I am finally back home, after a trip that can only be described as hellish beyond words.
To begin with, the large amounts of stress created by the fact that my wallet was stolen from me day two of my honeymoon, made everything a little less bearable than it otherwise would have been. Obtaining the necessary paperwork for me to travel through Europe and back into the U.S. was difficult and stressful in and of itself, despite the great help and assistance that both Swedish and American embassy employees gave me. The lady working at the Swedish consulate in Malaga was likewise extremely helpful and friendly, and if not for her the paperwork hunt would have been a lot longer and far more painful than it ended up being.
The U.S. embassy in Stockholm was likewise very helpful, the passport control officer in Philadelphia was understanding and generous, and the long and short of it is that we ended up getting me home, on time, for a lot less money than we expected. Very nice. The actual travel was less so.
First of all, every single one of the five flights we had to take was delayed for some reason or other. The first one was late leaving because it had been late arriving. Thunderstorms had delayed its take-off, leading to the delay. The thunderstorm was still very much active as we were about to land, and by the way, flying over the Alps is unpleasant. There was so much turbulence the little trays with food was literally flying all over the place, passengers of all ages were either crying or throwing up or both, and overall, it was just nasty.
We were so late coming in to Frankfurt that the airline actually rescheduled us for an early morning flight the following day, since we were not going to make the connection we had scheduled. We landed, got off the plane, and went to the airline ticketing counter to get our new boarding passes and information about which hotel they were putting us in, only to be told that they were holding the flight for all passengers off the one that just landed, and we had to go to the gate immediately. We ran, we made it, we got to our destination about an hour past midnight.
Then, after around three hours of sleep we got up and ran to the passport authorities to obtain an Emergency Passport so I could travel home, checked in, had breakfast, boarded the plane, and were on our way.
You are now wondering what all this has to do with children. Don’t worry, I am getting to that. Here it is: Parents all over the world, if your child is less than seven years old, you do not belong on commercial flights. I don’t care how urgent it is, either resign yourself to not travel anywhere you cannot drive during those seven years, or invest in heavy tranquilizers. This goes double if your little miracle is two or younger.
To phrase it differently, what exactly where you thinking, taking your two-year-old on a trans-Atlantic flight? Don’t you know that’s at least eight hours in an airplane? Don’t you know your little miracle gets tired, scared, bored and frustrated? Don’t you realize that when that happens, he screams?
If the mother of the blond wailing siren on the 10:20 flight from Stockholm to Philadelphia on the 23rd of July reads this, the fact that your kid screamed for 6.5 of the eight hours should be a clue to you that you should never, ever take him on an airplane again. The fact that passengers around you were commenting, loudly, on how irritating your little horror was, and were joking openly about suffocating him with their pillows or throwing him out the emergency exit, should have made you realize that it was a mistake to encourage his squeals and screams by wiggling his toys for him and by chasing him up and down the aisle in a game of tag.
For the record and for those of my readers who know me well enough, I would like to point out that there were several other passengers saying these things as well. I was far from the only one.
I also doubt that I am the only one who would pay decidedly higher air fares, if the airline could guarantee me that they will bar children below seven from entering the plane unless said little monsters are heavily sedated the entire trip. Whichever airline thinks of this first is going to make a fortune, if they can just avoid being sued by offended parents who are incapable of realizing that that not everyone is as enamored by their little babies as they are, and who are stupid enough to think that their children are being discriminated against.
And here is the thing: It’s not the babies. It’s you. A two years old little boy does not understand enough, and is not matured enough, to deal with eight hours on an airplane in any other way than by crying until someone he trusts saves him from this horrible place. No matter how annoying he might be, he is ultimately not the one responsible for the aggravation and insomnia he causes the other passengers–his parents are. And those parents need to realize that they and their babies do not belong in an airplane that will not land for the next eight hours. Do not travel with little children. Other travelers will bless and thank you.
Unfortunately there was a child like that wailing little horror on four out of the five flights we took to get home. The fifth flight was the one with the unpleasant turbulence, and there is a huge problem when a flight that has flying trays and vomit is the best out of five. Because of the turbulence and screaming children we traveled for a total of 38 hours, and only managed to sleep for three of them. Taking a nap is impossible with a screaming toddler three rows behind you.
Fortunately, I will not have to go through that again for a very, very long time. I am looking forward to enjoying being home, and staying home. I have traveled before, many times, but never had such bad luck and unpleasant circumstances as this time.
One of the very few drawbacks of home was highlighted for me as I stopped in a grocery store on the way home from replacing my stolen drivers license… this state is prude to the point of stupidity. For a number of reasons, at least one of which should be obvious, condoms were on my shopping list. Apparently they are considered restricted merchandise, and because of that the store puts a little block on the steel bar they hang from, to prevent you from taking the box off it. On the little block it says to see a sales associate for help in purchasing the restricted product.
Now, I am a married woman, with the rings and paperwork to prove it, and I doubt that anyone who knows me would describe me as narrow-minded, shy, or easily embarrassed. However, I do have some standards, and if I wanted to announce to a random stranger that I plan to have lots of sex in the near future, I could simply walk up to him or her and say that.
Never the less, determined to play by the rules, and always happy to make someone else more uncomfortable with a situation than I am, I found the nearest sales associate, a young man who looked to be in his early twenties, and explained that I wanted to purchase condoms and that the sign on the shelf said to see a sales associate for assistance in getting a box.
The sales associate in question looked like he couldn’t decide if he was embarrassed or amused, eventually settled for amused, and followed me back to the shelf and asked me which ones I wanted. I replied, “that one, the Magnum XL”, and sniggered inwardly when he instantly stopped looking amused. Boys and their insecurities…
I wonder though… last time I looked, the large number of unwanted teenage pregnancies was actually a real problem in this state. Would it not be in the best interests of the entire community to make it just a little bit easier, and less embarrassing and difficult, to purchase a pack of condoms?