Monday, 16 February 2009

Will The Passenger in Row 22 Please Drop Her Weapon...

Ok I'm going to come right out and say it....YESTERDAY....WAS....HEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!

There. I feel a little better. No I don't actually. Now that I'm recalling the 12 hours trapped in economy on Virgin Atlantic from London to Orlando with a 2 year old, a 4 year old and the most miserable family of 'Chavs' (British version of obnoxious hicks) sat in front of us, I'm getting angry all over again.

Lest you think I'm exaggerating, let me come clean about the fact that I had to pop half of my 'emergency valium' (does every parent have one or is it just me?...nevermind don't answer that) only an hour after we'd boarded. Of course my decision was based on the following series of events which happened in rapid succession and caused my blood pressure to soar. Being a doctor's daughter (and supremely aware of my personal threshhold for imbecilic morons at close range) I made a medical decision which, believe me, was in the best interest of both my children and the other passengers on board -namely the hideous passengers sat in the row directly in front of us:

1) The captain came on speaker, thanked us for patiently for waiting through the hour delay and informed us that although the baggage issues had finally been sorted, it appeared that there was a problem with the fuel gage in one of the engines and thus there would be a further delay while Engineers were brought on to assess the situation.

2) The tv sets were all turned on and a loud cartoon soundtrack was piped throughout the cabins whilst peeved off cabin staff shimmied up and down the aisles dispersing prison quality sandwiches and watery juice to the masses

3) The family sitting in front of us (in BULKHEAD I might add) decided that they needed that little bit more legroom, so all forced back their seats to as far as they could go down, thereby crushing my knees and leaving Dumpie, Egg and I with approximately 40% less legroom.

4) The Captain came on speaker again and announced that although the procedure to fix the broken fuel gage was straightforward and would not require us to change planes, it would take between 2-3 hours to resolve, so apologized and thanked us for our patience in advance. Amazingly he felt that it would be a waste of everyones time to disembark. However he did promise that if repairs went over 3 hours he would reconsider letting us off the plane. Charming.

5) I looked around and noticed that everyone else had their seats in upright position for the comfort of the passengers seated behind...everyone except the ill-mannered idiots in front of us who were traveling with an only child about Egg's age who had the nerve to stand up on his seat and scream out at Egg and Dumps periodically, for no reason, for the next 12 hours.

(I asked cabin staff if they would mind asking them to lift their seats up until we took off. I was flashed a sympathetic smile but told that they weren't really allowed to request that except during take-off and landing. I then made a quiet-ish phonecall to my sister and husband, venting and explaining in a voice mildly louder than a whisper, the bad news and my current discomfort....
To add insult to injury we had been promised the bulkhead seats as I was traveling on my own with two small children. When we didn't get them I was told it was because there were so many infants on board that it was an impossibility. Funny then that the child in front was Egg's age, and the other two bulkheads were taken by four teenage boys and a family with a teenage daughter. Just wait till Virgin Atlantic Customer Services Complaint department opens today. Boy are they going to get an earful.)

6) The family in front plant their feet firmly against the bulkhead wall and push back with all their might - gaining an unbelievable extra two inches and showing me exactly what a FULL seat recline actually looks like.

7) Dumpie gets diarrhea. Egg announces he needs a 'magic pill' so he doesn't throw up all the mini oreos he's just scoffed. The first round of foul-smelling gas from the 'Chavs' in front hit. It seems that added to their immense grace and charm they also are a windy bunch and have their unwieldy bottoms trained in our direction so as to best inflict their foul-smelling emissions.....

Now I can just hear my husband mentally sighing as he's reading this, thinking that I'm giving away a little too much information and stating loud and clear to the world at large that perhaps I am a bit of a psycho, or at the very least in the same league as Naomi Campbell (and not in the leggy supermodel way I must sadly confess, but rather in the 'Anger Management' arena). Fair enough. So I'll bring this particular rant to a close (which by the way is making me feel slightly better so it's not all in vain) by saying that after nightmare number 3 (see above) I self-medicated so as not to cause a scene, embarrass myself, get my children taken away from me, and possibly end up in jail for manslaughter. I really had no choice.

