May 24, 2012

Babysitting at 30,000 feet

Anyone who has ever stepped foot onto a commercial airline has some sort of horror story about a person that they’ve had the unfortunate circumstance of having to sit either near or next to.  I am no exception, of course.  Fortunately, the fact that I live in our nation’s capital means that most of my airplane-mates are frequent business travelers, and they are much more preoccupied with their laptops than telling me all about their children and how they just made the honor roll/JV soccer team/national basket-weaving semi-finals.  However, this all goes to pot during Thanksgiving and Christmas, when the non-business travelers come out of the woodworks to flail their way through security checkpoints and take over the skies in stumbling, ignorant holiday anticipation. 

A couple of Thanksgivings ago, I boarded a flight out of DC going south and was seated across the aisle from a man with two young children.  A flight attendant came over and started to offer the man a seat in first class, but she caught herself when she realized that he had his children in tow.  It was too late, though.  He realized what was up.  Children be damned, he jumped up and said, “No, no, I’ll take it!”  He then turned to me and said, “You’ll watch the kids, right?” Then, without waiting for my answer, he turned and sauntered up to the first class section, leaving both the flight attendant and myself utterly speechless. 

The attendant went after Father of the Year to settle him into his new seat that she clearly regretted halfway offering to him.  I looked over at the children, my jaw still on the cabin floor.  The little girl, about 6 years old, had already settled into reading a book.  The boy, about 5, was calmly watching the activity on the tarmac through the window.  The immediate independence they exhibited spoke volumes about their father.

I dozed off after takeoff, only to be woken by the sense of something moving in front of me.  I opened my eyes to find a granola bar and an Amstel Light on my tray table and Father of the Year disappearing back behind the first class curtain.  Is this the going rate for babysitting these days? I glanced over at the children - the boy was still contently looking out the window, and the girl was still engrossed in her book.  I gave the granola bar to the woman next to me and started downing the beer.  At that point, I needed it.

Captain Responsibility came back one last time to check on his abandoned offspring.  He was sporting his own Amstel Light (shocker).  “Hey kids, you doin’ everything this nice woman says?”  Referring to me, of course.  I just stared at him.  The little girl asked him, “Daddy, what are you doing up there?” 

“Daddy’s gettin’ boozed up!”

And with that, he whirled around and disappeared back behind the curtain.  The little girl shrugged and went back to reading her book.  And with it being Thanksgiving and all, I was suddenly extremely thankful to be raised by parents that didn’t value free cheap beer and an hour in a large airplane seat over... well, me.  

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