Flights are fun; usually for the first ten times. After that, you begin to dread all sorts of things that make you have a “safe and comfortable” journey.
I consider myself quite a seasoned flier. Unfortunately, not many airlines around share that opinion, which is quite sad really. I mostly fly with an airline which I truly believe is one of the world’s best budget carrier, and another airline, which is indeed the world’s best airline. Since I use them quite often, I usually know what seats are good to take and what seats are best avoided. I even go to the extent of locating seats by the model of the flight that is being used. A website called seatguru.com is a good place to start, but I go way beyond the standard selection choices that seatguru offers.
When it comes to my travel, I have a lot of considerations. From basic ones like, which seat can give me the most legroom, to more advanced ones like which seat is more likely to be situated away from a crying baby, or which seat would be the best compromise between the closest to the exit and the best legroom.
Inevitably, whenever I board a flight, the seat next to me is unoccupied. Before I got married, I used to hope that some hot girl would come and take the seat. After I got married, I don’t discuss it publicly anymore. I would be eagerly watching the boarding passengers, waiting for someone nice babe to come and sit next to me. Eventually it would happen, with one slight but unfortunate difference, it would be a baby, not a babe.
What usually (and I mean almost everytime) happens is that the mother sits down next to me with a baby in her lap. No sooner would the baby see me, that it would start me off with a look .. oh that look! The look would happen in three parts –
1. The size-me-upper – It would look me from top to bottom and reach the foregone verdict – easy prey
2. The sarcastic snort of sadism – The baby would then let out a low deep chuckle-like sound which translated into our language means “You are so dead buster!”
3. Then it would ram its fist into one palm to reinforce said message above. I have included it as a part of the look, because normally it would do this in front of its face. More importantly, it would do it in front of mine.
Please note, that most girls who would sit next to such a baby would normally respond to the 3-step devil glance above by saying “Awww.. Chooo sweet”. This proves the eternal aphorism that men and women speak different languages.
The flight would take off. The baby is an remarkably astute player. A veteran of the art of torture. After making clear what it is capable of, it will lie peacefully and quietly. Once the flight is airborne, it will start to unleash its waves of fury. The first battle is called the Battle of Arm Rest.
The Battle of the Arm Rest
As soon as the baby sees me comfortably settling in my seat, it will control its mother (that’s right, you actually thought it was the other way around?) to place it on her lap horizontally so that its leg would be strategically positioned for the first strategic assault. The minute I rest my elbow on the arm rest between me and the mom, the baby would pretend to sleep and let out a well-timed judo kick that would set my hand flying away from the rest. As I would look at my bruised hand in shock, the baby would purr in its sleep, an angel to behold, the wicked smile giving it all away. There is no way to win the Battle of the Arm Rest, for any counter measure that you take will ensure that you get scornful looks from your fellow passengers and a pinch on your fatigued arm by the mom. It is best to lose this battle and sit with your arms tightly wrapped around your chest. Cursing your luck is highly recommended to pass time.
Round 2 – Fight!
For the second round, the baby plays dirty. There I am waiting for the drinks cart to roll-on by. “Would you like something to drink , Sir”. “Would you happen to have some bitten lemon?” “Of course, one bitter lemon for you .. and for you, Ma’am?”, she would ask the mother.
That’s it. She made a big mistake. She did not ask the baby what it wanted. And guess who has to pay the price. Not the blissfully unaware pilot, not the grievously sinning air hostess, not the clueless mom, the price has to be paid by ME!
Once the drink is placed in front of me in the glass, I would start searching the in-flight entertainment for something nice to watch. At that moment, the baby would wake up and start giggling, chortling and waving its hands about. Everyone, even the dastardly airhostess, would stop to smile at the baby, not for a second being able to fathom the grave sequence of events it was setting in motion.
Nobody like to stop a baby from being happy. The baby knows that. It would slowly keep up the prancing on its mom’s lap, waving its hands and feet, laughing so loud and smiling so wide, that each one of its non-existent teeth would be visible. By now everyone in my row on either side is cheering the baby on.
And then out of nowhere, in a move that would have brought tears of joy to eyes of Mr. Miyagi, the baby would execute a brilliantly placed chop to the bottom of my food tray. It would do this after analyzing the center of gravity of the tray. As a spectator and soon to be deeply-involved participant, I would watch how the baby would demonstrate to me its deep understanding of the Butterfly Effect. One perfectly placed well-hidden chop under one corner of my food tray (a flutter of wings, if you will), would result in my drink being bounced off the other end of the tray and being emptied into my lap (a tsunami of sorts)
I would gasp as the bittersweet cold liquid would slowly seep into my special place. The baby will now reach the cresendo of its performance. No one would have noticed the deft and slight move. When the show is over, everyone looks at my pants and goes “Ewww!”. I get up and have every one watch me in disgust, including the pretty air hostess I had my eye on. I reach the restroom, wipe my pants and scream in a voice that only I can hear.
As I drudge back to my seat, everyone seems to have slept off, even the wicked baby. I slowly sit in my seat not wanting to wake the bundle of ploy. I sink into my seat, the lights have been turned off, the cabin is quiet. I can feel my eyelids drooping. I don’t want to resist and sleep comes over me like a gentle blanket. I begin to dream of the pretty air hostess I had seen earlier. She would come up to my seat and say
“How has your flight been so far?”
“Good flight, but with you onboard it has been a flight of pure joy”
She blushes and smiles. She pushes her hair back, comes close to me and says
I wake up with a start. The baby has launched its final attack, the assault on the ear drums. Once I had been to a ear specialist, who had checked the range of hearing my ears had with a tuning fork. The baby took over where the doctor left off. Steadily, unrelentingly, it scream would climb the decibel scale. It would start reaching octaves four times above what the most perfectly trained classical singer could manage. The sound had such a shrill ring to it, that you could hear it drilling it your ear-drum. You could feel your ear-drum going to the brain and saying “Please! I can’t stand this torture! Do something, Oh Brainy One! Save me!” The brain after careful consideration would run and jump out of the nearby window.
The assault continued unabated. The baby was going for the kill this time and I could feel its voice entering every pore in my body, entering my blood-stream. The wail consumed me from inside out. My life flashed before my eyes. When this happened, I saw all the other babies who had done this to me before. I had survived, I am a survivor. You can take away my sleep, but you can’t take my right to fly! With that I grit my teeth, and held on the arm-rest tightly. In my mind, I was transforming into the Hulk. To someone walking down the aisle, I looked like someone with a severe case of constipation. Nevertheless, I fought back. I took the sound, made it a part of the background noise, merged it with the drone of the plane’s engines. The wail faded ever so slightly. I saw a glimmer of hope. I persisted. Slowly but surely, octave by octave, the scream, though present, began to disappear. I started sweating less. The cute airhostees was beginning to materialize in my mind again. I smiled.
The baby saw this smile. It had come close to finishing me off, but missed. It had a new found look of respect for me. As a mark of this respect, it sportingly reached up pulled my hair, kicked me the ribs and went back to sleep.
Battered, worn, embarrassed, hurt, I finally shut my eyes.
The flight has landed. The mother got out in front of me, with the baby sleeping over her shoulder. Just as we disembark from the flight, the baby wakes up and demonstrates to me how it can close four of its fingers of one hand. I smile. I had a small victory of my own. When it was sleeping, the mom asked me to fill in the disembarkation form for the baby. I asked her if the baby was a boy or a girl. “Girl”, she said.
I ticked boy.