The West Jet Airlines employee who checked me in on the flight that I took to Calgary yesterday somehow knew that I love children. I ended up sitting in an aisle seat next to a delightful nine- or ten-year-old boy, his mother and four-month-old sister; directly in front of me was a mother with her ten-month-old girl; across the aisle was another mother with another infant daughter; and one row up and across the aisle were a mom with her two-year-old and a baby who looked to be about eight months old. I didn't even mind so much that, at any given point throughout the entire flight, one or more of these babies was screaming at the top of her lungs. It's amazing how, after you live with a child and have some experience flying with a baby who screams for an entire flight, you simply begin to tune out that particular decibel. Thus, despite the constant pitch, the flight started with me in a state of high relaxation. I'd brought a book with me, and was thrilled to have some day-time hours to read a book. Unfortunately, not long after the flight took off, concentration became impossible.
It wasn't the anguished children who were disrupting me; that was merely white noise. It was the mom across the aisle who, while admittedly doing her best, was quite convinced that her baby would quiet if she 'stood' (note: I use that term loosely) in the aisle with her. Thus, from the time that the 'fasten your seatbelt' sign went off, to the moment that the flight attendant asked her to take her seat for landing, she was in the aisle with baby in sling, the mom's bottom pressed up against my shoulder (perhaps to reinforce her own stability, but maybe just because she knew she'd love me if she ever got to know me), bouncing the baby and me up and down while uttering the "shshshshshshshshshshshshshshsh" sound that every mother thinks will work to quiet her baby but never (ever) does. In fact, there was a chorus of "shshshsh" noises coming from all of the desperate mothers surrounding me - it's a universal language that the babies clearly didn't understand 'cause it wasn't working. At any rate, I don't know who this particular mom-in-the-aisle annoyed more with that sound and the bouncing: me or her baby. That little one and I had a lot in common in those two hours of mutual understanding. You know that cry babies have when they're just so mad that they can't keep the quaver out of their voices? Well, that was her. Mad as a hornet, tired as all get out, and in the grips of a mad woman young and energetic mother who was determined to put her very best effort into bouncing, shaking, torturing and rocking that baby to sleep. The baby was pressed against her mother's chest with a body rigid from exhausted outrage; her open mouth was conveniently at my ear level. Her tiny head was turned to stare at me as she screamed, and I felt like saying, "you go girl - I totally get it." Maybe she somehow heard my message, because her eyes talked right back at me, pleading with me to "please shut this crazy woman up and settle her down so that I can sleep;" I did try, I promise - I shouted to her mother that if she needed any help that I'd be happy to provide it. Apparently, she didn't require assistance. I might have benefited from some though.
Giving up on my attempts to read my book, I tucked it into the pouch of the seat-back in front of me. A couple of minutes later, I also gave up on relaxing, and wondered if a little game of peekaboo might help the wee one calm down a little. So I turned back towards her. Good thing my seatbelt was on, because I might otherwise have catapulted backwards when, to my shock, my smiling face was greeted by...an enormous breast (yes, boys, keep reading). There, two inches from my face, was a nipple. Apparently mama thought that her baby might be hungry...or maybe she'd heard my stomach growling a while back, I'm not sure. But there she was in full glory, shirt open and mostly squished down below the sling. You know how when you look at the moon in the distant sky it appears to be kinda small, but when you look at it hovering over a neighbourhood house or building it appears gigantic and crazily out of proportion to everything else? Well, Pamela Anderson, eat your heart out. Bless this mama for being so clearly comfortable about nursing in public, but given that baby wasn't so much interested in eating as she was in screaming, it just struck me as hilarious that this woman was standing naked in the middle of an airplane aisle. I haven't struggled with a fit of giggles like that for a long time. I tried, oh, I tried, but just when I thought I was gaining control of myself, I pictured her audience, captivated for ten rows behind and now ten rows in front, and I started to shake some more. I pictured where to put the five dollar tip - into the sling?? Into the baby's diaper? The harder I tried, the more my traumatized eyes engaged some new vision, each more silly than the last. It's a good thing that I'm built of inner fortitude because nary a stray giggle escaped me.
All of this happened in just a few short seconds. When I realized that I was still staring at that huge globe, it suddenly came to me that I must look away. But where to? I wondered. Obviously I couldn't look to the left anymore. But nor did it make sense to look to the front, when all that was in my line of sight was the seat back in front of me. Ah-ha... I turned to the right, to the boy beside me, deciding to build a conversation with him. Yes, that would work. So I shifted my body (dislodging mama in the process, I'm afraid) and looked towards the boy with a smile. The only problem was that he was looking over my shoulder, riveted unblinkingly towards the very sight that had caused me to turn towards him!
I sighed. Turned my head forward. Closed my eyes. And pretended to be sleeping for the rest of the trip.
After the longest two-hour flight in history, I was very, very happy to meet up with my girlfriends a short time later. Now this is the kind of girl time that I need!
* Thanks for the comments, guys! It was a funny couple of hours!