Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Plane Ride Home

One thing I haven't posted anything about was our flight home from Ethiopia.  Needless to say, it was a long haul, comprised of four legs: Amman; London; Toronto; and then home.  Surprisingly (because I've been dreading that flight with kids since our flight to ET in February), it went really quite well.  Matthew's always a great traveler, and the two younger kids were so amazed by absolutely everything that they were seeing around them that they were fairly easy to manage.  It was extremely helpful, too, that my Dad was traveling with us, and that Seth A. loved being with him (they spent a good chunk of our air time together, with Seth A. flopped on top of Grandpa's stomach...they were adorable together).  They were surprisingly good-natured and easy to entertain.  It was about a zillion times better than I thought it would be.

We had one horrible incident, but it was not Lizzie S.'s fault in any way.  I just have to tell you about it, because I was so amazed by the rudeness of the man involved.

At one point during our flight from Amman to London Heathrow, Lizzie indicated that she had to use the bathroom.  She's great at letting us know, though not the greatest at giving us a lot of notice.  By the time she and I made it to the bathroom, she was looking a little anxious.  Sadly, the bathroom was occupied, and there was a man in line in front of us.  He looked at us and commented on how cute Lizzie S. was.  By this point, she was holding her crotch and saying "kaka kaka" (poop) pretty forcefully, and I was trying to reassure her that it wouldn't be long.  I was sort of hoping that the man waiting in line would offer us his place, given her obvious distress and the tears that were rolling dow her face.  When he didn't say anything, I commented: "hang in there, sweetie. I know it's hard. Maybe this kind man in front of us will let us use the toilet before him.  Hold on for a second."  He didn't pick up on it, though he kept looking at us and smiling.  So I repeated my not-so-subtle comment, hoping again that he'd be magnanimous.  He wasn't.  When the guy in the toilet stall finally came out, I looked at the waiting stranger, thinking please, please, please, and sending him puppy-dog eyes and eyebrows raised in a question mark.  But when he opened his mouth, it was to say:  "don't worry; I'll be quick."  I was shocked.  Come on, I thought; you've got to be kidding me.  Nope, he wasn't letting us in first, even though Lizzie S. was crying loudly now and holding herself in the front and the back, trying to keep her pants clean.

Not only that, but the man was in that bathroom for a full five minutes!!  I was utterly shocked.  Five minutes!  There was a small wall clock right there in front of me in the flight attendant's kitchen area.

When he finally emerged, he said nothing to us - just smiled and moved past a screaming Lizzie and went to his seat.  We moved into the bathroom and I pulled down Lizzie's pants: they were completely and utterly full of soft poop.  It was all the way down her legs.

It took me over twenty minutes to clean her up, my butt attractively hanging out of the open bathroom door while she screamed and screamed and screamed.  After I'd mostly cleaned her up, I curtly asked the hovering flight attendant to go and find Geoff, who was then able to go and get some clean clothes for her.  I was shaking with the horribleness and indignation of it all, and I wanted to find that man and offer him Lizzie's poopy clothing (well, to be perfectly honest, I felt like finding him and shoving the poopy clothing into his face, but that would be too rude to say out loud).

To this moment, I am shocked by the lack of consideration he showed.  Was he technically in the right by being ahead of us in line?  Of course he was.  But who does that, when seeing a highly stressed little girl??  I just don't get that.

At any rate, that is a memory that will linger long.  But then so, too, will the sight of Seth A. sitting on my Dad's lap, pointing out other planes on the tarmack at the Amman airport with a sense of wonder that one doesn't often see in a five-year-old child.  Also lingering is the memory of how Lizzie S. felt curled up below my chin, sleeping, as we flew high above the Atlantic on route home.  And of course, what will linger the longest about that long flight is the ending of it: when we walked through the doors of our airport and saw our family and friends waiting for us, cheering us on...ahh, yes, that is the memory that will stay forever.


  1. I wish I could say that your story surprised me, but sadly, we have racked up our share of airplane stories filled with the rudeness and downright selfishness of strangers when traveling with the kids. I'm so sorry that happened. Poor Lizzie.

  2. Our plane adventures were full of horribleness too- one man actually cut in front of crying Meski and me and pushed us out of the way when it was finally her turn and spent a LONG time in there! Thankfully a very vocal woman tore him to pieces when we finally got in the "room" to also clean up a runny poop mess.... Oh I could go on about what they told us to do with our screaming daughter and the comments and questions and all. I'm so happy that your kids traveled well- I can still hear M scream and feel the pain of my body from holding her the whole time- even while I was trying to squat over the pee covered plane toilet.... The things we learn to do (or at least attempt!)