Flying the Friendly Skies with a Toddler
My son and I recently went on our first flight together, just the two of us. We flew from New York to Houston on a Saturday morning and returned just three days later. In the interest of discretion, I will refer to the carrier I chose as “Spewnited Snarelines.” For weeks before our flight, I called the airline and double checked that my two-and-a-half-year-old son wouldn’t need a car seat, since he was tall and met whatever vague weight requirement necessary to get him a big boy seat of his own. I was told I did not need to worry. Perhaps I dialed the wrong number.
Before takeoff, I asked the female flight attendant (henceforth to be called “Bonnie”) if my son’s seatbelt could be tightened. Her response, which drew curious stares from fellow passengers, startled me: “Ma’am, the reason that belt isn’t tight enough is because he’s too small. You need a car seat. You know, a CAR SEAT, like you’d have in your car?!” I knew if I grabbed her gullet, I’d probably get arrested, so I said nothing. Bonnie then told me it was safer for him to sit in my lap, so I fastened the lap belt around us.
As Bonnie left to darken someone else’s day, the male flight attendant (we’ll call him “Clyde”) soon appeared before me, saying: “Ma’am, you can’t use your seatbelt on yourself AND your son; that’ll CRUSH him!” Again, more stares from other passengers. He told me it was safer for my toddler to be in his own seat, so I placed my son next to me, again, with the lap belt loosely fastened over him.
My sphincter tightened in annoyance.
Soon, Bonnie was back like a cold sore, standing alongside Clyde. Upon seeing my son in his own seat again, she said in her special, sardonic tone that I should just hold him on my lap, sans seatbelt (in the event of turbulence, apparently my wet noodle arms were the safest option!). The duo then left me alone, presumably to harass an infant or disabled person.
As we taxied down the runway, the plane suddenly stopped. A piece of the plane had broken off while being towed. My head throbbed. I wished I’d had a morphine drip prior to boarding this Hell wagon.
My wallet was in the overhead compartment, so of course Bonnie and Clyde advised the passengers that they didn’t accept cash (which lined my pockets) for in-flight meals –only credit cards. Rifling through my bag was more trouble than it was worth, so I just didn’t eat on the flight. Well, that’s not entirely true: my son had picked all the marshmallows out of a small box of Lucky Charms, so I ate the remnants, using my hands to scoop the sticky cereal into my mouth while he slept, unbuckled, on my lap.
He soon needed a diaper change. I’m amazed I managed to accomplish this in that godforsaken bathroom (how could anyone have sex in there?!). As we left the latrine, Bonnie was now in the aisle, handing out frosty beverages, so we were unable to get back to our seats right away. My son hit the emergency slide buttons, shaving a few years off my life. Bonnie saw this and yelled, “He can’t touch that!” I responded, “Well, what do you EXPECT?!” At this, she became suddenly and fleetingly understanding.
“It must be hard traveling with a toddler,” she said.
In spite of this rough start to our trip, we had a blast in Houston. But soon it was time to come home, and we boarded our return flight to New York. I was so hungry I was shaking, but this time I’d thought ahead: I had my credit card handy! The flight attendant walked by and announced she had snacks – score! But aside from the large boxes of M+M’s littering the top of her cart like weeds, I couldn’t see anything else. I asked what else she had.
“I have what you see here,” she vomited. Luckily, she took pity on me and mentioned their selection of snack boxes.
“Okay, I’ll take one!”
“Ma’am, you have to consult page thirty of your Hemispheres magazine to see the menus for our three snack boxes.”
I grabbed the lame magazine and decided on the cheapest snack box there was — The Savory Snack Box — which, at $7.29, consisted of a mélange of nuts and dried fruit, a small chocolate – covered pretzel, and a granola bar. But she left before I had a chance to order it!
Just ignore the young mom passed out in the aisle!