The plane trip from San Francisco to Boston is a little more than five hours. For someone who has had nine back operations, five hours is way too long to be confined somewhere in which there’s no opportunity to lie down and stretch, use a wall to stretch or at least walk around.
It’s been said the most difficult things to deal with in life are those you can’t control. One that ranks near the top of the list is a crying baby on an airplane. The only person you feel worse for than yourself is the poor baby - who is hurting and has no idea what to do - or, possibly, the person holding the baby, who knows the child is making the plane trip miserable for most all the other passengers.
The plane we were taking was packed, so not only was every seat taken, but the overhead compartments were also completely full. This point didn’t bother me as we checked our luggage (at a cost of $50) and had only a small carry on and a purse. (Yeah, like my wife, I carry a purse which I don’t try to mask by calling it a “European carry bag” or any other such nonsense). The guy who was sitting a couple rows behind us did have a small suitcase. In fact he had several small suitcases because he had a family composed of a wife and three daughters (approximately 1, 3 and 6 years of age) and he wanted to put each in the overhead compartment. So much so that he would turn other people’s overhead luggage so that his would fit, even if it meant the other bags were sticking out. When he was at the overhead at the row in front of me, and tried to pull that rearranging stunt, the guy in front of me (who had witnessed the guy’s inconsiderate actions), jumped up and said, “No, no, no.”
The flight attendant finally came over and explained to the selfish man that all the bags had to fit and then found some overhead space several rows ahead for that bag. The rest, she explained, would have to be checked - at no cost. Following a sheepish “thank you,” the guy took his seat - across from his six-year old who was on the aisle, the mother holding the baby in the middle seat and the three-year old next to the window. Shortly after the plane took off, the “entertainment” began.
Undoubtedly, these people - who switched back and forth between English (I’m sure) and Italian (I think) - either attempted to break the Guinness record for volume by one family on an airplane or they each had some kind of hereditary hearing disorder. The baby crying was simply the opening act. It was followed by a dialogue between mother and daughter. The six-year old would literally scream to her mother. Not fear type screaming, nor talking over ancillary noise type screaming - merely story-telling, just at a sound level similar to what Seattle Seahawks’ fans experience during home games. While the mom would converse, she never as much as suggested to her daughter that she tone it down a few decibels.
When the eldest of the brood decided to take a break, the next sibling in line thought it would be neat to provoke her elder sis by touching her, throwing things at her - anything to annoy the loud mouth so she’d go into drama queen mode - except at levels only dogs could appreciate. The middle sister’s pipes were of identical strength. All the time, Mr. Your-luggage-is-in-my-way just sat in his seat, occasionally saying something across the aisle to his wife or one of his darling girls, in a foreign tongue, most likely to invoke sympathy from the passengers nearby, including other planes in the general vicinity.
Others on the plane were visibly upset, as one after another shot dirty looks or shook their heads, expressing their displeasure with the misbehavior of the kids as well as the lack of discipline from the parents. I was one of the former until I looked at my wife, Jane (who was sitting in the aisle seat across from me), with the look she’s seen a time or two during our 26-year marriage. Jane normally would have tried to talk me out of what was obviously going to be my next move but she, too, had been extremely uncomfortable.
Most people would have reached up and hit the call button for the flight attendant and, honestly, I was beyond shocked no one had. What was also incredible was that no flight attendant felt it necessary to approach the “volume” family. In any case, I didn’t feel the point would have gotten across in an effective enough manner so I decided to deliver the necessary reprimand myself.
“You have got to have the most inconsiderate family that’s ever flown!” (not including hijackers), I said to the father, figuring I would try the man-to-man approach. “Do you realize how loud your kids are?” as I glanced at the six-year-old who, after catching my eye, knew I was talking about her and that the message wasn’t of a congratulatory nature. “What are the acoustics like in your house? And what did I ever do to deserve five hours of this?” I said. Stress makes my back worse than it is normally, something several doctors have told me. My point having been made, I needed an exit line that would make an impact on him.
“If you can’t handle them now, do you realize what you’re in for in ten years?” While I got a few supportive looks, the ovation I received wasn’t as rousing as I’d thought it deserved. However, the results were exactly as I’d hoped. To show I had some compassion, when the baby started crying again a few minutes later, I didn’t as much as turn around. She soon stopped and everybody lived happily ever after.
My mother had a saying anytime one of us would reach for the last piece of pie, or spend an inordinate amount of time in the one and only bathroom our house had and it applies to this situation and many others in life. She’d just say:
“There are others, you know.”