Babies on a Plane

I love people watching. There are few places that offer a better chance to observe human nature than an airport. It’s been a while since I shared an air travel story, so put your tray tables up, your seat in the upright position, and buckle up for a story from 10,000 ft.

My flight from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles requires a quick layover in Dallas, by far one of my least favorite airports. Mostly, I find that the whole “Everything’s bigger in Texas” thing also applies to the people sitting next to you on your flight. As I get to my seat, I’m elated to see I will not have to rub shoulders with my neighbor, but little did I know that my flight would be less than comfortable.

Just as the final passengers are trickling onto the plane, I notice an odd sound coming from the row in front of me—the sound of four distinct breathing patterns. I freeze. The plane is full, there’s nowhere to hide. I close my eyes and say a prayer for peace on Earth and peace within the heart of the baby placed on her Mother’s lap. My prayers go unanswered.

Within minutes, before we’ve even pulled away from the gate, the stale air of the cabin fills with a piercing screech that would shame

even the shrillest of banshees. It’s a sign of the times that the bouncing bundle lacking joy wants to play with an iPad. But wait—there’s another child flying with them, a girl between the ages of three and five. Like a broken record accompanying the baby’s squeals, the older sister begins repeating ad nauseam, “Mommy, you’re closing your eyes.” As if that was news to her mother. At that volume and with that much repetition, it’s news to no one on the plane.

And then, something happens that I could never have predicted, and yet should have expected. The baby’s shrieks have excited another baby a few rows back. They embark on what can only be described as an all out scream off. For each round, the blessed babes elevate their screeches just one pitch higher and louder than the other.

If I’ve ever been thankful for being childless, now is the moment.

I admit I was already pretty peeved this morning. I woke up at 5am after only a couple hours of restless sleep, hindered by a long-standing fear of oversleeping and missing a flight. My exhaustion was tested when the cashier at Dunkin Donuts poured me a coffee with cream even though I explicitly ordered a black coffee. I was too far down the terminal to turn back by the time I’d taken my first sip and realized her mistake. My coffee-addicted, lactose-intolerant body has not been handling the surprise well.

As the babies test their lung capacity (and their respective mothers’ will power), the captain announces that we’d be a bit delayed because the ground crew needs to defrost the plane. Something tells me this won’t be a problem when I’m leaving LA to come back.

Just as the diva infants begin to bring their war of wails to an end, a third baby chimes in. Rather than join his peers in eardrum shattering cries, our latest entrant opts for an onslaught of coos. It’s like baby acapella of the worst possible sort. I try to find a melody in the trio’s vocal eruptions. Alas, no baby Mozart’s in this group. To my dismay, it’s simply a continuous mix of dissonant tones. Maybe it’s a post-melody, post-harmony arrangement—seems perfectly plausible.

I remember one of the first flights I look as a child. At least I think I do, though I shouldn’t be held the accuracy of my recollection. My brother and I flew with my parents to Hawaii. We were on one of those big planes with the long center rows. Our parents seated us on the inside of the row—even then I felt suffocated. The flight felt endless, but we entertained ourselves with our shiny new Power Ranger toys. I can only imagine that there was some caffeine-deprived passenger wishing my own mother had decided against taking us along.

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Baby 1’s name is Dar. I pick up this information midway through the flight when her older sister rats her out for spilling popcorn. Her mother, like a pro, continues to chat to her neighbor as though oblivious to the clear and utter chaos around her. Older Sister alerts her mother that Dar is now eating popcorn off the floor. Mother continues to chat with her neighbor (how exactly the baby managed to reach the popcorn on the floor is beyond me).

The floor-popcorn distracts Dar enough to halt the screaming. A moment of silence, but I know this glorious break won’t last long. It’s just an intermission in a show I never asked to attend. I close my eyes, welcoming the possibility for rest. Just as I’m about to drift off, Baby 2 begins to sob, surely missing his or her new companions. I’ve never been so happy to hear that the plane has begun its descent into the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.

Almost home!

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Carmelot

Earlier this week I referred to my marvelous golden chariot carting me across the country. I love my car. Fondly called “The Yellow Submarine” by my friends in college, my 2007 Volkswagon GLI Fahrenheit is a thing of beauty and wonder.

Yes, it’s bright yellow. No, that was not what I imagined as my first car. To be fair, my German bumblebee was not my first car. For the years between when I got my drivers license and the time I got my own real car, I drove my mother’s hand-me-down Izusu Trooper. The forest green, top heavy, lunk of a car was a disaster. The window on the driver’s side had a tendency to fall into the door, leaving the driver vulnerable to the notoriously horrible LA weather. Okay, it could have been worse. At least I wasn’t living on the East Coast at the time, but I can promise you I drove with the rain in my eyes on more than one occasion. The car worked, and that was all that really mattered.

