Monday, 7 July 2008

Flight plan


It's been far too long since I last had to sit with a one year old on a plane. Far too long. If only I had dredged those smoldering brain cells through the smog of potty training and Getting Rid of the Dummy, I may have grasped a scant wisp of the time we took Isla abroad aged one-and-a-bit, and warned myself firmly off it (I love it when I'm firm with myself). But no, that's the trick of children you see, they tire you out so completely and supply such an endless stream of inane but urgent questions to be answered that the really important stuff lies dormant. So like lambs to the slaughter, or idiots to the £39 both ways website (what they forgot to mention was that they meant £39 cubed), we convinced ourselves of Jack's cherubic nature under stress and opted for two and a half hours with a one year old and a four year old stuck inside a metal tube. Ah relaxation here we come.
We were the only people with children on the plane. Do you hear me at the back? The only people with children on the plane. And we walked on last. Late. And Jack needed his nappy changing. It was a sober moment. Even the plane seemed to sigh its displeasure and sank ever deeper into the tarmac, as if it wanted to tuck its cockpit under its wing and just sleep the ordeal away. The ordeal of children in an enclosed space. An enclosed space where they absolutely have to be tied to a seat for a significant proportion of the time. It was the law in fact, there was no choice about the tying to the seat thing, and the less choice there is is directly proportional to the level of protest that will be made. Guaranteed (apparently Einstein had a really good theory about it and even produced an equation, but everybody was so caught up in the theory of relativity thingy it sort of got lost).
We entered the plane employing the First Rule Of Entering A Plane With Children: make absolutely no eye contact whatsoever with anybody. Do not look up, do not pass go/collect 200. Unless in a brief second you glimpse another parent when you are entitled to catch a glance, nod ruefully at each other and then sort of smile in a we're in it together kind of way. Of course you aren't and you're secretly hoping that their child is a little monster and drowns out any noise your angel makes cooing happily at the sick bag. In fact you even attempt an quick administer of a smarty to their child as you pass, hoping the sugar will create the desired effect.
The second rule is never ever to apologise as you go, thus pointing out to all that you are aware that you are bringing several unwanted passengers into the metal tube. Passengers who kick seats/make a mess/crawl in the aisle/pull hair/insist on using (and blocking) the toilet every ten minutes. Yup, that was us, the lepers, heading to our seats, daring to attempt a holiday.
Doom descended along the aisles, the stewardess swapped the little basket of boiled sweets that she was handing round with a little basket of Prozac, using a sleight of hand that Paul Daniels would be proud of (maybe even a little jealous of; she was a lot better looking than him and had all her own hair, but I doubt she had a wife called Debbie so he could probably use that to cheer himself up). The pilot came through from the cockpit to personally speed up the handing round of alcohol as we walked, the funeral march playing resoundingly in everybody's heads.
As we got closer the Zone of Despair thickened, reaching crescendo level around rows 13-15ABCDEF, everybody eyed the empty 14ABC with suspicion and contempt. Our seats. No one looked up as we sat down, instead the the instructions on the sick bags became crucial and compelling reading (something that never seems to be achieved with the inflight magazine, despite the recent craze for including porn). As we sat, a man in front gave a disapproving sniff and turned away in disgust. We placed Isla in the seat directly behind him and forgot to mention the no-seat-kicking rule.
We rustled and bustled, found bags and colouring books, and then at last we had it. We could look up now, even attempt a grin. The members of The Zone of Despair looked around. An audible sigh reverberated around, smiles of approval, shuffles as people made themselves comfortable and cracked open broadsheets, crikey I even detected a ruffle of high fives. There was something you see, that I had brought out of the smouldering remains of my brain cells, this was no ordinary mummy-on-a-plane. I had bought chocolate.

17 comments:

Tara@From Dawn Till Rusk said...

Know exactly where you're coming from! We once had a Tantrum Free trip on an aeroplane to Italy. Then they left us on the tarmac for 2 hours. Don't think they'll be doing that again in a hurry when there is a bored 3-year-old on the plane who has just about reached his limit of keeping it together.

Jolly Good Yarn Girl said...

So so so funny and even funnier if we weren't about to do the same thing !! JGYG xx

Millennium Housewife said...

