The “Shrieking Dwarf”

April 24, 2009

in Baby & Kid Stories

This is the tale of our return trip from Germany to Pittsburgh in June of 2008.

6:30am – wake up in Heidelberg

8:30am – arrive at Frankfurt airport, 2.5 hrs before departure. Plenty of time, lines at the check-in counter aren’t long, so far so good. As we check in, we’re told that one of the 3 regular pilots called in sick and there’s no replacement available. Regulations require that if there are only 2 pilots on the plane, the maximum time they’re allowed to fly is 8 hrs. Flight time to Philly is usually a little over 8 hours, but the winds today may be in our favor. Nevertheless, there’s a chance we may have to land in Boston to pick up a fresh crew if it doesn’t work out. This should delay the ultimate arrival in Philly by only 40 minutes, so we’re still good on catching our connecting flight. No problem, really.

9:00am – while going through customs and security, we hear the shrieking cries of a toddler girl in a stroller. I tell Ann “hey, what do you think the odds are that thing will be on our flight”? We start crossing our fingers.

9:30am – we’re settled down in the departure lounge, an hour before boarding is scheduled to begin.

9:45am – toddler girl arrives in the departure lounge. Upon closer inspection, we realize that she looks like an overweight, cross-eyed dwarf and is clearly mentally challenged. We also realize that the shrieking is her only means of communication, because she appears to be mute. Doesn’t use words or anything approximating words. We estimate her age anywhere between 2 and 16 – it’s impossible to tell. We now dub her shrieking dwarf.

10:25am – boarding begins. Shrieking dwarf, along with her mother and sister, get to pre-board of course.

10:35am – We board. I take my assigned seat directly behind shrieking dwarf, deriving some solace from the fact that she won’t be tilting her seat back. Some small talk with shrieking dwarf’s mother reveals that their final destination is also Pittsburgh, which at that moment seems farther away than ever before.

11:10am – our scheduled departure time arrives but nothing else happens.

11:20am – the doors are closed and we expect to be pushed back to start taxiing.

11:25am – the pilot informs us that due to a scheduling software malfunction, the driver of the tug that pushes the plane away from the gate is not present. A search for a replacement is underway.

12:15pm – tug driver arrives and we are on our way.

12:30pm – the pilot informs us that we are next in line for takeoff and instructs the crew to take their seats.

12:31pm – we begin moving, but turn around and head back to a parking spot somewhere between runway and terminal.

12:40pm – the pilot informs us that just prior to our would-be takeoff, a warning indicator alerted him to low tire pressure. He quips “ basically, what that means is that we have a flat tire.” Engineers are on their way to resolve the problem. However, by now we have also used up enough fuel that a refueling truck will also have to come out to top us off. While we sit out in the midday sun, with engines and A/C off, the plane starts to heat up quickly. The crew requests that all window shades are closed to reduce this effect. We now sit in the dark, sweating and waiting.

1:30pm – we actually take off. Shortly afterwards, the pilot informs us that in fact we do need to land in Boston to change crews. For the next 8 hours, nothing goes horribly wrong but shrieking dwarf doesn’t sleep a whole lot. Cranking up the volume on my headphones almost drowns her out. We struggle to convince my 7-year-old son David that mocking her shrieks is neither funny nor polite. Mother of shrieking dwarf consumes copious amounts of wine and throws up at some point. She also comments to another passenger that her daughter has been really good on this trip. Somewhere along the line David befriends shrieking dwarf’s sister, a 4th grader who appears quite bright and confirms that her sister has “special needs.” By the end of the flight, he wants me to get her address or phone number from the mother. Again I have to tell him that this is neither funny nor polite.

9:30pm – we land in Boston where the local time is 3:30. Nobody is allowed off the plane (except the pilots of course). Since we had flown east to west, we sit in the midday sun for a second time without A/C and roast. Estimated 40 minutes turns into 90 minutes.

11:00pm – we take off and fly to Philadelphia

12:15am – (this is now technically the next day for us) – We arrive in Philly. After going through customs and immigration, find out that we’ve already been magically rebooked on the next available flight which leaves in 45 minutes 2 terminals away. We are fortunate that the lines at the security checkpoint aren’t too bad, but we still have to hustle to make the flight. Miraculously, we make it without major incident. David has a minor meltdown going through security but that’s about it. He’s already had a really long day at this point.

1:55am – we take off for Pittsburgh. Miraculously, again, shrieking dwarf is not on the plane.

3:30am – after arriving in Pittsburgh, David and I make the trek out to the long-term parking lot to get the car; Ann waits for us and the luggage at the baggage claim. David & I find that the car’s battery is dead. As we’re waiting for the parking lot guy to give me a jump, Ann calls to tell me that the luggage didn’t make it.

4:00am – We arrive home to find that my pepper plants have died and the Penguins are facing elimination. At least I had the foresight to put a couple of beers in the fridge before leaving town.

PS – All times are Frankfurt time (GMT+01:00). The next morning, the luggage is eventually delivered.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Demotage April 27, 2009 at 11:51 pm

June 2008, at Philly airport security? I saw your son having having his little meltdown. I remarked to my girlfriend – "I hope that THING is not on our flight". We dubbed him 'The Little Shit'.

We noted however that his parents seemed to be OK – they cautioned The Little Shit that it was rude to mock other people – before pointing and giggling about The Shrieking Freak.