When I finally started to look for a car of my own, I spent months researching. If you know me, you know this process well. There’s research, compiling of documents and resources, a ranking system of some sort–typically complete with a formula weighted for more desirable attributes. I like to make educated decisions, protecting myself from the possibility of overwhelming bouts of buyers’ remorse. When I was applying to college, I spent no less than a year writing to different schools for information. When I applied to grad school I put together a binder with dividers and spreadsheets. When I was decorating my apartment a few months ago, I put together a powerpoint presentation with multiple options for each room- with cost breakdowns, hyperlinks, and color coding. I like to know what I’m getting myself into…

As I educated myself on the car options available I was practical. I wanted it to be a solid value, dependable, safe, economic, and not too bad on the eyes. I settled on a black VW Jetta. In December of 2007, I rounded up the two of the best negotiators on the planet–my mother and my grandfather–and headed over to the VW dealership. The only problem with bringing two headstrong, opinionated individuals with you to do you bidding is their ability to negotiate you completely out of the decisionmaking process. Rather skillfully, they convince you that you want what they want and the other party wants what they want. We should really send those two to the Middle East–just saying.

My grandfather was adamant that I not get a black car. First, he told me, black cars are more dangerous because they are harder to see at night. This seemed logical. I liked the idea of black because most of my family members had the practical silver, because it looked cleaner longer. Silver was fine, but I felt some need to push back against the sea of grey in my parent’s driveway. I wanted a sleek black car. He pushed back, beyond the safety, appealing to my vanity. “There is nothing worse than a pretty girl in a dirty car,” he told me for the first of (very) many times.

As we strolled the lot, a glimmer shot into the eye of the salesman. Let me show you what we have, it’s a limited edition. Now we were talking. I don’t really feel the need to be flashy, but I do like to stand out. He took us out to the front and that’s when I saw it, it’s sunshine-bright skin and crimson accents glistening in the L.A. light. “It’s a GLI Fahrenheit,” he told us, “only 1200 in the world. You can see the limited edition plate on the steering wheel. The inside is leather with details and accents to match its exterior. We only have one on the lot, and the car only comes it yellow.” It’s wasn’t love immediately. I liked the idea of having a car that only 1,999 other people in the world had, but yellow? It didn’t feel like me.

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“No one will be able to claim they didn’t see you there,” my grandfather joked. “I’ll be cop-bait,” I argued back. “Well then you better drive safe,” he replied with a smile.

We went for a test drive.

I’m not going to say my grandfather’s a bad driver. He drove me to and from school every day from Kindergarden until I graduated from 8th grade. Without ever complaining, he chauffeured me wherever I needed to go for years. His driving expertise has successfully gotten me from point A to B via two-seater sports cars, spacious Cadillacs, exhilarating jetskis, clunky motorhomes, and even helicopter. We made it to each and every destination and back safely, but there have definitely been some…questionable moments. This was one of them.

I know my grandfather knows how to drive manual. In fact, I believe he was the one who taught my mother to drive. And yet, I could see the white knuckles of the salesman as we stalled and screeched down the streets of West Covina. The man was kind, kinder than I would have been in that situation–shocking. Although, I’m sure I could muster up the patience with a commission like that. When we got back to the lot, I swear he was still shaking a little.

While I hadn’t completely embraced the car, when I finally got it home, we became quick friends. My car became synonymous with my independence, the first thing that was ever really mine. During the summer at UCLA, I’d take my Yellow Submarine up Pacific Coast Highway, just to let him soak in the salty ocean air. I actually hear this is bad for the paint of your car, but what can I say? Sometimes we want things that are bad for us. Can you say you never have?

When I moved to D.C. for grad school, I had to leave my car behind. Washington is no place for a car. While the traffic may not be as bad as Los Angeles (though it’s pretty bad), parking sucks and to make things worse, I’m convinced parking enforcement is in a constant state of needing to prove its worth in a city filled with far more important lawmakers and law enforcers. With all those visiting dignitaries, I’m sure it’s hard to find a vehicle without diplomatic immunity to ticket. I set off to the land of the metro.

But I’m a Virginian now. I moved to Rosslyn (Arlington) in May 2012, and then to the nearby area of Clarendon at the end of that lease. I even re-registered to vote in Virginia, so that’s about as official as it gets. Arlington may be VINO (Virginia in Name Only) and practically just an overflow of the District, the new location has me yearning for my independence–my car. What currently takes hours of walking, metroing, transferring, and walking again, can suddenly become a quick trip. Like my 19 year-old self, I’m eagerly anticipating the world that having my car will unlock. Maybe not the gas expenses, but there’s a world out there waiting to be explored, and I’m on my way to find it.

An Excuse

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I figure writing this blog is good for a number of reasons, allow me to explain.

