This post is an addendum to my previous entry. In my last blog, I talked about how I was all soothed and what-will-be-will-be and yadda yadda when I’m hanging out in airports. My return flight from California is a long one – I’ll be boarding, waiting, flying, de-boarding or waiting again for almost 15 hours. And typically I’m totally zen with that. But today I am reminded of the one travel factor that would rip even a meditating monk from his realm of inner calm. The screaming baby.
*Please let me preface this reflection by stating that I am in no way dissing the parents who bring screaming babies on board. I’m simply expressing my emotional angst; I understand that you are doing what you need to do, and that you are suffering just as much as the rest of us. For the sake of stating the obvious, I hold you accountable for nothing more than bringing this child into the world and onto the flight, but don’t begrudge you for the pain your child or your fellow passengers are suffering. Do what you gotta do.
It’s funny because the baby about whom I (along with 108 other passengers) was incredibly wary was inconsolable during the boarding process. We all stood huddled around the gate eyeing the tiny person with the massive lungs and thinking the exact same thought – please don’t let them be on my flight. I passed mother and baby in the front row as I made my way to my own seat, managing to plaster myself against the back of the plane and (fingers-crossed) out of earshot of the baby. But the universe has a sick and twisted sense of humor. Like a bad Jackie Chan movie*, baby number two appeared two rows ahead, trapping me in the corner. (*Like the bad guys in Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, the baby popped out of the darkness (or in this case, 37A), leaving me cornered, panting and with jumping as the only viable option for finding sanity and peace.) Baby number one has not made a peep (at least one that I can hear), while baby number two has been shrieking since I stowed my luggage in the overhead compartment, which may have shifted during flight.
After about ten minutes, we began to prepare for takeoff and taxi down the runway. All too optimistically I hoped that the airplane roar and road noise would a) lull the child or b) drown him out. For a moment, it worked. At that point I silently prayed that we wouldn’t take off at all, but instead just keep doing laps around the runway at high speeds. We’re connecting through Chicago and O’Hare sucks this time of year anyway. But take off we did, and the thunderous bellow of the jets continued as we climbed above the city. I was temporarily distracted by the rusty desert mountains jutting out of the expansive cityscape. WWAAAAAAAAAAH. Oh. Right. The baby was now interspersing the most bizarre wails into his falsetto discourse. There was the “reeeeeer”’ of a Halloween cat with its tail stuck in a door and then a most peculiar shrill and panicked gurgling noise, just what I imagine it would sound like if a sorority girl accidentally swallowed a lizard.
As the knot in my stomach tightened and I could sense even my earlobes becoming tense at the incessant cries, my heart went out to the mother. I mean, clearly his cries were heart-wrenching and no syren’s song for her either; and she seemed quite uncomfortable sitting with the knowledge that in a tribal council decision of who would be voted off the plane first, there would be no discussion.
Then. Suddenly, it stopped. My stomach loosened (much to my neighbor’s chagrin), and my earlobes relaxed. The calmness reminded me of coming home from China, where toilets on the trains are holes in the floor and you have to squat and aim. Returning home, I marveled at the shiny marble sinks in restaurant restrooms, the advanced technology of the automatic flush, and the freakishly sanitary shiny toilet seats. But then, after about a week, the novelties wore off and one crapper was the same as the next. I know I sound like a cheesy movie or a Mitch Albom book, but you really don’t realize what you have until it’s gone. And thus, the amazing, fabulous, rich silence was taken for granted after just a few moments of peace. I stared out the window. I started to read my book. I closed my eyes and went on with the flight.
And now, with this poor child quite vocally distraught once again, I write this reflection to the best of my abilities, with sweaty palms, shaky fingers and the fat fringes of my nervous system rapidly detwizzling themselves. I’m sure there’s a lesson the universe is trying to teach me here – finding peace within while chaos pursues without or some bullshit, but I might have to lock myself in the lavatory and rock myself slowly back into my senses to unearth it.