Flying… with Children

Al Bundy

Meme courtesy of

So, earlier this year, I got an awesome opportunity consulting for a company based in Greece. As part of the gig, they flew me to their headquarters in Athens to work with their staff for a week.

This did not suck. As a childhood fan of all things mythological going to Greece is a dream come true. I got to see the Acropolis and the Parthenon, got to eat Greek food and drink Greek wine. I got to hang out on the Mediterranean and see the beautiful harbor and ships. Not to mention, my hosts were awesome. They took really good care of me.

But the upsides of the trip are not really what this post is about. The preface was just to make you jealous. No, this post is about an incident I witnessed on one leg of my flight over. And, you guessed it… it’s about muthah f’n snakes kids on a plane.

Have Baby, Will Travel

I was flying out out of Boston Logan to Amsterdam’s Schipohl airport. This leg of the trip is about 5-6 hours long. The equipment was an Airbus A-330; a big plane. As a contractor the client did not see fit to put me in business class (sigh…) but as frequent flyer on Delta, I was at least able to select a decent seat. That meant emergency exit seating with about 6 feet of leg room in front of me. Score!

Airbus A-330 Seatmap; Me and Them

Airbus A-330 Seatmap; Me and Them

We began boarding the flight. My seatmate ended up being a man from Holland and we chatted as the rest of the passengers began to take their seats. I soon noticed that there was a woman with an infant across the aisle, a couple of seats away from me. Why did I notice? The high pitched screaming caught my attention.

My seatmate and I exchanged the international glance of seasoned travelers confronted with a bawling baby on a flight. The glance contained all of the following information:

  • You gotta be f’n kidding me!
  • Again?
  • Isn’t there a law against this/Why isn’t there a law against this?
  • You got any sedatives?
    • Do we take them or give them to the baby?
  • Have they started serving drinks yet?
  • Have they started serving drinks yet? <– Yes, twice

They were not serving drinks yet, so my next action was to put on my noise-cancelling headphones. I cannot recommend a good set of noise-cancelling headphones strongly enough for frequent travelers. They cut out much of the background noise wherever you are including jet noise, sirens, and Gotye Muzak. They even take the edge off of high pitched baby screams.

With the noise-cancelling headphones on I went from the equivalent of being vigorously stabbed in the neck with an ice pick to being halfheartedly jabbed with a spoon. Still not fun but also not life threatening.

It gets better.

Have Baby, Will Travel II

At about this point another woman shows up, infant in arms and she is apparently also seated across the aisle from me, right next to the woman with the bawling baby. Now this new infant was not bawling; it was peacefully asleep. Ahhh, how cute!

And this where it gets even better.

The newly arrived woman – we’ll call her mother #2 – starts bitching about being seated next to the screaming infant. Yep. That’s right. “I just got my sweet little baby to go to sleep and now you expect me to sit next to a screaming baby?” she says (taking some liberties) to a flight attendant and the rest of the plane. Not a single second of commiseration was shared, not a lick of support for another mother.

Mother #2 commences hassling the flight attendants to re-seat her somewhere quieter.  She’s informed its a full flight. She continues being an asshole.

Meanwhile I have to say something about mother #1, she of the screaming infant. All of this time she is dutifully trying her best to quiet her baby. She has the good grace to look sorry for the commotion being caused. This is something that goes a long way with me because I do get it; you have a baby, babies sometimes cry, you’re doing your best, and you understand that this noise is spilling over and causing problems for other people. A parent that realizes that she is not the center of the world. I approve.

Eventually mother #2 manages to get re-seated elsewhere. I assume some sucker gave up their seat for the poor mother traveling with an infant.

Karma, You Magnificent Bitch

As soon as the plane starts to back out of the gate, the screaming baby falls asleep and remains asleep the rest of the flight. Yeah for us!

But here’s my favorite part of the story. About midway through the flight I get up for a bio break and to stretch my legs. As I walk forward in the plane what do I hear but (wait for it, wait for it…) a screaming baby! And guess who’s baby it is?

Hee hee hee!

15 Responses to Flying… with Children

  1. claudia June 10, 2015 at 10:03 am #

    I re-read this post five times it made me laugh so hard. Lance you have a superb writing style, and reminds me of my epic journeys on flights, always having a screaming baby nearby. I seem to have a magnet for them. anyways, laughed my ass off 🙂

  2. Julianne Zimmerman Alley July 29, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

    On a flight from Australia to LA, (15 hours), I had a window seat. The woman next to me, in the middle, was big enough that she could not sit with the armrests down. I don’t mean to be rude but on a flight that long, ever inch of space counts! But it gets better…she had a 2-year-old that she planned to hold ON HER LAP for the entire flight. We hadn’t even left the gate and the child was reaching over and pulling stuff out of MY seat pocket and pulling the hair of the woman in front of him. I had a sudden attack of claustrophobia being stuck between them and the wall.

    Without anyone asking, the flight attendant found room for the woman and her child where there was an extra seat. She found a woman in an aisle seat to switch and promised that woman the aisle seat in our row, even though it was already taken. However, the girl in the aisle seat HAPPILY moved to the middle. Small price to pay for not having to spend 15+ hours next to a 2-year-old on a woman’s lap. That flight attendant saved my sanity.

    I understand not wanting to pay $1500+ for a small child to have its own seat…but not on that long of a flight. The lap should not be an option for any child on that long of a flight. It’s just not fair to any of the other passengers.

