When I got to my row on my jam-packed US Airways flight to Charlotte, North Carolina, there was already a woman sitting in the middle seat. It wasn’t until I got comfortable that I saw she had a sleeping baby on her lap. He wasn’t asleep for long.
On cue, The Baby woke up during takeoff just as I was falling asleep. He didn’t scream or cry, but he squirmed a lot. At less than a year old, his baby taps didn’t have the force of birthday punches but they were just as annoying. Apparently babies have boundary issues.
Taking a brief break from my own narcissism, I did feel bad for The Mom though. A two-hour-and-49-minute-flight is a long time to have a fidgety baby on your lap. Mom was at his mercy. She couldn’t do anything: read a book, doze off or listen to music. She was very busy . . . well . . . being mommy. She couldn’t even go to the bathroom by herself. I gotta be honest, from this perspective I was not seeing the upside of mommy-hood.
I took out my computer to do some work, but that’s when The Mother asked me to hold The Baby while she mixed his bottle. I guess she asked me because the man sitting in the window seat had the good sense to pretend he was sleeping. And even in slumber, he didn’t look all that friendly, so I was her best choice by default.
At first I was afraid The Baby would take one look at me, see me for the stranger I was and start bawling, but for some reason babies like me. I hold them, talk to them and I am rewarded with toothless, drooling grins.
Maybe it’s because I don’t talk baby talk to them. We discuss politics, college plans and stock market predictions. I assume their guttural utterances are honest answers to my questions and I encourage them to go on and tell me more. Nothing gooses the conversation along like a bit of tummy tickling. And if things are really going well, I’ll throw in a game of airplane, which done while on an airplane is rather fun.
All too soon his lunch was ready and I handed The Baby back to his Mother. About an hour later, The Baby’s Mom asked me to hold him again while she filled out her U.S. Customs and Immigration form. I set aside my book and reached for my little friend, but the stench from his diaper reached my nose first.
Dear, Zeus! That was rank beyond all reason! What the hell was in that bottle? My eyes watered and my nose tried desperately to close in on itself. His Mother, apparently immune to the aroma, only caught the whiff when passing The Baby to me. “Oh,” she said. “That smells bad,” as my eye lashes began falling off one by one.
I later mentioned this incident to my parents saying, “I can’t believe a baby’s diaper could be so noxious!”
“Oh yes!” they said in unison, giving me a look that I was none too pleased with, as if they vividly remembered my diaper days. I think I even saw their noses wrinkle.
In the closed environment of the airplane my row was ground zero. But due to the wonders of circulation, we all took one for the team. The smell that wafted from The Baby’s diaper was an invisible, yet living thing that sought to kill us all.
“Dude,” I whispered, “I know this is not your fault, but this is unacceptable.” He smiled at me beatifically, cooing and blathering on, oblivious to the pain he was inflicting, perhaps a future politician in the making. It helped that he was a cute baby. If he hadn’t been, I might have passed him off like a hot potato. I guess the lesson here is: if you’re going to soil yourself, you’d better look good doing it.
I don’t think an annual card, gift and maybe dinner makes up for this. There should be more. Maybe “Dirty Diaper Smell” should play a more integral part of the Mothers Day marketing plan, something like: “Haven’t you given your Mom enough crap?”
This is why I prefer the exit row: no people under 15 years old allowed. But that’s no guarantee of a quiet flight either. I once sat next to a man who snored like a wounded wildebeest. I thought to myself, “I have to put up with this at home, I’ll be damned if I’m gonna pay for the privilege.” So I elbowed him in the stomach (more than a baby tap, less than a birthday punch) and then pretended to be asleep. Is that wrong? If I can’t get peanuts, pretzels or pillows on a plane, can I at least get a little peace? Although quiet as it’s kept, being on the receiving end of a drooling, baby grin ain’t all that bad.
Join The Urban Erma on Facebook or follow on Twitter. You can listen to the podcast on Podbean or subscribe on iTunes. Leighann Lord is a stand-up comedian, who's style is best described as "Thinking Cap Comedy." If comedy were music, she'd be Jazz. Check out her upcoming shows @ www.VeryFunnyLady.com. Join her on FaceBook. Follow her on Twitter.