I was traveling on business and unable to obtain an upgrade with miles for the return flight from Tokyo to Detroit. So I was seated in ‘preferred economy’ at bulkhead (aka premium cattle-class). I’ve been there before and began to fear the worst as I scoped out the passengers waiting at the gate. Muttering to myself, “I bet I will be stuck with other fat guys, like those two over there. Or no, wait, I will be stuck with that psycho lady and that paralyzed drooling guy. No wait, I will be stuck with that Japanese lady and her screaming and very huge baby… nah!” As I was beginning to feel the anxiety of a hell-trip in the making, I immediately began to pump myself up for the adventure by setting a positive mental vibe; “No problemo, I am a globetrotter. It’s only 14 hours. No biggie. Deep breaths. Think Zen. Positive thinking. Focus. Relax. OK. I’m better. Let’s do it!” After all, I had my brand new pair of Bose noise-canceling headphones, so I could drown out the noise at least.
No sooner did I get into my aisle seat did a small Japanese lady and a HUGE sumo-looking child enter my zone. “Sit here prease” she says kindly in an accent, bowing, with HUGE baby in arms. I get up and she plops the child into my seat, smashing my brand new Bose headphones. As I stood in shock staring at the pulverized $300 headset, a snotty, old, and ugly Northwest FA comes up behind me and barks “Sir, you need to sit down!”
After lift-off, the FA installed one of those airplane wall-mount bassinets for the baby, taking the time to grunt, push me and jam the bassinet into place, smashing my knees and consuming the one inch of precious leg space that I had (I am 6’3”). The Japanese mother takes the behemoth child and lays him down. Within three seconds the child lets out a blood curdling roar. The screaming, choking, kicking, arching and slobbering tantrum continued for what felt like eternity. It was like watching the exorcist in real-time. I asked the mother if the child was teething. But she didn’t understand English and just ignored the baby, and me. The FAs were useless and offered no assistance. Typical.
Desperate, I attempted to fix the broken headphones, looking for anything to cancel the 100 dB of noise honking from the gargantuan baby, but I was not successful. After about three hours of non-stop screaming, I asked the mother if I could help with the baby by signaling that I would hold him on my lap or hold a bottle for him. She was happy to hand him off to me. As I leaned forward to lift the child, while still jammed in the seat at bulkhead, I heard my back pop and my left leg went numb.
The baby boy was huge. A total sumo, about 10-12 months old and at least 50 pounds. I held him up as he balanced his pudgy feet on my thighs. I smiled, tried comforting him and said in baby talk “you’re a big boyyyy, no need to cryyyy.” He stopped sniffling and began to smile and giggle. “Success!” I said to the mother. She just looked at me like more was to come.
I look back to the baby sumo and he spits a gob of slime in my face. I quickly turned him around and he arched his back in rage and slammed his head into my face, bashing my teeth. I then spin him around for a return to the bassinet and he scratched and pinched my arm reaching for my face, and the screaming tantrum became WORSE…
The mother, frustrated, was crying and got up and ran to the back of the airplane. She was gone for about 30 minutes. The FA asked me if my ‘wife’ can assist with the baby. I informed her she wasn’t my wife. The FA said “Then pretend it’s your kid and try to quiet him down.” Needless to say, I wasn’t going near that kid again.
So, I was stuck with a screaming sumo toddler from hell for the next 11 hours. I kid you not, the child was a monster. When we were in line at immigration, other passengers were congratulating me for being able to tolerate the event. I was flattered. But I do remember, just before exiting to luggage, seeing the child in a stroller, quiet, and he just looked at me with a little evil smile…