Here we go: my flying story number 2. This is the one that unfortunately gets and less surprising as the years pass and the frequent flier miles pile up.
I love the aisle. I always request the aisle and I almost always get the aisle. And I'm not a tall person so it's not as if I need the aisle. Maybe it's a touch of claustrophobia if it's even possible to have a touch of that.
Also, I don't hate flying but I don't exactly love it. Maybe I don't really want to gaze out the window contemplating the wonders of 30,000 feet and the fact that it makes almost no sense that airplanes do actually leave the ground and get airborne than almost unbelievably land again somewhere else, somewhere they plan to land in fact.
So, that said, I settled into the aisle seat, and amazingly the middle seat remained unoccupied for a very long time. Then a young mother and her daughter - maybe 18 months old or so - walked down the aisle and stopped at my row. The two of them were going to share the middle seat.
In a moment of magnanimity, I offered up my aisle seat, imagining it might be more comfortable for the mom in terms of space and elbow room. "Did you want this seat?" I asked. "It might be easier for you..."
She answered "Yes," and stored her three or four bags then took the aisle seat. Please note, she didn't say, 'yes, thanks very much,' or even 'yes, thanks.' Just yes. Maybe she was tired. I was about 7 am after all.
I usually hate the notion of flying near children. I've had too many annoying experiences with them. But the thing is, it's almost never the kids themselves that annoy me. It's their parents, or the other adults around them. This was no exception.
The point of this story is that we had a 2 hours+ flight in front of us and the mom had not one toy or book or game or snack for her little girl. Not one. Nothing except one tiny stuffed animal that the little girl never put down. How could that be? How could this woman board a plane with several carry-on bags, including what looked like a diaper bag, and not have anything to amuse or feed her daughter?
Maybe she's having difficulties. Maybe she's preoccupied by some very bad news...maybe she's flying somewhere for a funeral for god's sake. She didn't strike me as a very warm or open person but what did I know? My few attempts to converse with her went nowhere. But who am I to be so judgmental?
None of that changed the situation. So here's me, sitting next to the adorable little girl, and her clueless, semi-stoic mother, with nothing but the Skymall to amuse the child. She and I paged through the magazine, trying to find the puppies and kittens. (If you know Skymall, you know there are perhaps a total of six pages of pet supplies, so this little activity got old fairly quickly.) Luckily, the little girl had a very sweet disposition and if she was really bored, she never let on.
As we began our landing, the girl started to whimper and cry, probably because her ears were popping and she felt uncomfortable. You won't be surprised to hear that the mother kept saying things like this to her: "Quiet....be quiet. Okay now, quiet down."
I pulled out the water bottle I carried and offered to pour some of it into the sippy cup the little girl was holding. I offered it with a lame, "Maybe it's her ears....you know. Something to drink will help..."
I filled the cup and the little girl took a drink, then settled down. Weird that I filled it, not her Mom, no?
Last little bit: as we prepared to depart, the young mother stood up in the aisle and began gathering her belongings. The little girl stood on the seat, and I couldn't help but hold out my arm to kind of protect her from falling or mis-stepping as she stood there. Once the mom had everything, she turned for her daughter.
Unfortunately, the little girl reached her arms out to me instead. "Oh no, honey! Go to Mommy! Go on!! Bye bye sweetie..."
What the heck? I read her a Skymall and gave her some water and she's reaching out to me? Good Lord. I watched the Mom walk her daughter through the airport - I can only hope she was heading home to some family support or to her husband who would give that little girl a hug.
Just a bad morning I told myself. Just a bad morning.