#1- Sorry I’m popular

I have a large family & a lot of friends. This means recounting, in excruciating detail and with equal fervor, the same events numerous times. Inevitably, someone loses out, taking that kind of dedication to storytelling is impossible- I get lazy or refuse to mention them at all. That’s truly a shame—my stories, like me, are amazing.

#2- Me talk pretty one day

I’m a much better writer than I am speaker. It’s true, I admit it. I talk a mile a minute and I get so caught up trying to keep up with my brain that I skip over the good stuff and drop the punchline. Don’t get me wrong, with enough planning in advance I can rehearse a story like no other, but there is no doubt that the written word is my medium. It just lends itself to a greater ability to use proper diction. To me, a finesse with diction is simply an extension of efficiency. Why use a bland word, or a string of words, when you can pause and think and use that word that brings out the soul of your meaning. Now that is art.

(PS. I will send something special to the first person to post where “Me talk pretty one day” comes from)

#3- What was I saying again?

I have a terrible memory. Don’t get me wrong, I remember the weirdest things. Like the face of that girl who was on my cheerleading team for a week 13 years ago. She was a quitter, I cannot forget the face of failure. But forget trying to pry information from my head if you ask me something practical like:

Nurse: When was the date of your last period?

Me: stares blankly, looks at the ceiling, thinks, continues thinking, squints, counts, closes her eyes, thinks, counts again, another blank stare, looks the nurse dead in the eye—maybe that will trigger something, maybe SHE knows the answer– I dunno. Sometime inconvieniant. Can I phone a friend?

Literally once I called a friend from the waiting room before my appointment to ask when I borrowed a tampon in preparation for this question. Although what does it say about her that she remembered the last time she lent me a tampon?

Wow, this post took an ugly turn. My sincerest apologies and deepest thanks for sticking through it.

About my memory, as demonstrated above in my graphic and grossly inappropriate example, it’s atrocious. So if you expect me to remember the things that happened even say, a week later, unless it was highly influential in shaping my worldview—you’re SOL. Instead, you will end up with a rambling of random things that happened at some point in time.

Me: There was a dog and a weather balloon and some lady was crying.
Confused Co-Conversationalist: Were they in the weather balloon?
Me: Oh no, that was last year. It just reminded me of that other time. But overall, I was really disappointed with the quiche.

Are you lost? I should hope so because that kind of nonsense is only intelligible to people on salvia and those with severe mental disorders. If I ever meet someone who can make sense of my half-remembered gibberish I will march them over to the church and marry them straight away—man, woman, horse, irrelevant! Clearly it’s kismet.

However, I’m going to confess that my concern is not with being able to accurately recount my adventures to other people. I’m far too self-centered for that. My concern is that I won’t remember for myself. So I’m creating sort of a real-time scrapbook forever woven into the tapestry of the internet. Like an elephant, the internet never forgets.

60 years from now, when my hair is grey (or heavily covered in dye), my eyes have long since lost their focus, my body is brittle and weak, and my ears are muted from rock music and cellphones—I will have my robot companion put in my hearing aid and read to me about my adventures as I knit my cat a sweater. Although there is a possibility that the future involves medical advances which stop the aging process, but thats a much less dramatic picture.

#4- Me, Myself and I

I know sitting around and reading about me discussing my favorite topic, myself is fairly annoying. But you know what’s more annoying? Sitting around and listening to me talk about myself for hours. This blog is a godsend. You can take as much of my self-centered ramblefest as you want, before you hit the vomit point and all you have to to is click away until you feel the need to return.

Even if no one reads it, it will satisfy my narcissism, preventing me from feeling the need to discuss every mundane detail of my life to you.

#5- I’m lazy.

Let’s be real. If I don’t call you, it may or may not be because I’m busy. I’m notorious for staring off into space for hours, yes HOURS, at a time. I don’t need TV or Internet to procrastinate. I just need my own mind and something to think about. So, the reason we haven’t spoken in 6 months is not necessarily because I’ve been so consumed with all those things I should have been consumed with (and probably told you I was consumed with). And furthermore, you aren’t the only person I have been unconsciously avoiding (without malintent-of course). The task of calling all those people and catching up is fairly daunting and I’m lazy. Instead, when one of us finally gets around to the awkward facebook chat or text, or God forbid phone call “Hey. What you been up to? It’s been forever.” I can simply type www.thestarspangledgirl.wordpress.com.

And hell, I know you, its better for you too! You don’t have to sit there for 2 hours and pretend to be interested(see #4) as I do a halfass job (see#1) of explaining events I barely remember (see #3) with mediocre skill (see #2).You’re welcome.

A toast: To blogs, friend to egocentricts and friends of egocentricts, alike

“I sincerely believe blogging can save America.”
~John Jay Hooker