toddler in full meltdown mode.)