Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sophie's Choice: The Air Travel Edition

Imagine, if you will, that you are the nice man who was seated next to Jason and I for our flight to Austin last weekend for my brother's wedding.

You're in your late 20's, unmarried, with no hair but a full beard and two armfuls of tattoos, trendy eyeglasses, whippet-skinny. You're heading to Austin for one reason or another. You check your seat before you get on the plane, maybe kind of humming to yourself, cheerfully enough. You pass some strollers set to be gate-checked on your way in.

Maybe you breathe a sigh of relief when you realize you're not sitting next to the family with a 2-year-old and an infant, who are already having some trouble wrangling them.

Good thing I'm not stuck with that group, you think to yourself as you twist around peoples' baggage and make your way down the center aisle.

Until your see your row.

Three seats.

One of those seats is yours. The other two belong to a man, a woman, and a baby.

Figuring this just means this flight is going to be one of those where the iPod comes out and doesn't leave until you're off the plane, you sit down and start settling in.

At which point the woman of the group leans over and says, "Hi. I just want to give you a choice on who you're sitting by. My baby is 7 months old and she just started teething, and I'm a grown woman who is terrified of planes."

A group of people who she had apparently already spoken to two rows back bursts out laughing.

"I've already apologized to them," The woman says to you, with the smile of someone who knows exactly what she's asking. "And, you know, if this is bad I want you to know that we'll buy your Starbucks when you get off the plane."

A teething infant, or a neurotic adult.

Who do you choose?

If you're our seatmate on the way to Austin, you choose the neurotic adult, or rather you don't make any choice one way or the other and the neurotic adult doesn't like window seats. So neurotic adult it is.

He was a pretty cool guy, who went to sleep sometime during takeoff and woke only briefly to let the flight attendants know he didn't need anything. Meanwhile, his seatmates drooled (Audra), cried (both of us), whispered the serenity prayer during takeoff (me), and regretted the life choices that had led them to start a family with a grown woman who recites the serenity prayer during takeoff (Jason).

It really wasn't a long flight, and by the end (and after a glass of my traditional mid-flight ginger ale), I had begun to relax. Landing was easy enough, although there were some tears (both), drool (still Audra), and decisive need to nap (uh... I'm going to say all three of us on that one).

We landed in Austin, the baby popping awake just in time to put on her best smiles for family she hasn't seen since November. My brother met us at the airport and Audra actually took to him right away, although Bryan kind of does that with kids. It's the overall calm and upbeat nature of his personality, I think. He's whatever the opposite of 'prickly' is.

We made it to the hotel, driving past a landscape that didn't look entirely unfamiliar to me (it turns out the parts of Austin that look like my mental image of Texas, gleaned entirely from movies and the book The Son, exist in the outskirts of the city and not within it), and when she met her grandmother again, she didn't want to go into her arms for exactly thirty seconds. Then she leaned happily into them and would have been perfectly content to have my mother hold her for the rest of the weekend.

Not that she was hurting for outstretched arms, considering I'm pretty sure something like every single person I knew held her at some point during the two days we were in Austin for Bryan's wedding. It. Was. Magical.

Oh, and for what it's worth, I offered our seatmate free Starbucks three times - before takeoff, during the flight when he woke, and at the end while we waited to leave - and he refused all three times.

I find this behavior utterly baffling.

(Although it was kind of cool to have the people two rows back declare us "the coolest parents ever" that last time I made the offer. Frankly, people are much more understanding when free $5 coffee shows up on the list of I'm -sorry-you-got-stuck-with-the-crazy-lady apologies.)

Audra popped her second tooth while we were there, or possibly sometime during the two-and-a-half hour drive back from Atlanta, since I hadn't noticed before we left and definitely noticed it when we got back. Which might explain why she woke up halfway through the drive, cried for five straight minutes, and then fell back asleep just as we started to talk about pulling over somewhere to try and help her.

Then we make it home, and bam! new tooth.

Life is hard for the baby.

Also, we're already planning a vacation to Austin some time in the future, because both our stated goals for our 48-hour-trip went unmet. I never made it to a local coffee shop, and Jason never got to eat Austin tacos. So we will be returning to rectify that problem.

Oh, and my brother and new sister-in-law live there, too.

Which is a reason to visit all on its own!

Sibling time, tacos, and iced lattes.

Sounds like a vacation to me.

Oooh, and maybe I'll just get super fancy and not make the other people on the plane nervous by noticeably counting back to where the exit row is during boarding! Or explaining to Jason in unnecessary detail just how the various safety features work!

It could happen.

(it won't, though. but it could.)

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