I recently returned from a family vacation to the time zone at the other end of the country. While planning this lighthearted jaunt, my thought was, “Surely a four-hour flight with a one-year-old will be less painful than a three-day drive!”
While actually living through this journey into the bowels of human depravity and suffering, my constant thought was, “Which article of my clothing could most quickly be fashioned into a makeshift noose?” (Note to self: Next time, wear shoes with laces.)
I mean, it’s one thing to endure a long trip with an unhappy 12-month-old. It’s another thing altogether to know that you are forcing an entire crowd of innocent victims to endure a long trip with an unhappy 12-month-old. And it’s important to remember that a toddler’s inability to grasp the concept of “time change” is equaled only by his inability to give a single, solitary fuck about airplane etiquette.
So how do you fly cross-country with this kind of monster while still maintaining a scrap or two of dignity? It’s simple — all you have to do is follow the six easy steps below.
Step One: Ask yourself — do you really want to do this? I’m serious. Do you have any other options? Perhaps a Plan B that doesn’t involve keeping a tiny, irrational tyrant cooped up in a singularly inhospitable environment alongside a mob of soon-to-be irate strangers?
If the answer is “yes,” pat yourself on the back and cancel that flight. Congratulations on being a well-liked individual with a large network of supportive, generous friends and family. If the answer is “no,” hang your head and keep reading, you miserable bastard.
Step Two: Take a moment of reflection. Consider the life choices that brought you to this lowly state. Where did you go wrong? What could you have done differently? Did you remember to turn off the stove? Why is it so hard to find Murphy Brown reruns on cable? What is that one weird trick you can use to get rid of belly fat? Are you sure you don’t mind alienating a whole 737-load of your fellow citizens?
That last question is rhetorical. At this point, you have no choice.
Step Three: Watch Apocalypse Now. Not the original theatrical release, but the extra-long Redux version. Pay close attention to Colonel Kurtz at the end. Do you see the sorrow in Brando’s eyes? Note also the pain, longing, sadness, and inability to connect with his fellow man in a compassionate manner. Now, realize that’s going to be you in a few hours, and pack accordingly.
Step Four: Let TSA save you from yourself. Load up that carry-on bag like it’s 1999! Throw in your knitting needles, your nail clippers, your Zippo collection, your anatomically correct forearm-shaped dildo, and a few full-sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner.
Bear in mind that this approach requires a certain amount of finesse; you want to be held up by security just long enough to miss your flight, but you don’t want to end up on an international terror watch list. And if your complexion is darker than, say, eggshell? Probably skip this step altogether, just to be safe.
Step Five: Think outside the box when it comes to playtime. Sure, you packed a diaper bag full of books and toys — but if shaking Mommy’s prescription bottle of Xanax keeps your kid happy on the plane, who are you to stand in fun’s way? Let that little rascal show the world exactly how many milligrams it takes to keep that throbbing vein fully restrained within the confines of your forehead.
(And you already took your dose of Xanax, right? Did I really need to spell that out as a separate step? OK, in that case: Always take Xanax before you fly with a toddler; always look both ways before you cross the street; always wipe from front to back; never count your money when you’re sitting at the table; and the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep.)
Step Six: You know what? Fuck it. Just don’t fly. You know who doesn’t fly? Aretha Franklin. She travels everywhere by bus. Are you more important than Aretha Franklin? Do you have a greater number of pressing cross-country engagements than Aretha Franklin? Do you even deserve to be mentioned in the same paragraph as Aretha Franklin?
Unless you are, say, Beyoncé, you have now shaken your head “no” three times in a row. So, in the future, don’t even go unless you can go Greyhound. The major advantage is that bus travelers have far lower expectations than uppity air travelers. Yes, airplanes are just buses without wheels — but airlines have a terrible business model, so they’re way more expensive, and people generally expect to get what they pay for. When you bring a squalling, screeching toddler on a bus, you are simply fulfilling your fellow travelers’ expectations for a dismal journey.
For example, I once had a drunk guy caress my scalp on an interstate Greyhound trip, and I developed a weird rash on my face by the time I got to my destination. But you know what? It still felt like a successful journey — simply because I didn’t get robbed, stabbed, or sexually assaulted, and I definitely felt I was at risk of all three at one point or another.
And whether you end up flying with your toddler or not, it’s still recommended to go ahead and take that Xanax. Better too tranquilized than not enough, I always say.