I enjoy flying – most days. I book a window seat, and use the flight time as an optimal opportunity to read or sleep undisturbed. This past weekend I flew back to Manitoba for a friend’s graduation, and it was perfect timing as I had just downloaded the much-anticipated 8th book of the Outlander series. The first leg of my flight met my expectation. Empty middle seat and 45 minutes of quality reading time from Kelowna to Calgary. “Written in My Own Heart’s Blood” had me engrossed, and I was itching to embark on the two-hour flight to Winnipeg.
Little did I know that it was going to
possibly be the longest 120 minutes of my life. As I boarded the plane, I could see someone seated in the aisle of row 6 but the middle seat was empty – I was loving WestJet. Until I went to slide into the row and encountered Payten (correct spelling because she sang it out loud multiple times). She was seated next to her Dad, and across from her Mom and two sisters. Her Dad graciously provided the disclaimer that he had “drawn the short straw” because Payten was the family chatterbox. I expected that this admission might be a sign that he would at least attempt to keep his daughter occupied – but no! He put in his earphones the moment the plane levelled off – leaving me at Payten’s mercy. As fate would have it, I switched purses before this trip – and did not have my ever-present supply of earplugs. So I got to hear about her family, her favorite color: green, favorite number: 5, favorite food: chocolate ice cream, favorite animal: penguin, favorite talk show: Ellen, because Ellen shows her favorite TV stars: Sophie Grace & Rosie. 15 minutes in the air – and I could virtually see the sands of valuable reading time slipping away. I was polite – asking her a few basic questions:
Laurie: “How old are you?”
Payten:” Seven, but I will be eight soon – in July”.
Laurie: ” Wow! So you will be finishing second or third grade?”
Payten:” Nope – just grade one. I am behind because my Mom tried to homeschool us and it didn’t go so good.”
Laurie: “Oh, I see”.
And I did see….there was no way in hell that Payten’s mother could have gotten a word in edgewise.
I tried reclining my seat, pretending to be asleep. Which seemed to work for all of two minutes. I could feel Payten squirming around next to me but at least the chattering had quelled. Only to be replaced by something worse – the crinkling of a chip bag. Over the past couple of years my hearing has become increasingly sensitive. The rustle and crackle of snack bags is my kryptonite. Hesitantly, I opened my eyes to see Payten pull a family sized bag of potato chips from her backpack. Ketchup Chips!
Firstly – Who packs 235 grams of potato chips as a snack for a 7-year-old?
Secondly – Ketchup chips? Really? Anyone who has ever witnessed a child of any age eating ketchup chips knows that within 15 seconds, their hands are coated with greasy red food dye #40, which is inevitably going to be wiped on anything and everything within a 3 foot radius.
That would include an adjacent seat mate wearing a white blouse and beige pants.
It was then that I realized WestJet had truly forsaken me!
Panicked, I stood up and looked around the plane – no empty seats. I glared at Payten’s family – who purposely avoided any eye contact with me. Resigned, I sat back down and pulled a pack of sanitizing hand wipes from my purse. In between wiping Payten’s hands off, I began to fantasize about possible ways to incite a MayDay and have the plane make an emergency landing in Saskatoon, Regina, Brandon – anywhere! But alas – I had no cigarettes or matches to set off the fire alarm in the bathroom. Nor do I have any health issues that I could extrapolate into an emergency medical situation. I pawed through my purse: no earplugs, no liquor, no sedatives. I was totally unprepared and at this small child’s mercy.
Just when it felt like my nightmare was to be never-ending – the captain announced that we would be landing shortly. Payten packed away the bag holding a few remaining chip crumbs and I used my tide pen on a couple of unfortunate ketchup stains.
As we deplaned, Payten’s Mom and Dad both thanked me for my tolerance – causing me to feel guilty about my MayDay wish. I know what it’s like to desperately need a break – just two hours to shut out the world. And I have flown with a child who might have been perceived as a nuisance by surrounding airline guests. It was a long flight – but it wasn’t unbearable – and my book was still there for the flight home. Payten said goodbye – I told her to have a great time in Winnipeg (crossed my fingers behind my back to absolve the fib I was about to tell) and explained that we didn’t have internet at the house in BC, so unfortunately she and I couldn’t be online pals.