I write to you from 35,000 feet in the air, somewhere over Colorado, with 1340 miles still to go. I am sandwiched between my two beloved children, but I have to say that if you have to fly with kids, I highly recommend a six year old and a three year old. Dash is playing Angry Birds (or Angry Pigs, as Mabel called it this morning), and has far surpassed the adults in his technique, and Mabel was happily engrossed in an episode of Diego, but has now gone to meet the four-year-old sitting beside her father, leaving me with a chance to blog.
(Not that I can press publish, of course. I'm just typing up a word document right now.)
I know I haven't even told you about the party yet, and we'll get back to that, but from the plane I will tell you plane stories.
In the past, when I've flown with my kids, I've never had anything less than lovely experiences with the people sitting near us. At the worst, they've been uninterested, which of course is a terrible slight when I have the two cutest, cleverest, best-travelled children on the plane, but we can cope with that. This time, it was different. On Thursday, I got Bitch-Lady.
Our encounter began badly, I admit. I had put my backpack up above the seat, and got Mabel settled in beside me in her carseat. She had the window, I was in the middle, some as-yet unknown person (Bitch-Lady, as it happened) was going to have the aisle seat, and then B and Dash were by the window on the other side of the aisle. Like this:
[Window] Mabel | Maud | Bitch-Lady ----- Some Guy | B | Dash [Window]
Clearly, not ideal. But most people would make the best of things, no? Or figure out some way to swap. At least she had the aisle. She was even traveling with the man in front of Mabel's seat, so I don't know why she hadn't tried to swap with his neighbour in the first place.
Anyway. Mabel and I were sitting down and B-L had just arrived and taken out a pack of wet wipes (should have been a clue), when I realised that the New Toy To Distract Mabel On The Journey was still in my backpack. I indicated politely to B-L that I needed to stand up and get something from overhead. So I stood in my seat - the middle one - and tried to reach into the bin, which had already been closed by some eager beaver. My small backpack had been pushed right to the back behind a big bag belonging to said eager beaver. I couldn't get it out from where I was standing, so I - politely - indicated that I might step onto her seat, so I could reach better without inconveniencing the people who were still filtering down the aisle to their seats. She looked at me as if I had suggested that she just hold my dog poop for a second while I find a baggie.
"No. Absolutely not. I just wiped it. Stand in the aisle and get it from there,"she said. "But I can't reach from the aisle," I replied, reasonably. She was shorter than I; I thought she would have understood that. I moved into the aisle, stood up in the seat behind hers, where nobody had yet arrived to prohibit me, and finally fished out the bag. I couldn't close the overhead bin again on her large carry-on, but I didn't consider that much of a problem. The attendants always close them when everyone's done, right?
No, apparently that was a problem. She ostentatiously stood in the aisle repeatedly trying to close the overhead bin, remarking to anyone who would listen that it had been closed already. She finally managed it, sat down, took her wet wipes out again and proceeded to wipe every part of her seat and table. Her little bottle of hand sanitizer stood at the ready on her tray table, to be used frequently. I really, really wanted to hand her my snotty three-year-old and ask her to help blow Mabel's nose, but I forebore.
So, we got through the flight. Every now and then Mabel needed to use the bathroom - our first flight without diapers, and she was a superstar - or wanted to go and visit Daddy, and Bitch-Lady would make a great show of sighing and unbuckling her seatbelt, and then standing in the aisle until we came back. At one point she was chatting to her companion in the row in front, clearly gesticulating though I didn't understand the language, showing that we were a constant parade of in, then out, then in, then out... A couple of times I needed to hand something across to B or take something back. She didn't like it, I could tell. She probably wanted to sanitize the air through which my hand had moved.
Mabel wanted to go and visit Daddy at one point. B-L sighed pointedly, and I said, "You don't have to get up. I can just hand her over." I had clearly offered to pass a vat of bubbling lava across her lap, or maybe a steaming pile of horse manure, judging from the look she gave me.
To be honest, I wish they had child-free airplanes too, so that people like her didn't have to sit beside people like me. I don't mind sitting near other people's kids, because what goes around comes around and every parent knows that if their kid isn't the one screaming today, it's only because they were that other time, or they will be the next time. If B-L had been beside the two-and-a-half-year-old in the seat behind Mabel, who was wearing a diaper but had obviously decided that visiting the bathroom was more fun than trying to take a nap, and so went out about four times in twenty minutes, she would have been even more disgruntled. As young children on planes go - and I've seen my share - Mabel was a delight. She entertained herself for long stretches of time, only visited the bathroom three times in five hours, did not scream or cry at takeoff or landing, or in between, and - I can't stress this enough - didn't throw up or even pee herself. Given the gamut of possible bodily fluids, a little snot on the sleeve is pretty mild.
When we arrived at our gate for the return flight this morning (Monday) the first person I saw was Bitch-Lady, coincidentally also having spent four days in the Bay Area. I smiled cheerily and greeted her in a friendly manner. She was deeply aghast.
I sort of wished we were sitting beside her again, just to piss her off, but mostly I was glad she was far, far away at the other end of the plane. Anyway, Mabel wasn't nearly so snotty today.