In the end it was the right thing to do. Throughout the next twelve hours (you'll be pleased to know the plane repair only took 2 hours as opposed to 3. yippee. ) I seethed inwardly, had my knees bent out of shape, and took it all in good least outwardly. People must have looked over casting sympathetic eyes and thinking, 'How calm that mother of two is..good on her' without realising that most of the flight i was inwardly concocting ever more brutal torture scenes for the Chavs in front as they continued to make my flight hell. At one point they were cuddling the child on their knees and they STILL left the empty seat jammed down at full recline - despite the fact the I could barely move and had Dumpie and Egg squashed and trapped underneath the seats looking for crayons and odd bits of chocolate.

Anyway I survived it. Egg was good as gold - a real angel. Dumpie was....well Dumpie. Unlike Egg he didn't feel that he quite fancied a nap during the flight, and it was only during the last hour that he collapsed, spent, in my lap, winding the hair elastic on my arm through his arm, and finally(!) closing his eyes. Of course minutes later we began our descent, the cabin lights came on and a stewardess came by and warned me that I'd have to buckle him in his own seat. I tried to warn her but she shook her head firmly muttering about regulations.

So.....Dumpie of course woke up, had horrendous popping ears and screamed like a torture victim for the next 45 minutes. I think if I hadn't had the remnants of that 1/2 valium trickling through my nervous system that I might have just stood up at that point and impaled myself upon the drinks trolley. Literally, there was dead silence as we circled Orlando, save for Dumpie screaming with rage, out of his mind with exhaustion, alternately clawing at his restrictive seatbelt and slapping me about the head, his eyes glazed over and furious. The moment the plane touched down I frantically undid Dumpie, wrangled the seething mass of limbs and spittle and wispy hair onto my lap and tried to calm him down. I noticed that not one steward came to complain that I had unbuckled him prematurely.

Regardless, the end result (being the look of total and utter joy on my dad's face as we emerged -filthy, shell-shocked and utterly exhausted through the arrival gates) made the whole trip worthwhile. Even the horrid 18 year old, blond, buck-toothed wench at customs who made me queue all over again because I hadn't filled out the customs forms to her exacting standards (necessitating a further half-hour delay) wasn't enough to dampen the joy and love that came flooding out as I relinquished the monsters who went tearing into Grandpa's arms with glee.

As I told Dad as we walked to the car, I know how much this trip means to him and there isn't anything I wouldn't do for my dearest Dad...any distance I wouldn't travel to see him. I said that I would even go through the gates of hell for him.

Case in point.


  1. Flying and children. Not a great combination no matter how you look at it. Nice post.

  2. I'm not sure I should have read this post. Have to take a 2 and very nearly 4 year old on a plane on my own in 3 weeks. Not as long as your trip, but does involve a transfer. I AM DREADING IT. Our portable DVD player is up the swanny so there is going to be NO RESPITE. And we have a 3 hour drive before we even reach the airport. I can feel the panic setting in even as I type this. Any tips? Do you think trying to put them in seats as far away from me as possible might be a feasible option (my husbands contribution)? So not looking forward to this one!

  3. Hi there,

    I feel for you I really do! I wish I could tell you it would be different but it won't be :)
    Having taken several airplane rides with my 2 and 4 year old in the past several months, it has been a disaster each and every time. Have you seen my posting about the 9 hr flight back from India recently? That was so hellish as to almost give my (usually chilled and patient) husband a nervous breakdown:

    I do have some tips actually:
    1. book a holiday with a cheap charter company who have been known in the past to seat family members randomly throughout the plane if you don't pay extra seating charge. Bingo.
    2. pop a sedative, plug in an mp3 player and smile serenely as children play havoc with fellow passengers and cabin staff.
    3. BEG for a bulkhead seat, sit on the aisle seat and build a barricade out of those useless inflight magazines, pillows and blankets. They will think they're in a 'fort' and will be contained.

    Good luck (and let me know how you get on!)


  4. Hi, would it be ok to link to this post in my 'Flying Families' carnival over at this time next week? Have been looking for people's experiences of flying with kids. Let me know.



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