Coffee, Tea, or Screaming Baby?

1 08 2011

The boarding was nearly complete. Only a few passengers remained and the two seats next to me were still empty. With any luck they would remain empty and I would have the entire row to myself. But I knew no one could have that much luck, least of all me. I could be sitting under the end of a rainbow and find a four-leaf clover in my bowl of Lucky Charms and still have a 400 pound, flu-ridden, extraverted, liberal, democrat with two-year old triplets take the seat next to me. As I looked down the aisle toward the front of the plane I saw a young lady dragging what appeared to be a two-year-old child and an infant in her arms. Oh, please don’t come here, I thought to myself. Please have a seat somewhere other than beside me. She kept moving my way, looking up occasionally to check the row numbers. Darn! She pulled right up to me and said she had the seat next to me.

I smiled and got up so the two-year-old could move in by the window. Then the young mother, infant in arms, slid into the middle seat next to me.

Well, at least the baby is quiet…for the time being anyway.

I’m not one to be rude or ignore someone sitting in such close proximity, even if it is a 400 pound, flu-ridden, extraverted, liberal, democrat with two-year old triplets, so once she got settled, I gave her a smiling nod and said hello. She looked Hispanic with brown skin and short jet-black hair. She smiled and said hello in return. The baby continued to sleep, to my amazement, right on through take-off. I was so relieved and still in hopes he would sleep all the way to Raleigh-Durham Airport. So I turned on my headphones and dove deep into the book I was reading.

As the flight attendants began to make their way down the aisle with their cart, I looked up and then over at the sleeping baby in his mother’s lap. “He sure seems to be enjoying the trip”, I said to the young lady. STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! I thought. I realized I had just violated a cardinal rule by mentioning anything about the baby sleeping. Sure enough, not 60 seconds later the little rascal woke up. He began to cry and squirm. He cried and squirmed for what seemed an eternity. If it seemed an eternity to me I could imagine how it seemed to the mother.

The little boy asked his mother for his milk cup. She struggled to hold the crying baby while reaching for a bag by her feet to get the cup. When it became obvious to me that she would never reach the bag without dropping the infant over the seatback in front of her, I put my book in the seat pocket in front of me and removed my headphones and offered to hold the baby. She smiled and to my surprise, and without hesitation, handed the baby to me. So there I sat holding a stranger’s screaming infant son, thinking the folks around me will think it’s my child.

Several thoughts rushed through my mind. What will people think? Mr. can’t you shut up your child? That man is old enough to be that girl’s father. That baby looks nothing like his father.

And then like a spring rain that suddenly and mercifully stops without warning, the child stopped crying. He looked at me and smiled. The mother looked at the child and then at me and smiled.

The refreshment cart was pulling up alongside my seat as the mother handed the Sippy-cup to her son. The flight attendant asked the young lady what she wanted to drink. She asked for Coke as she unfolded the tray in front of her. As the flight attendant handed the mother the Coke, she asked me what I would like. Realizing I had no room to unfold my tray, I just said I didn’t want anything. The mother then put her Coke on her son’s tray and took her baby back. 

That was different, I thought to myself. But then the baby began to cry again. This lasted about two minutes and the child just would not shut-up. Finally, I looked at the mother with a sympathetic look. That’s all it was, a sympathetic look. It was not a how can I help you look or a give me the kid look. Apparently she misinterpreted the look and just handed the child back to me. The child shut up and went back to sleep.

So for the remainder of the flight, all the way to the gate at RDU, I held this stranger’s baby. Of course the mother was very grateful and repeatedly expressed her gratitude. I just kept telling myself it could have been much worse. It could have been a 400 pound, flu-ridden, extraverted, liberal, democrat with two-year old triplets.




3 responses

1 08 2011
Jackie garner

great story I could hear the baby cry and drift off in your arms to dream the dreams of the be a good guy Bill.I know it gave you comfort to be able to do that for a total stranger.

2 08 2011
Bill Taylor

I must say it did feel good to be able to help her but in all honesty I never expected to be helping to that extent.

21 05 2016
Maybe He’s Smarter Than You Think | Writings and Musings by Bill Taylor

[…] past posts this isn’t my first encounter with flying tots. See Coffee, Tea or Screaming Baby. ( ) The Lord gave me the gift of being able to tune out crying babies, nagging wives (not mine, of […]

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