Now I don’t run from a challenge. Be it races, exams, promotions, dating (pre-Ash), checked-out employees or trying to have a non-emotionally charged political debate with my family, I seek out and relish difficult tasks. Based on some pre-game scouting at airports, I had an idea that traveling with a baby would be difficult. I didn’t quite fathom, however, how draining the experience would be.
Let’s start with my new nickname: “The Mule.” This name is in no way affiliated with the above-average-but-not-great Clint Eastwood film with the same name. And the cargo that I carried was most certainly different! Think more along the lines of a trip down the Grand Canyon, where you are permitted to rent and thus utilize mules for transporting you or your belongings. This was my job. We were going to be gone for just four days, so naturally, we needed five bags. I’m fairly certain people suspected we were going to the country for at least two weeks based upon the luggage. My proactive wife had done her research and purchased two bags specific to the car seat and stroller. You see, the airlines are not liable for damage, ONLY loss. These bags were guaranteed from the manufacturer that if broken, they would provide a complimentary replacement. More to come on this another time …
We finally got to the moment of walking onto the plane. As I went down the aisle, I was seeking eye contact or non-verbals telling me if we had a player. You frequent travelers know what I’m talking about. Who is going to be willing to sit next to a baby for four hours? Who has the patience, understanding and positivity to deal with what could be a disruptive experience? I got the proverbial “look aways.” The same thing happens in a class when a student hasn’t completed an assignment and the teacher is looking to call on someone. Just don’t make eye contact. I got a couple of fake smiles that were more like smirks of “Don’t even think about it.”
“Right here!” my wife shouted at me. She’d located two aisle seats midway in the plane. At the point when my wife makes a decision, I’m now more apt to go with it than battle it. My blood pressure favors this methodology, actually. We started to stow away our Bear Grylls type of gear, and just as I was sitting down, the vibrations commenced. Now we know vibrations from a diaper don’t necessarily mean oil has been struck; sometimes, gas just prefers the great outdoors. But when you’re about to begin a four-hour journey, you’d rather not take that chance. So I began my progression down the aisle.
A couple of times, I imagined a blocker in front of me as I protected the valuable football in my arms. I finally made it to the refuge of the loo. I opened up the door and prepared myself for the deed, when I realized there was no changing apparatus in this particular restroom. I turned and saw a flight attendant staring at me with an apologetic smile. “Sorry brother, the only changing table we have is at the other end.” This is why I stopped playing blackjack years ago. Even with a 50/50 shot, I obviously chose wrong. I cradled the precious football back in the protection of my arms and began a reverse excursion to the other end of the plane. As I reached my destination, a second flight attendant was waiting for me with a trash bag in hand. My mind conjured up that famous line from Jerry Maguire, “You complete me.”
I changed diapers at 0 and 40,000 feet on this trip. The ones at 40,000 were definitely exciting just for the challenge, given I’m six foot four and was cramped into a lavatory the size of a kindergarten’s fold-out recess chair. Turbulence just feels different under these circumstances.
All in all, though, my son is now an avid fan of Key West. So regardless of the perils of infant travel, seeing that smile on his face when he laid eyes on the ocean and looked around in wide-eyed wonder means I’m gonna grind this out again and again and again. Hopefully with less luggage next time.