Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
AIR TRAVEL STILL DANGEROUS
I had to fly to Atlanta recently, and my seat was toward the back of the plane, on the aisle. Most of the other passengers looked a lot like me: tired business people who would either fall asleep or open their laptop computers once the plane took off. (I usually open my laptop computer and then fall asleep, insuring that I reach my destination with both a stiff neck and a completely dead computer battery.)
When it appeared everyone was seated and the plane was about to pull away from the terminal, one last passenger staggered aboard. Or I should say, two last passengers: a frazzled-looking young woman carrying an overstuffed bag in one arm, and in the other arm, a frazzled-looking overstuff toddler.
I’m not sure of the youngster’s age since I stink at guessing people’s ages. I’m only able to lump people into two age categories: zero to 30, or 30 to dead. The toddler was definitely in the first category and his mother could have been in either category. (Although the look on her face indicated she wished she was at the far end of the second category.) If I had to guess, I’d say the child was about two years old, and he had “imminent temper tantrum” written all over his grimacing face.
As the woman lurched down the aisle, I glanced over and saw two empty seats directly across from me. I immediately started praying. Oh please, oh please, don’t let those seats be theirs! I looked up at the woman, still a good 50 feet away from me, and my prayers became more intense. Sit down, lady, sit down! C’mon, you can do it. Your seats must be way up there. That’s it, start looking at the row numbers ‘cause your seats are not back here. No, no, don’t keep walking. Sit down, now! C’mon lady, please!
When she came within five feet of me, her eyes locked onto the two empty seats across the aisle. A look a relief swept over her face at the same moment a look of terror swept over my face. She plopped down into those seats, no more than an arm’s reach from my eardrums, and as she sat, the percolating little volcano in her arms suddenly erupted into a torrent of screams, shrieks, and kicks.
As the plane began its slow journey from the terminal to the runway, numerous questions began racing through my mind: How am I going to survive a two-hour flight with this sitting next to me? If I use a pen to punch holes in my eardrums, can a surgeon repair the damage when I get to Atlanta? Will a jury buy the temporary insanity defense if I end up strangling the little demon seed?
After a few minutes, as the stream of screeching decibels continued unabated, my mind fixed on a different thought. I began silently rehearsing exactly what I would say to that woman when we got to Atlanta. You’ve got some nerve, lady, subjecting people to such abuse. Don’t you have any consideration at all? People like you give the human race a bad name!
But surprisingly, as soon as the plane raced down the runway and took off, the little monster calmed down and became quiet. He was either fascinated by the sensation of flying, or I had not noticed when a flight attendant injected him with syringe filled with heroin.
I made eye contact with the youngster and he smiled. This prompted me to go into my award-winning “goofy daddy” routine, complete with funny faces, peek-a-boo, Bronx cheers, and the spectacular grand finale: slide my glasses to the tip of my nose, cross my eyes, and stick out my tongue. The little nipper was hysterical with laughter—my most appreciative audience in years. (My daughters used to love the “goofy daddy” routine, but for some strange reason, now that they’re teenagers, they don’t laugh anymore, especially when their friends are present.)
It turned out to be a delightful flight and the two-hour trip with my new “buddy” zipped by quickly. When the plane reached Atlanta, the toddler’s mother turned to me and snarled, “I was hoping he would sleep during the flight. You’ve got some nerve, mister, subjecting people to such abuse. Don’t you have any consideration at all? People like you give the human race a bad name!”
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