Flying the Noisy Skies

When did it become an FAA regulation that there has to be at least three hysterically crying babies on every flight?  And how does Murphy’s Law curse me by invariably locating them ALL strategically around my seat?!  And trust me, I adore children as much as the next yet-to-be-father.  It’s just that I don’t particularly adore them when they are screaming bloody murder in my ears.   And I don’t blame the babies either.  After all their eardrums are probably splitting open from the pressurization and I’m pretty certain they didn’t purchase their own tickets.  It’s the parents that I blame for bringing the little ear splitters on board in the first place.  Where are all these busy parents going that requires the presence of their two month old baby?  I mean if grandma and grandpa want to see the little bugger then let them do the flying, right?

On our Jet Star flight from Auckland, New Zealand to Sydney, Australia the only thing worse than the actual baby’s blood curdling cries in the seat directly behind mine was the plaintive shushing of the father trying to shut him up.  “Shhhhhh.  Shhhhh.  Shhhhh.”  Oh my god, are you serious??  Can we get that kid a nipple sir because your efforts are falling on deaf baby ears and his screams are rendering me nearly deaf.

Francesca says I should have more understanding and to think about if I were in their position.  Well, that’s impossible because I would never be in that position.  I promise not to bring my kid on a flight until he or she is potty trained.  How old is that?  Five or six?  I have no idea, but I’ll wait that long.

She also thinks I may be a bit cranky because, in an effort to lose the man boobs that I seem to have developed (thanks for pointing that out to me Dad!) I have reduced my caloric intake to about 100 per day.  She may have a point (I am SOOOO hungry), but I don’t think that accounts for all of my frustration.   My irritation was already brought to a near boil by the three twenty-somethings sitting across the aisle one row back who, in a display of mind boggling disregard for the people around them, were watching a movie on their laptop computer (a violent, shoot ‘em up film to boot!) without headphones.  When I awoke from my typical 10-20 minute take-off induced coma I struggled to make out what the noise was.  At first I thought it was just the kid next to me listening to his headphones really loudly (which he was) – you know the audio refuse you hear from the punks on New York City subways – but then realized it was these jokers across the aisle and they were actually listening to their movie without headphones.  At this point I could hear all the film dialogue clearly and all efforts to return to a blissful sleep were fruitless.

So I was left with no choice, but to reach up to the console above my head and press the flight attendant call button.  I used to think that there was some buzzer system or something that would alert flight attendants in the galley that a passenger needed attention, but now, after pushing it several times for various reasons on flights on our round the world trip, I am certain that the button only makes that “ding” sound in the immediate vicinity of the button pusher and that the flight attendants only respond to it if they make a visual sighting.  In the case of Jet Star there were two flight attendants nearby, but they were too engrossed in selling drinks and snacks to notice that a call button on gone off in their vicinity.  After what seemed to me like half of the flight a steward (sorry, male flight attendant) came charging down the aisle from the front of the cabin and I thought “Oh good, finally someone is responding with haste to my cry for help”, but he sashayed right by my seat, not even glancing at any of the 120 potentially lit up call buttons, and whisper shouted at the two stewardesses (sorry, flight attendants) with the snack cart “Do you guys have any more macadamia nuts!  I’m totally out!” I thought they were going to ask him to repeat himself since the moment he spoke coincided with a particularly energetic scene in the film those kids were viewing, but they nodded sympathetically (as if to say “Oh you poor thing, out of Macadamia nuts already!”) and handed him a couple nut bags.

