Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Flight From Hell (Or: Why Traveling with a Toddler is No Fun)

Ok, Peeps:

Remember I told you that we had a not-so-great flight from Seattle to Anchorage a few weeks ago?  Well here are all the gory details.

First, a quick note: I am able to laugh about this now, which probably means that it's fairly tame in the grand scheme of things. If I were trying to bury my head in the sand upon remembering the flight, it would probably be a good indication that it was one of the very, very no-good, awful events.

So, in other words, it's not really that bad. Only moderately awful.

This is a long post. And fairly graphic. Just a heads up.

First, the basics:

This was my first solo flight with the baby and I was pretty worried: the flight was completely booked and it was 8 pm - an hour past Ben's bedtime. Fortunately, SEA to ANC is a fairly short flight: only three hours.

We zipped through security (thank you family line!), hopped on the tram to N Terminal, and found seats in the waiting room. We had an hour until boarding.

Ben charms the pants off of a scary biker dude (complete with lots o' leather, tattoos, and a black bandana), steals the water bottle of the lady sitting next to us, and stares in adoration at the six year old girl in front of us.

And then he sees a plane taxi by and decides to take a flying leap over to the floor-to-ceiling windows, in order to get a better look. Except that he hits a metal support brace instead. With his forehead.
That's the support beam there on the left.

The impact throws him onto his back and he erupts with howls that can be heard throughout the entire terminal.

There is blood and big bump, and it will turn into a lovely bruise a few days later. Any harder though, and he'd have been on his way to the hospital for stitches.

So that's the start of our adventure.

We get on the plane and I find myself in a window seat, with two gentlemen sitting in the middle and aisle. Ben perches on my lap or stands on the floor, depending on his current activity.

He's wired.

He plays, he throws, he plays peek-a-boo with the guy sitting next to us. He is tired and losing it on a grand scale.

Half hour into the flight he poops. Big time.

I haul out my bag of diapers and we wait in the back until the bathroom with the changing table becomes available.

Have you ever changed a baby by yourself on a plane? It's not easy. There is a tiny changing tray that folds down over the toilet. If your baby is long, then his feet will be resting in the sink. He'll probably try to turn on the faucet with his little tootsies. If he's not doing that, then he'll be banging his feet with a rat-tat-tat against the wall.  There is no place to put your diaper bag except on the toilet seat lid. He squirms and sings while you try to get him cleaned up. On top of this, your child will undoubtedly insist that he bring his beloved blankie into the lavatory. Which he will then promptly DROP ONTO THE FLOOR. No joke. What do you do, my dears? The kid goes nuts if you take it away. He cannot be parted from this thing, once it is in his possession.

I dust it off and hand it back. (I know. TOTALLY GROSS. but there were no other options)

Once I've get him cleaned up and back into shape, we squeezed out the door and I settled him into the carrier. I  invaded the flight attendants' space for a while as I rocked and cooed, in an attempt to get the little guy to sleep.

That plane backfired however, when a male flight attendant came along and ordered us back to our seat. The baby was wide awake.

I still had in him the carrier and he was sucking like crazy on his fingers - a sure sign that he was tired. But the guy in the middle seat was talking and making funny faces at Benjamin and I couldn't think of a polite way to tell him to knock it off.

Finally, I covered Ben with a coat and closed my eyes. Not very subtle. Ben closes his eyes for a few minutes and then concludes he's not ready for sleep. He pokes me a few times to make sure that I'm aware of his decision.

I pretend to snooze.

He makes a more determined effort, this time poking my face with his grubby little finger.

Except he misses and his finger goes up my nose.

I feel a pop and when I put my hand up to my face, it comes away covered in blood. Covered.

My darling child has given me a monster of a bloody nose.

There is blood on him, on my face, on my clothes, on the seat. I grope around for diaper wipes, while trying to shield my face from the guy sitting next to me.

It will not stop bleeding.

Finally it slows down and I am able to get mostly cleaned up. But that doesn't stop me from repeatedly wiping my face for the remainder of the flight, convinced that I still have goop smeared across my schnoz. I even ask the flight attendant before I get off to check me out - to make sure I'm blood-free.

Ben's eyes are as big as saucers and he's agitated. In an effort to soothe him, I reach for his bottle of milk and pop open the top.

Except that I forgot that liquids are [de]pressurized at altitude and the container spews milk everywhere, including all over the heads of the snoozing passengers in front of us. Two rows of people have just been rudely awakened by a mystery substance running down their faces.

By this point I'm apologizing profusely and trying to soothe a very agitated babe. The newly awaked passengers are pretty good sports. They pass around napkins to wipe themselves off. The bald guy directly in front of us spends a few minutes moping down his shiny pate. "What is it?" he asks.

"Milk", I say. "From a baby's bottle".

Except I forget to mention why type of milk it is. It's cow's milk, but given that I was nursing the baby in our row as they boarded the plane, they probably think its breast milk. I don't realize my omission until we've left the terminal.

Upon landing, all the passengers disembark but I find myself still collecting Ben's toys, bloody wipes, and other items left over from the flight. The flight attendants are [nicely] trying to hurry me along; they've had a long day and this is their last flight. I get everything stuffed into the backpack and we wobble down the aisle.

Grateful to have survived the flight.

[The ride home from Anchorage to Seattle, in contrast, was lovely. Ben got his own seat and was happy to spend his time chowing down on ginger snaps and ogling the little girl in back of us. That flight started on a dramatic note, although I was thankful that it had nothing to do with us: airport police were in the process of arresting a woman that had hit another passenger over the head with her carry-on before boarding. She was visibly intoxicated and was screaming/swearing/spitting like crazy as we checked in. It took them ten minutes to fold her into the police car due to her erratic shenanigans. What a wacko.]