Tara, tell us how you did it! Even better, write a book and make your fortune! MH

Yarny, best of luck, best contact Tara above to get some tips. MH

A Confused Take That Fan said...

MH - you are a star. I took chocolate buttons but they ran out before we'd even taken off.

http://reluctantmemsahib.wordpress.com said...

oooooooooooh i do know that ''only people on the plane with kids'' feeling ... i flew home to tanzania with my youngest hat a babe in arms, my travelling companions were my older two, aged five and three. i could feel every single of the 300 odd passengers eyes on me as we boarded first (since i held entire flight's children in my hands) whilst willing themselves to be sitting as far away from me as possible. on the wing even. anything. so long as nowhere near the prolific breeder and her brood ...

Janelle said...

thanks for succint instructions MM!! fab! will give it a twirl and no doubt successfully....madly rushing out now though - to buy firewood...keep the polar bears away...x bisous x j

blogthatmama said...

Visiting via another blog, shuddering at the memory of a 12 hour flight from Johannesburg to Heathrow with 5 year old, 6 buns with pink icing on and projectile vomiting for the last 3 hours. Really enjoyed the blog, very entertaining!

Working mum said...

You are so brave. I haven't taken 4 year old daughter on a plane yet; I will take your advice on board.

May I also say that I have travelled around the world on plane voyages ranging from 45 mins to 20 hours and I ALWAYS HAD THE SEAT-KICKING CHILD BEHIND ME!! It became a standing joke between me and my husband. Really, how difficult is it to say "Don't kick the seat?" or am I being naive?

GoneBackSouth said...

Oh MH, I know so well how that routine goes. When the kids were little we travelled to the US a lot, and it was usually torture. The worst age is when they've outgrown the travel cot but aren't big enough to sit still for more than 5 seconds. SIGH. It's really exhausting. Mine are a bit older now though (6+8) so it's got a bit less hideous.

Millennium Housewife said...

Ah, Take That, obviously a rookie, the answer is to buy the entire sweet section at Cadbury World... MH

Memsahib, the prolific breeder line was LOL, you're right, that's exactly how they look at you! MH

BTM, pink icing, might try that one - great for eating behind the person complaining. MH

WM, no it's not that hard, not if you're a Zero Tolerance Mamma, if all fails, tie their legs up with the oxygen mask.. MH

GBS, yup, that's the age of my youngest, he's the reason we're discussing the Snip... MH

Ernest de Cugnac said...

MH - Wonderfully described and very funny. I have felt it as a parent, and you have me to a T in how-dare-you-bring-that-infant-onto-the-plane mode. God, what a hypocrite I am.

On another matter: have a look at my comment in response to your comment on this post. It explains about copy and paste which you may not know about; at least it looks that way from your comment. Sorry if I got that wrong.

Frog in the Field said...

Daughter number 1 flew to OZ and back without a whimper or complaint aged 11 months....absolutely true.

Daughter number 2 flew to the US and back slept the whole time, smiled when she woke up, slept all the way home in the car, slept all night when she got home aged 18 months...bliss

Daughter number three screamed all the way to Bermuda and back. People were saying 'shut up!' quite loudly within hours and asking the stewerdess where the ejector button was, aged 2.

Last summer we went to Egyot, they were all perfect...of course!

Frog in the Field said...

I didn't go to Egyot, at all it was Egypt, sorry.

Bush Mummy said...

Why don't they have air nannies?

Surely this is license to print money for someone?

Hmmm

BM x

Millennium Housewife said...

EDC, yup you are officially a hypocrite, but one I plan to emulate as soon as the kids leave home MH

Froggy, Egyot sounds much more exotic and I'm afraid your nose is growing about all the tantrum free long hauls?! MH

BM, I believe they do on Air Emirates and Virgin, but only in first class which we will only ever reach the giddy heights of if it's just me and Husband traveling and we agree to share seats and not eat...MH

Frog in the Field said...

It's absolutely true!

Carolyn said...

This post just kicked up my flight anxieties by about ten notches. I'm so worried about our impending 50-million-hour flight to Hungary with our three-year-old that I'm contimplating self-medication. Breathe Carolyn, breathe!!

Oh, and who was the chocolate for? Isla or the passengers around you. Bribery words on so many different levels doesn't it...