It wasn’t until the snack cart stewardess had rolled her bounty up to my aisle with her handheld credit card processing machine that she noticed my call button was illuminated.  She gave me an annoyed look and, as she leaned over to turn it off, asked me what it was.  I requested politely if she could ask the passengers listening to the violent movie to listen with headphones and she gave me a look as if she couldn’t believe that I was really making this request.  She asked me to repeat it and I did, again politely.  She huffed and turned back to the offending passengers who, not to stereotype but, were dressed like NYC thug kids with tattoos and facial piercings and at least one of them had on one of those dirt bag trendy wool hats (its summer in this part of the world remember).  I couldn’t hear what she said exactly, but I did see her make an apologetic gesture and thrust her thumb over her shoulder in my direction (oh my goodness she just totally called me out!).  Then she wheeled around to me again and said “Is that better?”  Apparently she asked them to turn the volume down, but I could detect no difference in volume.  Now I was irritated.  I told her “No, that is not better.  It’s still very loud and they shouldn’t be listening without headphones.”  She turned back around and said something to them and laughed with them conspiratorially – likely something about the uptight American old fogy – and went about her business without checking back with me to see if it was better now.

It was better, but it still wasn’t off.  It was almost more annoying because now my ears were straining to discern if I was just imagining the movie noise or if it was actually there, faint, but throbbing none the less.  It was the latter.  I was about to ring my call button again, but then realized it was a losing battle so instead I dug through my bag for my own iPod and jammed my headphones in my ears and closed my eyes to the dulcet tones of Sarah McLachlan.

What is the world coming to?  I don’t know, but I’ll tell you what it’s NOT coming to; flight attendants who do their jobs and monitor their passengers to make sure noise pollution does not spiral out of control and is confined only to those crying babies.

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9 Responses to “Flying the Noisy Skies”

  1. I’m with you uptight American. Sometimes you’ve got to take the law into your own hands. I think a person visit by you might have made a bigger difference. That is pretty rude, I don’t care how few people are on a flight.

    • aroljahns Says:

      I considered it Brian, but it looked like they could kick my ass so I didn’t want to start anything with them.

  2. People watching movies without headphones (and too loud ipods!) also drives me nuts! On our last flight someone was using his laptop without headphones and whatever he was doing it kept making that annoying windows ping as if he kept doing something wrong. GRRR!!

    Now, my friend, there will come a day when you will be that dad on the plane trying to shush your little one. You are travelling the world with your bride and once you go down that road you will not be homebound for years! Trey took his first flight around 2 months old and has since been to 12 countries during his first 3 years. I must say on our most recent flight from Mexico, we were so proud of him – he chided us for not putting our seatbelts on when we sat, asked if the ding had gone so he could watch his videos on the ipod and enjoyed the assortment of activities and books we brought for him. With time and patience, kids can be wonderful travellers!!

    That said, we have been on MANY flights with children with ineffective and unattentive parents (and solo adults for that matter who are so clueless (cross aisle conversations – no – sit next to one another! Please don’t spray your perfume or do your nails either)! Bottles and/or snacks at take off and landing are essential. Blankets to keep kids cozy. Toys, ipods, books and staying clued in to your kid. On more than one flight, I have been tempted to offer something to help. And Bob and I will never forget (Bob in particular!) the spoiled child who was sitting in 1st class when we were on our honeymoon en route to the Seychelles (and had used an absurd amount of miles to acquire the tickets!!) who kept saying “Mummy are we there yet?” Oh yeah, the nanny was back in coach…

    BTW, when you do see a good kid on a plane, let them and their parents know. That positive reinforcement is always appreciated 🙂

    • aroljahns Says:

      Good advice Lucy. And you’re probably right about me being the father trying to shush his kid. i love travel so much i probably will strap that kid into a plane seat as soon as he’s/she’s able despite what i say now.

  3. great advice lucy, i’ve been putting off a 12hr flight to uk because of our 1yr old but will need to take the plunge soon. dan- when you’re a dad your sympathy levels and capacity to take the noise changes dramatically is all i can say … the lack of headphones on the other hand is completely out of order …

    • aroljahns Says:

      Of that I have no doubt Jules. But I think that is the problem. When folks become parents their sympathy and tolerance levels change so they then bring they crying babies on flights which is disruptive to other non-parent passengers. I’m just hoping I remember that when I become a parent.

  4. Just wait when you become a dad … 😉

  5. Best advice-keep the little RUNTS off the airways!!!!!!

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