Spare a thought…

Jackson Biko laments the crying baby on a long haul flight but spares a thought for the poor parents

FamilyBabies in a plane. Yikes! You know God is punishing you for something you did by making you share a row of seats with a passenger with a baby. First, as the universal laws of good manners dictate, you are expected to smile at a baby in your vicinity, pat it on the head and say something nice. “So adorable, what’s his name?” “She! She is a she! And she’s called Violet.” “Oh, I’m sorry. But look at Violet, such a heartbreaker! How old? No, let me guess, two years?” “No, she’s nine-months!” “Oh, uhm…nice. Healthy baby!”

It’s really hard to like babies on flights because they are always crying. And babies cry differently when they are airborne; incessantly, piercingly, hauntingly. You might be settling in with a good book, stretched out in your Business Class seat, removed from the troubles of the folk in Economy… and then it’s there, that sound of a crying baby, about a hundred seats up the aisle. Seat 89B. You might have a glass of bubbly to go with your salmon, but you can’t run away from the tantrums coming down from seat 89B. We all suffer equally. God is fair. And a crying baby is hard to ignore. And even though everybody acts all calm and absorbed in whatever they are doing now that seems awfully important, they are thinking only one thing: Can someone please put something in that baby’s mouth? Preferably something with milk on it? Goodness!

But stop for a moment and think this through. If you are at the end of your tether, imagine what the mother is going through. She can’t sleep, and on top of that she has to carry this baby through a nine-hour flight. It’s worse if it’s a baby like Violet who weighs more than a small Volkswagen Beetle.

When you travel with a baby you can’t eat well. You can’t even enjoy a movie. And often you will have to go to the washrooms and stick your nose in the baby’s poo-poo, all the while trying to maintain your balance through turbulence while also making sure the baby doesn’t fall in the toilet bowl.

But what about the baby? Imagine you are eight months old. You don’t understand why you can’t move around. You don’t get why your eardrums are blocked. Or why breast milk suddenly tastes like offal soup. Worse, you even can’t communicate any of this to your mom. Plus that damned creepy man with hair in his nostrils – the one in seat 90C – keeps making these childish faces at you that you don’t find funny at all!

It’s tough for you with all those baby screams (and you have a right to be angry) during a flight, but when you empathise with what the parent and the baby are going through, it might make your discomfort bearable. My point? Let babies be babies. Yes, even Violet!