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Nina In New York: Flying The Unfriendly, Child-Friendly Skies

Airplane (file/credit:Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

Airplane (file/credit:Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York. The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
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By Nina Pajak

Hello, sunshine! There’s nothing like leaving a cold, rainy New York, traveling to sunny southern California, and returning to spring in full bloom. It’s like vacation flew back home with us. Which of course is untrue, because vacation is all tanned and relaxed and maybe a little bit drunk, but in the way that you totally want to hang with without ever getting weird, and it would never choose to fly across the country with V, our energetic, demanding 11-month-old. As we did. Er. Yeah.

Of course, we thought this over before we made the decision to subject a plane full of people to our delightfully spunky baby. But there were greater factors at play than simply wanting to get away—family to visit, dear friends we longed to see, the sun, and we work so hard, we’re so tired you guys, also the warm, warm sun, and we really need a break, plus we’ve been on planes with other people’s kids all our lives so why not ours, and also the sun, and since when does having kids mean you can’t live on the planet, and also the sun. Was it a crap shoot? Yes. Was it a mite bit selfish? Perhaps, but not more so than anyone else is. I mean, I’ve been on flights with people who bring along a hot dog loaded with onions as a carry on. I’ve been seated next to people who talk loudly, fart freely, and snore. I’ve been subjected to having my seat kicked by kids old enough to know better and whose parents couldn’t be bothered to correct them. Besides, if V was ornery, however irritated the other passengers might be, their discomfort would be a mere paramecium compared to our fully-realized, able-bodied misery. And we could always buy them all a round of drinks, right? Right.

THE SUN, YOU GUYS.

At any rate, we did it and it worked out better than expected, especially considering I’d spent the weeks preceding our trip imaging the worst case scenario: spending six hours desperately feeding her cheese sticks and puffs and trudging up and down the aisles, dodging enraged epithets from other passengers. In fact, everyone was nice to us and very understanding. The baby behaved quite charmingly on the way there, and on the way back she was cranky but not as cranky as another baby sitting in our section, which meant she was an angel. Obviously.

In that other cranky baby, I stumbled onto another rift between my expectations and reality. Seeing as we were flying from Los Angeles to New York, that aforementioned cranky baby naturally belonged to an actor. He’s not a big celebrity, but he’s one of those guys who’s always around. You know that guy from that thing. I instantly recognized him, though I’d imagine many people on the flight did not. He and his wife were waiting at the gate and sitting in coach like the rest of us plebes, so I assumed they were a couple of normals. So on the many occasions when I did find myself pacing the aisles with a restless kiddo, I naturally attempted to make eye contact with either of the two parents. Not because I care that he’s semi-famous. It was more of a solidarity thing. I figured we’d exchange a glance that said, “Hey, here I am walking with this crying baby on a five hour flight. You were just doing the same thing! What a drag, huh? You hang out with movie stars and I hang out at a Barnes & Noble in Queens, but we’re all just people, right? Babies, huh? Amiright? Babies! Geesh.” And then I could go tell everyone what a swell guy that guy is the next time we see him in one of those things.

Except, they would not look at me. Many other fellow fliers did, and gave me pitying or empathetic or kindly or slightly irritated or disinterested looks, but they would not. Maybe they didn’t want to admit to anyone that their baby caused them any stress or grief. Maybe they thought they were more famous than they are. Maybe they didn’t care, because they were flying with a nanny who sat with the mother and helped her tend to the baby’s every need. Or maybe, I thought, I’m the one who is nuts. I now live in a world of stay-at-home parents of babies and toddlers who all spend their daylight hours wandering the streets of our neighborhood in pursuit of time-burning activities and adult conversation. We’re friendly. We require support. We’re a little bit starved for company. Perhaps this pocket of the population is singular, and most parents are just like most people—they don’t want to talk to you. And by you, I mean me. And by me, I mean whomever. Anyone. Who are you? Go away, stop smiling at me, you weirdo.

I get it, I guess. Only, think of the fun we could have had! Think of how the babies could have entertained each other! Think of the conversations that could have made our flight . . . well, fly by. Infant milestones! Lunch ideas! Teething remedies! Sleep training philosophies! Playgroup suggest—yeah, ok, I hear it now. Fine. I still think my way is nicer.

Nina Pajak is a writer living with her husband, daughter and dog in Queens. Connect with Nina on Twitter!