Hugh April 28, 2009 at 12:54 am

Wow, great story. Making fun of a special needs kid. You must be so proud of yourself. I'm sure your son will turn out to be a fine upstanding young man.So, basically, this whole story is about a special needs kid, who behaved quite well, and your across the world flight was a little late. Karma can be a bitch, dear, keep that in mind.


Flyer April 28, 2009 at 6:20 am

If I were there for any of it, I would give your son the stink eye before I would think to look askance at the special needs child. Your son has no excuse. Your story should have at least been more entertaining if it had to be so offensive.


Nacho April 28, 2009 at 8:39 am

Your son is a real jerk and his attitude is repulsive. From this article, it seems the apple didn't fall far from the tree in those aspects.


Reasoning_Doubt December 29, 2013 at 10:40 pm

Nacho, shut the fuck up. You are not amusing or politically correct. You are just an online douche.


yousuck April 28, 2009 at 11:05 am

9:00 am.

Noticed an ugly kid with douchey parents. Told my kid to be thankful they weren't his because he would suck too.


Leo April 28, 2009 at 1:33 pm

Wow, that's an awful story! People like you should be banned from having children.


Hugh April 28, 2009 at 2:07 pm

Holy cow! I can't believe that Leo and I agree on something. That alone is proof that this author is WAY wrong.


leo April 28, 2009 at 4:31 pm

Well said Hugh!


MJ April 28, 2009 at 5:25 pm

I'm so glad that there are people like you in the world to determine what is funny and polite.


Anonymous April 28, 2009 at 5:44 pm

The Penguins suck and Crosby is a crybaby. Get over it.


Holly June 10, 2014 at 9:55 am

Anonymous, you are so right! Not only is Crosby a crybaby, he's an arrogant, worthless waste of space, along with all the rest of those overpaid ice skaters. At least they were eliminated this year (HIP, HIP, HOORAY), but the Pens still got shafted. Instead of a new GM and coach, they need to get new ownership. Mario Lapuke isn't good enough to own a discarded paper bag!


Demotage April 28, 2009 at 5:49 pm

Oh hey! I support everyone's right to be a funny asshole. I also reserve the right to point it out.


Anonymous April 29, 2009 at 7:55 am

So to summarize your story,


I wish I had the five minutes of my life back that I just spent reading about you making fun of a special needs kid, and the tiny trageties that happened during and after your flight.


matt April 30, 2009 at 7:38 am

making fun of special needs kids. burn in hell.


Onslow May 1, 2009 at 11:30 am

Certainly it was a terrible trip, but what you obviously think is funny, is not funny at all.


K. Watson May 5, 2009 at 10:26 am

What an absolutely revolting human being this writer is. And a parent, too? What a total ignorant asshole.


Crighton May 5, 2009 at 11:26 am

I read a comment from another parent about some cretinous little jerk who was making snide remarks about a special needs kid. What kind of parenting went into that? Not much good.


K May 5, 2009 at 1:53 pm

I'd rather have flight delayed and have the flight crew stop and ask maintenance to check any possible malfunction including underpressure in tires instead of burning in aircraft going down because pilots rolled anyway, tire overheated and started wheel well fire.

Next time you sit and wait for departure remember: it's for your safety.


LOL May 6, 2009 at 12:07 pm

Even if this post is a joke, I truly feel for the author. Can you imagine how empty you must be inside to make fun of a special needs child? Honestly, in terms of karma/sin/etc this post ranks worse on my scale than people who murder for money.


mercutioman May 6, 2009 at 11:27 pm

I read your story and my immediate conclusion after the first three paragraphs is this guy is a shallow dipspit with his equally venial significant other. Imagine my surprise when I learn you are a parent! Could have bowled me over with a feather. I am so glad that you are teaching your son that your plants dying and hockey games are more important than feeling compassion for someone who is mentally handicapped and her caregivers. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.


Laura Cardwell May 27, 2009 at 7:53 pm

This was well written and funny. I would have written a satirical piece after that horrible experience too. Special needs or not, it's still so awful it's hilarious.


Atari May 30, 2009 at 11:07 pm

I agree with Laura Cardwell.

While I would never tease or speak ill of a retard, I did find it a bit funny how you spoke of the kid.

You didn't dehumanize the kid, you just said the truth; her wailing was unpleasant.

The people responding are mostly just speaking out of ignorance and an orthodox, knee-jerk reaction to you not exaggerating and feigning kindness for the kid.

We would make fun of any other kid wailing, so why not Banshee? After all, Banshee wouldn't care if you made fun of her, because she wouldn't comprehend.

I mean, if I looked a newborn and called him an idiot, it would be meaningless; in reality, and to the infant.



Deborah C June 10, 2009 at 7:07 pm

This writer is absolutely despicable. And to think she is raising a kid…


Elisa July 9, 2009 at 4:12 am

Thank you Atari and Laura. I have a special needs kid myself, but I didn't find this post offensive in the least. He did point out that she was disruptive and irritating. She can't help that; but the poster certainly wasn't blaming her, or her mother. He simply related a long, tiring experience that was made worse by noise, car problems, plane problems, staffing problems, heat and lost bags.

Those taking offense probably haven't ever dealt with a special needs child themselves. The mother would be the first to admit that her kid is a pain in the behind to other passengers. We know these things; our kids have annoyed people before.

Go back and re-read it with another perspective. It was a flight from hell, rather than a blamefest on the little girl.


Reasoning_Doubt December 29, 2013 at 10:43 pm

This was funny. At least the OP kept telling his child, "do not make fun of the special needs child." Most parents wouldn't have bothered telling their child this, but rather, "go ahead, Bratley, express your opinion."


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