|Posted by Pat on November 1, 2014 at 3:30 PM|
It was bad enough that the flight left at 6 am; I had to set my alarm for 3:45. Turned out that was the easy part.
I shuffled down the aisle to my seat, only to find it was occupied by an adorable little girl about four years old, whose twin two-year-old sisters had the middle and window seats. “Would you mind if they all sat together?” asked a slender brunette across the aisle from them.
“Sure,” I said. She told me the emptied seats were right behind the girls, so I began to wedge my overstuffed briefcase under the seat.
Behind me towered a heavy set man in a sleeveless shirt. “Do you mind if we all sit together?” the Mom asked him.
His response was unenthusiastic, but he agreed then turned to me. “I’m too big to sit in the middle seat,” he said. His voice was flat. He had a large, gray tattoo on his arm with the word “Mother” inscribed in what looked like a tomato surrounded by roses under a cloud-filled sky. At least I think it was clouds.
I quickly saw his point and relocated my briefcase. With luxuriant anticipation of my nap, I folded into my seat and closed my eyes. I’d been looking forward to this moment ever since 3:45 am: the chance for a gentle drift into a lazy nap.
Blam! Blam! Blam! My eyes popped open. The child next to the window slammed her body into her seat, over and over. The entire seat from headrest to floorboard vibrated violently, and the tray table rattled loudly as it bashed into the back of the seat.
“Oh, no” said Tattoo. His words were slow, and the tone of voice was soft but steely. My antennae went up. “Paula, no,” said the mother. But there was no way she could reach the child in the window seat.
The little girl in the aisle seat decided slamming against the seat must be fine sport, and started banging her seat as well. The two girls set up a cacophony of clatters and shakes that would make a monk grind his teeth.
Tattoo began humming, a tense and escalating sound. The muscles on his forearms contracted, the pitch of the hum grew higher.
“What do you think?” I asked him. “Maybe two years old?”
He would not look at me, his jaw clenched. This was a two hour forty minute flight and we hadn’t taken off yet.
“Chloe,” said the Mother. She was speaking Spanish, but whatever she said worked. Chloe stopped. The engines roared: lift off. I closed my eyes, maybe that nap was still within reach.
Bam! Bam! Bam! The seat to my right jangled and shook. I could not figure out how such a small body could wreck such havoc on a riveted seat. Bam!
“Oh, no,” said Tattoo, his voice deep and grave. I glanced at him. His eyes were narrow and his breathing was shallow. The Mom put the older child across the aisle and sat next to the twins. Things calmed a bit. For a while. Then the banging started again and Tattoo recommenced his eerie humming, going up in pitch as the seat-bashing continued.
“Paula,” said the Mother, over and over and over. The banging restarted, the child was admonished, the banging stopped for no more than a minute, then restarted with the admonishment, the pause and the restart. No, no nap this trip.
Tattoo was tense, too tense.
“She never raises her voice,” I pointed out about the Mother, hoping to introduce a concept.
“Takes a lot of patience,” Tattoo said.
Patience, yes, let’s stay on that note, I thought.
When we finally (ho, and I do mean finally) landed, Tattoo and I high-fived in celebration of our survival. Alas, this was too soon. Just after we settled back into our seats, relishing victory, an announcement came on: “Ladies and Gentlemen, we have just learned there will be a delay in getting our gate assignment. Please stay in your seats with your seatbelts fastened. We do apologize for any inconvenience.”
Blam! Blam! Blam!
A second can go by fast. Unless you are being tortured, or unless you are sitting next to Tattoo with a seat banger in front of him. No airport ever seemed so much like a haven. I just hope Tattoo doesn’t have kids.