Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Flight risk

Kyle is 22 months old, which means he is still young enough to ride on a plane for free. Whether or not he should is a question we probably should have discussed when we bought plane tickets for last weekend's trip to Florida. Consider our choices: by purchasing a ticket for our son, we would be able to fly together as a family, without a stranger sitting next to us by the window. Kyle would not be forced to sit on Jennifer's lap or my lap, and he would be spared from having our seat belt buckles dig into his back. He would not be close enough to the seat in front of him to kick it, and the comfort of his own seat, combined with the soft purr of the jet engine, would likely quell him to sleep for most of the flight. On the other hand, by not purchasing a ticket for Kyle, we would save 250 bucks.

We chose to save 250 bucks.

As the millions of my avid readers know, this was not Kyle's first flight, but it seemed like it. The last time Kyle boarded a plane, George Bush was president and the stock market was dropping faster than a bird glued to a bucket of bowling balls. While many people would like to forget that period of time, Kyle actually did, so this whole plane thing was new to him.

I think the entire flight would have gone well for Kyle had it been as turbulent as the takeoff from JFK early Friday afternoon. The plane jerked. It rocked. It fell suddenly. I sweated profusely. Jennifer's life passed before her eyes. But Kyle laughed and smiled. Apparently he thought he was on a new ride, something like those crazy tea cups at the amusement park. Sadly for him, but much to our relief, the plane steadied as it hit cruising altitude. Our prayer time ended, and Kyle became bored.

First he wanted off our laps. Then he wanted back on. Then he wanted to be on the floor. Then he wanted all his books on the floor with him. Then there was no more room on the floor, so he wanted to be back on our laps. We had downloaded some children's videos on an old iPod Nano we own, and he seemed interested in that for a while. By "while," I mean five minutes. He then flung it away and wanted to be back on the floor.

We thought food might help pass the time. We fed him snacks he always enjoyed at home, including his favorite cookies. This worked for a while, but then, like he does at home, Kyle started flinging his food. Unfortunately, unlike home, Kyle did not have much room for tossing. The passenger next to us received a lap full of Cheerios, I received bits of sandwich, and Jennifer was socked in the face with a water bottle. When she regained consciousness, Kyle was kicking the seat in front of us so hard that the passenger there nearly swallowed his tray table.

Then came the landing. As we began our descent, Kyle decided he was not interested in a lollipop or even the straw cup he drank during takeoff. We desperately tried to give them to him, since sucking on them was the only way for him to pop his ears and avoid the -

We were too late. Kyle felt pain from the air pressure.


Our child screamed. His face turned purple as his lips quivered. We tried desperately to make him stop, practically forcing a lollipop or the straw cup into his mouth. He kept pushing them away. People were turning around, and we realized we had become that family: the one that wakes everyone up with the screaming child. The one business travelers complain about at the staff meetings. The one that makes people swear to never get on a plane again. The one that helps control the population by convincing young couples that they'd rather have a dog.

"WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!" screamed our child, ramming his head into my chest as I tried to rock him back and forth. A flight attendant stopped by. I feared she was going to give us a few parachutes and tell us we'd have to leave.

"Have you given him a lollipop?" she asked. When I told her we had, she walked away. She was very helpful. Later another attendant came by and asked us the same thing. Apparently no other kid has ever refused a lollipop before.

Thankfully, we soon were on the ground, and Kyle's crying stopped. His sense of humor came back, and he laughed as he waited with us at the car rental pick-up spot. For the rest of our time there, Kyle was a joyful kid, entertaining all the guests at his great-grandmother's 90th birthday party (which was the reason why we flew down). We had a great time, too... so much so that we had even forgotten the unpleasant fact that we had another flight to take to get home.

That happened yesterday. I won't get into as many details about that trip, only to say that it was very similar to the trip down, though this time he did spare our sanity a bit by taking a brief nap. I'm just glad we made it back alive, and with our eardrums in tact.

We will be driving for our next trip. I think might wait a good number of months before we fly again. The break will be good for Kyle, good for us, and good for humanity in general.

And you can be sure that next time we will buy Kyle his own seat.

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