GateHouse — Over the years I’ve had occasion to fly with my children, now ages 9 and 1.5, to various spots along the East Coast, which I’ve done each time for one very simple reason: The “government” apparently doesn’t let kids fly by themselves, as I discovered years ago during a particularly heated and revealing conversation with an O’Hare ticket agent.
(There’s also a second reason: I prefer flying because I’ve driven with these kids in cars. And in cars, they trouble only myself and my wife for hours upon endless highway hours; on a plane, it’s maybe two hours, and they also get to annoy everyone else, which is bad for the rest of the plane I guess but makes me feel like I’m sharing the burden, which is comforting.)
I bring this up because of a recent Harris Interactive study that asked 2,000 adults which airline seatmate would be preferable: A crying baby, or a foul-smelling adult. If you’ve flown with any regularity you’ve probably been exposed to both; you’ve possibly been exposed to them at the same time. You’ve possibly been exposed to a foul-smelling baby or a crying adult, which would actually be a much better survey question, actually.
Yet this choice really isn’t a choice at all. It’s zero content. Go with the baby. Duh.
“But Jeff,” you’re saying, probably aloud, which is weird, “I know babies, I have been around babies, and I remember the shrieks and snorts and mucus-related noises that they make! Why would I elect to be near that, on purpose, on a seven-hour flight from Charlotte to LAX that stops in LaGuardia for some reason?” Good question, and surprisingly detailed. And I have a good answer: Babies don’t know what the hell they are doing.
Babies are also easy. They can be calmed by the following things: BOTTLES AND ATTENTION. Do you know what calms a smelly adult? NOTHING because you hate those people and rightly so. Do you know what calms a baby? LOOKING AT IT AND TALKING. Try it sometime. Make a funny face at a baby and watch the wave of joy cross its face, like “WHOA THAT DUDE IS QUACKING LIKE A DUCK, THIS IS AMAZING!” Do that to anyone over the age of 4, and you’re basically on the exit ramp to Federal Air Marshal City.
Kids are loud, but they’re loud because they’re stuck in a confined space with four thousand unpleasant adults. Which brings me to my next point about flying with children: I’ve flown with my kids. My kids are fine. You people are disgusting.
You read Nicholas Sparks books. You want to tell me about the bachelor party you’re going on in New Orleans, in exhaustive detail. You want to defy the laws of physics and jackhammer an 85-lb. hard-shell suitcase into a space designed for two-foot-tall bags with diagonal sides. You want to turn up the TV screen showing the pre-flight infomercials to catch some details on the airline’s apparently excellent catering services. I once sat next to a woman with a laptop who kept getting increasingly frustrated with the volume controls on her headphones, which were working poorly for, I discovered quickly, the very simple reason that they were not actually plugged into anything, so myself and the six surrounding rows were treated to an increasingly loud-soft-loud screening of some Sandra Bullock movie. To keep myself sane, I kept throwing pretzels at her, pretty well assured she wouldn’t notice.
You want to bring Chick-Fil-A onto a plane.
Related, sort of
My kids, on the other hand, are nice people. One of them is pretty squirmy, but I have this magic tool called “an iPad” that I can use to immobilize him for a couple hours at a time. It totally works! It has shows and games on it! Yes it is possible that he will grow uncomfortable and cry on the plane. It is also possible that when the cabin lights go on upon reaching the arrival gate, everyone will scramble to stand up and fill the available 24 inches of headroom like they’re going anywhere in the next 15 minutes. And, if nothing else, my kid doesn’t know he’s being annoying.
(Incidentally, I’m right: Turns out 63 percent of respondents went with the crying baby, which for everyone except House Republicans indicates A Simple Majority. You have been put on watch, Smelly Adults of America.)