A short story about flying these days...
|He didn’t look very good. His wife didn’t look much better. They both had that exhausted, “This isn’t what it looked like in the pictures…I’ve seen a better life” look about them. It wasn’t hard to figure out why when I looked more closely and realized that the herd of wild squirrels dancing about them was their children, right down to the dimples, blond hair, and blue eyes. Once I fixated upon that as likely, the impossibility of it being otherwise became crystal clear.
All the kids had the same coloring as the mother except for the obvious blood flow to their cherry red cheeks. She didn’t have that. Mournfully, I realized she must have at some point in her life, likely many years before her brood was born. The “missing genes” closeness of their eyes had clearly been gotten from their father. They weren’t quite as close together as his, but several of them did have this odd drifting thing going on with one of their eyes. Unless you looked closely, you couldn’t quite tell which direction they were looking, and from the way they tossed their food and toys around, they couldn’t either. They’d all need glasses soon, if for no other reason than eye protection. God forbid, one of them put out the one good eye the other one had.
The parents sat closely huddled together with their heads resting against one another. It seemed they’d done this before. I, at first, thought they were somehow communicating brain waves, but later became convinced they were just supporting one another, as though their necks couldn’t fathom one more wrenched lurch to the left or right without something coming off. They could elicit no emotion from one another and all they elicited from me was heartfelt pity. If I’d been toting a gun, I’d have given it to them. Somebody needed to be put out his or her misery.
One particularly irate passenger traversed the minefield between their rows of seats and glared at the mother. None of us could hear what she said, not that we had to. It was easy enough to guess the gist of it as the previously absent blood from the mother’s cheeks suddenly flowed back into them. Actually, it flushed beyond her cheeks. I thought it might explode from the top of her head. The only thing maybe holding it in was her husband’s head.
At the top of her lungs she blurted out, “What do you expect me to do with them, smother them?” By the rapid descent of said redness from her face, the affirmative response was not expected. It should have been.
The poor frazzled stewardess, flight attendant, whatever the nom-de-guerre, rushed forward to place a food cart on each side of the parent’s row to fend off other would-be attackers. It was clear the first blood drawn by Ms. Irate passenger brought about all the other sharks. The carts did help to guard them. They also helped to corral the scattered rabid varmint children.
No amount of protective Chinese walls could have protected the passengers sitting in front of the hellions as they kicked, bumped, pulled, and destroyed any attempt at transcontinental relaxation. It was safer where I was; actually anywhere there were several rows between them and us was safer.
Just as I finished visualizing all manner of infanticide and child murder, suddenly laughter began to break out in different areas of the plane. It wasn’t from the movie. That wasn’t possible. I thought maybe we were having a mass murderous hallucination. Granted, the laughter was occasionally interrupted by cursing, but amazingly even the laughter joined in by the delinquent children managed to melt some of the more scornful stares. With that said, the largest amount of laughter occurred when we hit an air pocket and several of the children hit the deck. You would have thought something other than our eardrums was broken by the shear decibels those kids approached. Some of those cries were supersonic and simply entered your head without traversing the eardrum and bones. The laughter helped quell some of the groans from the closer passengers as they gave themselves over to the pain.
When the plane finally landed, six agonizing hours later, several people were trampled as the crowd rushed the door. Usually, the flight attendants wait for the last passengers to leave, but not today. Several of their heel-marks landed in people’s insteps as they pushed and shoved with the best of them. They did manage to wait until the door was fully opened, though one of the passengers didn’t. Otherwise, I think more people may have been maimed, or at the very least, severely bruised. I’m not sure what happened to the first passenger off the plane. I hope she lived; otherwise, I’m afraid she was smeared along the gangway.
Luckily, my training in psychiatric emergency room tactical skills informed me to stay put, until the angry mob had departed. Truth be told, the Xanax, Klonopin, and assorted mixed drinks may have helped a little. Not that the stewardesses continued to serve them. They quickly recognized the potential lethality of mixing a hostile crowd, screaming children, and mixed alcoholic beverages. They even said they only had decaf coffee and soda. They weren’t even willing to risk caffeine as gasoline for this simmering fire. I was just glad I carried my own booze.
When I finally lurched off the plane, I saw security personnel escorting the at-risk exhausted family out the side exit. Of course, the children were asleep now. Even so, I didn’t imagine them as angels. I knew better.
There were a few people from the plane still milling about. Lucky for the family, armed security people were around, because I swear I could see people brandishing weapons, canes, and pieces of rope. I have no idea what the rope was for. I guess it was lucky the family was too tired or too stupid to realize the danger. Or maybe, judging by the ages of the children, they were just used to the hostility.
Even so, as they left the airport, I think I saw expanding relief as well as resolve that as this trip ended; they were not destined to travel again anytime soon. I just hoped they were returning home and not suddenly and irreversibly transplanted to a new city. God knows, they’d have an even harder time finding housing.