What better way to start off any trip than showing up to Philly International at 3:00am after driving all night from NYC, to catch a flight to Houston? My girlfriend and I would be connecting in Texas to fly to Liberia, Costa Rica which is about an hour and a half drive to Playa Samara through the dusty Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific side of the country. This was our first vacation together and we were going to visit her friends who just bought a B&B there.
So the morning was a blur of going from check in, security checkpoint, to gate trying not to lose the half a dozen important documents that must be available for inspection at a moment’s notice, while removing various articles of clothing and raising my arms for the metal detector wand. Needless to say we forgot to look into the new rules about flying with liquids and were quickly relieved of all of our various lotions, ointments and toothpastes.
For reasons we never understood, we couldn’t choose our seating arrangement before the flight either because the Continental website was down or the universe was conspiring to make this an agonizing trip. Either way, we were told at the gate that the flight was full so there was no hope of finagling something.
I got stuck in the window seat in a row next to a young couple and their six month old (flying on her mother’s lap which Continental claims to frown upon) on the Houston-Liberia leg of the trip. Even better, the six month old was being force fed Baby Tylenol for some undisclosed illness.
My first thought when I saw the baby was, “a-goo-goo a-goo-goo.” I gave Baby Skylar (probably not her real name) the usual big eyed smile and accompanying gibberish adults think babies like and asked mom how old the lil’ one was.
“Six months.” Mom smiled weakly as if to say, “You can have her.”
I guess some people aren’t cut out for parenting. Apparently this woman had some sort of unholy maternal touch. Every time mom so much as touched Baby Skylar, she’d shriek and scream like a banshee. Living in Park Slope (the home of the stroller mafia) I’m used to kids, and having friends who’ve started families I’d go so far as to say I like kids and plan on popping out a few of my own someday, but flying next to these people, I learned several valuable lessons about parenting:
1. On international flights, be sure to change diapers in your seat so that all the passengers around you can enjoy the refreshing smells of digestion.
2. If your baby doesn’t want her pacifier don’t be afraid to force it in covering her mouth and nose in the process.
3. If daddy is the only one who can calm the baby, be sure to buy him noise canceling headphones for his iPod, sparring him the inconvenience of having “My Humps” interrupted by parenting.
4. If your baby is shrieking, aim her at the person in the seat next you. Preferably a stranger who can’t move elsewhere as the flight’s full.
From what I could glean about these people from all the various customs forms we had to fill out, mommy was in HR for some corporation and daddy was some sort of banker. The saddest part was, this was probably the longest either of them had spent with their child. They would have brought the nanny, but she’s illegal and can’t leave the US. Their commitment to child rearing was such that they couldn’t wait to get to Costa Rica and “dump her [the baby] on Grandma.”
And so it went, for nearly four agonizing hours, after having been up all night driving from NYC to Philly for the cheaper fare, I stared blankly ahead while a six month old, aimed squarely at my grill, threw an endless tantrum because her mommy had hands of ice and teats of sour milk. When the baby did eventually settle down for the last half hour of the flight, mommy laid her in such a position so that Skylar could kick the hell out of my leg, you know in case I was about to fall asleep.
Eventually, with dark circles under my eyes, I stepped off the plane into the blinding Costa Rican sunlight. Looking ahead I saw the kind of open walled corrugated steel roof airport you can only find near the equator. We finally made it. We had no toothpaste or suntan lotion, but we made it. My girlfriend stretched her arms and yawned as we walked down the steps to the tarmac. “How’d you sleep?” she asked.
“Badly.” Was all I could muster. “So, how do you feel about raising dogs and cats instead of having kids?” I asked. “We won’t have to worry about paying for college.”
Postscript: Continental offered me a $100 off coupon on my next flight for not enforcing their own rules; my girlfriend and I broke up not long after.