Saturday, June 27, 2009

I did It Long Before the Man in Walmart—And Once was Enough

I have received some requests to post some of my old blog pieces... You all know that I am nothing if not accommodating so here, I offer you by special request, one of my experiences in dealing with ill-behaved children.

Several years ago, I believe in 1999, my family had a reunion in the Poconos or Catskills - somewhere like that. Naturally, since I live in Phoenix, I had to fly back East and then fly to return to Arizona. My adventure took place on the return flight from Newark Airport to Sky Harbor.

It was an early afternoon flight in August, needless to say it was hot and muggy outside. As I boarded the aircraft, I cringed at the sight of a very full flight and the realization that I was booked in a middle seat, rather than an aisle or window. I need to clarify here and paint the picture for those who do not know me well; I do not tolerate ill-mannered and/or ill-behaved children very well. I was raised with discipline, rules and standards and there were consequences for acting out of sorts. But that is another topic altogether which I will happily cover for you in the not too distant future.

Due to my absolute loathing of this type of children, I always attempt to mitigate my interaction with them. When dining out with friends, I always request to be seated in the non-smoking, non-screaming children section. I do not frequent places like Fuddruckers, McDonald's or Wal-Mart and I always request to be seated in the emergency exit row on an airplane as it is illegal for anyone under eighteen years of age to be seated there beside me.

So there I was, being thankful for the yoga classes I had taken as I folded and contorted my body into the middle seat of the emergency exit row. I was already hot and very tired and I tend to be a nervous flier, so I was looking quite forward to the arrival of the magical, mystical, wonderful, awe-inspiring beverage cart so I could enjoy a cocktail and wake up refreshed and slightly hung over in Phoenix a few hours later. As the boarding process continued, the plane began to fill and I noticed that two seats in the row directly behind me were empty and I plotted my coup which would secure my claim to an unobstructed armrest and a little more room to breathe. As they announced that they were closing the doors I began to salivate and sing a song of celebration in my head as I envisioned myself sitting in a window seat with my magazines and my CD player carelessly strewn about the seat next to me.

All of sudden, a piercing squeal followed by a loud "No, no, Ashley" jarred me back into reality as a mousy looking woman dragged a three or four year old mini-troll down the aisle and plopped right down in the row behind me. As she lifted "Ashley" up and placed her into the middle seat, I felt a pair of cement encased children's shoes kicking at the back of my chair. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and anticipated the taste of coconut rum on my tongue as my beloved cocktail cart would be coming to rescue me soon. We just needed to become airborne and then all would be right in the world, or at least the plane again. I must have been having an incredibly vivid fantasy as I was feeling more flushed and warm by the moment.

A syrupy sweet, chirpy voice with a noticeable drawl snapped me back to reality as it made an announcement over the cabin speakers. "Ladies and gentlemen… We have finished the boarding process and we have closed and locked the doors in preparation for departure…. We are experiencing a slight delay. We have a slight problem with the cooling and ventilation system we are currently working on and we will be leaving just as soon as we can. Please remain seated, sit back and relax and we will be on our way to Phoenix as soon as possible." So at least there was a reason for my feeling warm and flushed. I scoffed at the idea of "sitting back and relaxing" in a seat the size of a toddler stroller. I could deal with the heat for a few minutes, but how long would this issue delay the arrival of my beloved cocktail cart?

As we waited on the runway, the heat grew more and more unbearable, not to mention the annoyingly loud musings of the four-year-old writhing in the seat behind me. As her mother nonchalantly muttered to her about using her indoor voice, Ashley sang every song she knew at full blast while kicking the back of my seat. I cleared my throat rather loudly and turned halfway around to glare at the little troglodyte with disdain. She stopped for a moment and I felt vindicated and turned around to peruse a magazine. Not two minutes later, she resumed singing and kicking and I became annoyed. I continued reading, trying desperately to ignore her.

When I reached the end of the first magazine, I realized two key things. First that this was not just a short delay as it was going on an hour and second that Ashley's mother must have fed her nothing but sugar and espresso as she was still singing and kicking at miraculous decibel levels. Other people were looking at Ashley, then shaking their heads as they looked at her mother. I was relieved that I was not the only person who was annoyed by the noise and the kicking so I decided it was time for action.

I affixed a saccharine smile to my face before turning around to address Ashley and her mother. I spoke: "How are you today, Ashley? Did you bring any coloring books or puzzles with you for the plane ride?" Her mother looked up momentarily and I explained that I had a headache and would appreciate a more quiet activity for Ashley which might also keep her from kicking my chair (a dose of NyQuil should produce the desired effect). Her mother blushed a bit and apologized for Ashley's behavior. She explained that she had not noticed because she was enrapt by a new book she was reading. I expanded the saccharine smile to reveal at least two more teeth before turning back around in my chair.