    • Lance July 29, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

      I can commiserate…crying babies, people overflowing their seats, people drunk with BO. Being stuck next to anything like that for hours makes suicide appealing.

  3. Amy F. July 29, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

    Ashley, Are you suggesting that mothers shouldn’t appear in public? They shouldn’t take their babies to zoos? Evidently they should be in purdah, in isolation, and stay that way until the kids grow up to your satisfaction.

    Perhaps this is too obvious to say, but you were a baby once and someone had to take care of you. We wouldn’t have a human race without babies and kids and parents and those parents deserve support, that is, if you want people to have decent lives.

    • Lance July 29, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

      I’d split the difference…

      Parents should certainly take their children to places that are child appropriate like zoos.

      They don’t really need to wheel their children around in strollers that are larger and more off-road capable than a Hummer.

      Don’t get me started on parents trying to get their strollers through airport security…


      • Amy F. July 29, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

        Not everyplace is suitable for a child.

        But it’s hard to believe that parents shouldn’t have strollers in airports. How else are they going to transport their kids, the diaper bag, clothes, etc.?

        • Lance July 29, 2013 at 5:37 pm #

          Not strollers… STROLLERS. Oversized monstrosities with 12″ wheels, wider than a 2 adults walking side-by-side, and loaded down with enough toys and snacks to last the kid till they are 18. Like this:

          • Amy F. August 3, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

            I never had a huge stroller. But I have had to take care of and amuse babies, toddlers and children and, believe me, it’s challenging. I don’t think you want people to judge your childfree choice, so I wonder why you’re judging others to have and care for children.

          • Lance August 3, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

            Amy F.

            …not too long ago giant Humvee strollers did not exist and parents somehow manged to take care of and amuse children. Crazy, I know.

            …because of the size and apparent complexity of these giant strollers I have not infrequently been forced to wait while a parent tries to navigate said stroller through areas made for normal size people, not double-wide strollers

            …I’ve been frequently forced off of sidewalks and walkways because of these things, esp. when two moms are out, walking side-by-side, taking up all available real estate with no care for anyone else. I mean, they have babies to push for god’s sake!

            …more generally, not too long ago (it seems to me), that parents were less likely to bring their kids into places and events not appropriate for kids. Movies, bars, high-end restaurants.

            I don’t judge people for having babies. I am completely in favor of people who want babies and who are in a position to care for them adequately, to have babies.

            Here’s the nuance – I also think it is right and proper to judge when anyone’s behavior is rude or problematic. Many – not all – parents seem to think they get a free pass on rudeness as long as they are toting a child.

          • Amy F. August 3, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

            I agree with you that sometimes people with babies and kids are rude. Also, that babies and kids don’t belong everywhere, especially if they are noisy and ill-behaved.

            But I just don’t get why you’re complaining about babies on airplanes. Nor do I get his thing about being forced off sidewalks. I walk a lot and sometimes I step off onto the grass for bikes or strollers or two people walking together. How big a hassle is that, really? It seems it’s just part of living with people. We don’t have private sidewalks or walkways.

            And, yeah, it’s annoying when babies cry on planes. But they and their parents have to travel sometime and it’s not easy being a parent carting them on their travels. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the experience of caring for a young child when traveling, but it has its own challenges. So cut them a break.

            Your posts on choosing to be childfree are far more compelling than those explaining how annoying you find babies and kids and their parents.

          • Lance August 3, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

            Amy F.

            Only part of the post was about screaming children. While I think this is a legitimate thing to write about in and of itself, especially as a frequent flyer that has spent more than my fair share of time listening to them, being kicked in the back by them, and by having things thrown at me and beverages spilled on me by them, that was not the main point.

            I think if you re-read the post you will find that the main point was about how one mother (Mother 1) was annoyed with another mother’s (Mother 2) baby, and then how, after pitching a fit about baby 2 crying and needing to be re-seated, it was ultimately Mother 1’s baby that ended up screaming for large portions of the flight.

            It’s an ironic situation, and not in an Alanis Morrisette sort of way. It’s funny (to me at least).

            I also think you need to give me more credit for the balance in the post. I explicitly give Mother 2 credit for being graceful under the circumstances. Again, reread the post. IRL I even helped her several times…getting things out of the overhead and picking up dropped items for her so she wouldn’t have to get up.

            And you see, that is the point. I am explicitly not a child hater. I actually like kids. What I really dislike are parents that think they are entitled and who think that their children always have the right of way, which kind of actually teaches the kids that they are entitled. When I get kicked by a kid on a plane or have something thrown at me, it’s not the kid I blame; it’s the parent.

            Re: “we don’t have private sidewalks”. You make my point. They ARE public, which means I have as much right to be on them as anyone else. So why should anyone be able to kick you or me off of them? This is one of those things that’s only a problem of frequency. If it only happened every once and awhile and it appeared unavoidable, I’d have no gripe. The problem is it happens frequently and a parent’s choice to purchase and use the mega-stroller and also to make no effort to make room is, to me, an inherent FU to everyone else, including other people with children.

    • PX August 4, 2013 at 11:55 pm #

      I found the first portion of this response to be overwhelmingly appealing, despite its contention.

  4. Ashley July 29, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

    It seems that as soon as women have babies, that’s when they decide to visit every single public venue—zoos, who cares, your baby won’t remember but I’ll remember my disgust at seeing an army of freaking wide strollers; theaters, do I even need to say how rude?
    Drives me nuts….


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