Blog: Flight from Hell

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Burt Ross

I just experienced an almost perfect Thanksgiving holiday. Note the operative word is “almost.” For reasons I cannot explain, whenever things are going smoothly for me, they invariably take a sharp turn in a southerly direction. My Thanksgiving holiday was a case in point.

The flight to the Big Apple was uneventful (what we all want flights to be). My bride and I stayed at the delightful boutique High Line Hotel at 10th Avenue and 20th Street. With dogs in the lobby and the coffee bar doing a brisk business, I could have been staying on the Left Bank in Paris.

We enjoyed good times with our two adult children and extended family. Thanksgiving dinner was replete with love, good food and many blessings. Even the weather for most of our trip was perfect autumn weather—mid 50s with ample sunshine.

We arrived at Newark Airport on Saturday for our trip home to Malibu, and all was well. The flight was on time, as were we. And then I noticed quite a few very young children waiting to board the plane. It seemed like everywhere I looked was another infant or toddler. They were of all races, religions, color and, for all I knew, sexual preferences and political persuasions.

My bride and I took our seats, and I felt a certain sense of relief when no child sat in our row. And then—remember that southerly direction I referred to earlier?—well, it was about to happen once again. A one-year-old girl sat on the lap of her mother only inches in front of me. She looked like a perfectly nice little girl, but appearances can be deceiving. Only inches in front of her appeared an 18-month-old girl—a big child with lungs to match.  Across the aisle was a three-year-old boy with mischief in his very being.

No sooner had the plane taken off than the girl in front of me let out a shriek, and as if by some unspoken acknowledgment, all children under the age of three throughout the airplane decided to join in. They wailed, they shrieked, they shouted and each of them tried to outdo the others. This was no subterranean rumbling like elephants make, but rather nerve deafening high-pitched sounds that penetrate your very essence. I truly believe that the great opera singer Maria Callas in her heyday never hit notes like this.

The media has recently reported on pervasive nonconsensual sex. Based on all these howling kids, I believe there is also far too much consensual sex going on.       

I looked at my watch and the flight had four more hours to go. There was no way I could make it. I actually contemplated feigning a heart attack so the airplane would be forced to land somewhere in the Midwest. I could then make a miraculous recovery and hitch hike from Omaha back to Malibu. It was that bad.

Every once in awhile the children needed to catch their collective breath, but relief was always short lived. The 18-month-old who had not yet mastered words but was pleased with the sounds she made, decided to scream gibberish for half-an-hour or so. She was quite proud of herself. 

By some miracle, I managed to make it back to the sweet paradise of Malibu. I am a bit shell shocked and skittish. I respond nervously to any loud noise, and I am not sure I will ever be quite the same.