Ashley was quiet for about thirty seconds before she began scribbling violently and singing at an even louder volume. I waited to see if her mother might notice this time, and only turned around again after five full minutes had passed. The mother felt me glaring again, and when she looked up she must have noticed the gentleman next to me had joined me. It was tag-team tandem glaring and we made quite a team. The mother lowered her eyes for a moment and then asked Ashley to "tone it down a bit" and then returned to her book. My neighbor and I smiled as we turned around in our seats to enjoy the sweet, quiet fruits of our glaring. This cycle repeated a few more times, us turning around and glaring, onlookers shaking their heads in pity and the mother occasionally asking her child to settle down.

By now, more than two hours had passed and I was hot and sticky. I had nothing more to read as I had planned on enjoying a rum induced slumber so I had only brought two magazines. I was trying to breathe through my mouth as I could now smell the scent of sweat, bad perfume and vitamins from the elderly woman on my right, and I was still being kicked by the little ball of sunshine and annoyance behind me. As the flight attendant passed by, I asked her if it would be much longer and if so, could they offer a beverage service. She offered a very tense smile as she apologized and assured us all that we would be departing shortly. She repeated herself several times as she couldn't hear her own words over the earsplitting song stylings of Ashley who was appearing constantly in row 12, seat B. Before leaving our area, the flight attendant crouched down next to Ashley's mother and explained that she was receiving complaints from several passengers regarding the noise and annoyance Ashley was creating. The mother's face reddened again as she apologized and assured the flight attendant she would take care of it directly. I began to smirk as I watched, wondering if she would simply use a stern tone with little Ashley or actually go so far as to get right in her face and quote some consequences. The mother turned to Ashley and sweetly said "Ashley… Sugar Plum… are you being a good girl?" to which there was no reply outside of the current song the child was mangling and the beat she was keeping by kicking my chair. I was confused and felt dejected as this scene repeated every few minutes. I was now feeling nauseous from the heat and the smell of the woman next to me so I really needed to go to sleep to avoid actually vomiting.

I looked at the man to my left, my neighbor who was also annoyed and his eyes seemed to plead "Help me, make it stop!" I resolved at that moment that I was going to calmly explain to the mother that she needed to do something to control her progeny. As I turned around, I knelt on my chair so that I could make eye contact with the mother. I realized that I would need to speak slowly and maintain eye contact until she understood and took action. As I opened my mouth to speak, Ashley stood up on her chair and with her sweet little fist hit me squarely atop my pretty little head. Before I had time to be stunned or angry or perhaps in some alternate universe find it amusing, my hand began to function with a will of its own and slapped the little urchin directly in the mouth. I was stunned; not by the fact that I hit this woman's child, but by the fact that the child was finally quiet.

Ashley's mother all of a sudden became aware of her child and stood up and screamed at me "How dare you?!?!" as people around us looked on in disbelief. Without thinking I stood erect, towering over Ashley's mother and ranted "No, HOW DARE YOU? Your child has been an annoyance since the moment you boarded this aircraft. She was probably annoying the people wherever you were prior to being here. HOW DARE YOU sit there as though you don't know that she is being loud and kicking my seat. HOW DARE YOU expect the rest of us to tolerate her behavior just because you are either too lazy or too inept to discipline your child. Children want and need boundaries and consequences. You should've smacked her a long time ago, she hasn't made a peep since!!" We all glanced at Ashley as she simply sat in her seat, quietly playing with her hands. The mother said nothing further and as I turned to be seated, the passengers in the rows immediately surrounding us began to clap. I popped my head up as I wasn't sure why they were clapping and people actually stood up and applauded and whistled and thanked me for taking care of the problem. As I sat down again, the gentlemen to my left nudged me with his elbow. He offered my exclusive use of the armrest and said "when the cart comes around, I am buying you a drink". I was a very happy woman as I really needed that drink.

Eventually, the ventilation was repaired and the plane ascended. We achieved our cruising altitude and the most joyous announcement floated through the cabin; the announcement of the arrival of my beloved cocktail cart. As the weary flight attendant stirred my cocktail, the gentleman requested a cocktail of his own and explained that he would be paying for mine as well. The flight attendant refused his money, smiled and said "your drinks are on me" and winked as she patted my shoulder and then mixed his cocktail. We smiled and felt warm and fuzzy; Ashley had still not made a sound and we now had cocktails in hand. We clinked our glasses in a toast to discipline and began sipping our hard earned yet well deserved freebies.

After a few more free cocktails, I drifted off into a pleasant sleep. I was awakened by the sound of a child screaming and startled into consciousness. I glanced behind me to find Ashley soundly sleeping and looking nothing short of angelic. I looked past her to see a little boy squeezing out of his row and running up the aisle. A man from his row, presumably the boy's father, stood up quickly and bellowed: "If you don't get back here right now and sit down and behave yourself…. I am going to make you sit up there with the mean lady!!!!!" The boy stopped in his tracks and began to sob softly as his eyes caught mine. I furrowed my brow, squinted my eyes and glared sternly at the boy for theatrical effect. He turned around and went back to his seat and nuzzled in the safety of his father. Ah, another airplane disaster averted thanks to my quick thinking and lightning fast reflexes. I sat down, finished off another free cocktail and soon returned to my slumber. I arrived back in Phoenix feeling refreshed and accomplished, albeit teetering between a buzz and a hangover.

No comments:

Post a Comment