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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Philadelphia – The Early Years from an Early Riser

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Greetings from the city of brotherly love! It’s my first time in the great Philadelphia and I couldn’t be more excited. Unfortunately I’m still waiting on my friends and city tour guides to wake up! In the mean time, I’m getting a head start on my Philly facts and history.

Did you know the city of Philadelphia is coming up on its 331st birthday this month? In the year 1682, on October 27 (just a day before my own birthday *hint*) William Penn founded the city after being given a fairly large chunk of American land in repayment of a debt the king owed William’s father, Admiral Sir William Penn. Today that land is Pennsylvania (get it?)…and part of Delaware.
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I often wonder what I would name the kingdom I was born to run, but something about Weissenbergersylvania just doesn’t have a great ring to it. Lianeville seems far too provincial. I’m open to suggestions from the crowd–an indication of my fair, just, and humble leadership style.

For a student of history, Philadelphia rivals Washington D.C. for it’s prominence in the American story. In fact, I think it’s clear that when it comes to Team USA, Philly made the team far sooner. Let’s not forget that Philadelphia’s Carpenters’ Hall housed the First Continental Congress in September 1774. It was in the Pennsylvania State House that they met again in May 1775, and ultimately in July 1776 to write and sign their official FU to England, the Declaration of Independence.

While the Nation’s capital was being built down south along the Potomac, Philly kept the seat warm by serving as a temporary capital for 10 years between 1790-1800. Congress hung out in (suitably) Congress Hall, formerly the Philadelphia County Courthouse, while the Supreme Court took residence at City Hall. The executive branch, the big GW, lived at 6th & Market Street in the donated home of Robert Morris (who is more or less the economic mastermind of the US financial system). His home was renamed President’s House-again, super creative times for naming things. I guess we can’t all have the artistic expertise to choose titles like “White House.”

A note on Robert Morris: This dude was the first guy to officially use the dollar sign. Now that’s bada$$!

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Keep checking in for history from the field!

“Philadelphia is my greatest inspiration. — filmmaker David Lynch

There and back again

Today, I embark upon a journey. From the muggy swampland of Northern Virginia, I’ll venture to the mystic and plastic land I once called home: Los Angeles. Then, in my golden chariot, I will ride across this majestic country, through 13 states, to return to my Capitol City-adjacent home in Arlington, VA.

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Along the way, my trusty sidekick and I will face perilous obstacles that make us ask ourselves questions we’ve never explored before, like “How much is too much BBQ?” and “How long can I hold it so I don’t have to stop at that nasty rest stop?” Our path will take us through

  • California
  • Nevada
  • Utah
  • Colorado
  • Kansas
  • Missouri
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • West Virginia
  • Maryland
  • Virginia

With stopovers in Las Vegas (Nevada), Denver (Colorado), Jefferson City (Missouri), and Morgantown (West Virginia), it promises to be a thoroughly blog-worthy adventure. Stay tuned to the Star-Spangled Girl and the “Everywhere in Between” tab for more on the sights and sounds from across the U.S. of A.

Throwback Thursday: Liane Likely to Lose Limb

Thursday : It comes from the Middle English “Thor’s Day.” On this beautiful Thursday in DC, I’m throwing it back! Today’s post brings me back to simpler times–before I had a stock options or a lease. In fact, I barely had a bed. Ok, I still barely have a bed, but a futon is more like a bed than the hostels of Europe. Yes, you heard me right. It’s another in a long line of shameless self-promotion for my Notebook of a Nomad blog. Here’s a throwback, and I hope you’ll check out more if you like it!

During that first run-in with the beach I acquired some new information about Malaga. To tell you this story I’m going to begin with another story: Last year my parents, my brother Erik and I went to Pismo Beach. We stashed our belongings in our room and headed out on a fact-finding expedition. And by fact-finding expedition, I mean we went to check out the beach. After a lovely stroll down the seaside, I discovered a black muck on my foot. I went back to the room and spend a good hour scraping and peeling and scrubbing a persistent goo from my poor foot which was, in some places, now skinless. From what I gathered, this mess was tar. A little later, my father quick to do a little research found out that Pismo Beach was named by the Indians of the area. Pismo was their word for “tar”. I learned that the hard way. Somehow, I always am the one lucky enough to step right into history–literally.

I don’t know what Malaga means, but once again I stepped in something. After Douglas convinced me to swim in the rocky ocean (though there was a less rocky alternative nearby), I emerged with feet whose bottoms were stained the color of iodine (to which scrubbing has had no effect), scrapes all over my legs, and a strangely swollen right big toe. Initially I thought it was a splinter since I could see a little dot/puncture wound. But as the pain increased and no foreign body surfaced, another theory came to light. Perhaps, somewhere in the rocky, algae-filled water…something bit/stung me. I don’t know what it is, but I started freaking out when this morning, I started to lose feeling in my big toe and realized I couldn’t actually walk.

I knew I needed to act quickly, so act quickly I did.

1. Operation Uba: My father, Ralf, is the namesake to this attempt at curing my ailment. It’s also called “Operation Walk-It-Off”. As kids, whenever we hurt ourselves, my parents were fans of the “Get Over It And Walk It Off” method of dealing with it. While insensitive, usually, this actually works. So I threw on my flip-flops and grabbed my camera, intending to kill two birds with one stone and providing you lovely folks with some pictures. I got out the door and only halfway to the pool before I realized that “Operation Uba” had failed. I was limping and the pain was getting worse. I had visions of amputation. Worse, self-inflicted amputation just to stop the pain.

2. Operation Ice, Ice Baby: My next instinct was that the pain was caused by the swelling. So I grabbed an ice-cube, wrapped it in a paper towel, and started Operation Ice, Ice Baby. The swelling continued. The redness was spreading. The pain was spreading too. Fail.

3. Operation Self-Medicate: I take three ibuprofen. Toe is throbbing. Can still not walk. Urge to amputate increases. Assuring myself that I can call it “Operation Operation”. Fear of self increases.

4. Operation Elevator: Douglas suggests elevating the foot. No signs of improvement. Patience wearing thin. Pain making me delirious. I think the knife is smiling at me.

Dismal results have me rethinking my strategy. Up to that point I had been formulating my plans on the assumption that the spreading was bad. Well, the spreading of the pain WAS bad, but what if it was poison not just simple swelling.

Let me explain. I am terrified of being bit by something in the water. I love the ocean. It’s one of my favorite (nonhuman) things. Other than sushi-which comes from the ocean, and doubles my love for it! (I also love the iphone and the internet–these do not mix well with water)I wanted to believe it was a splinter. Because if I had, in fact, been bit/stung by something, one of my deepest, darkest fears had been realized. I am not sure how my psyche would recover. What if I would never swim in the ocean again?

Immediacy of problem increases.

If the new working hypothesis was that it was poison, then I wanted to dissipate the poison through my bloodstream. I needed to spread it faster, not slower. It would explain why the ice made things worse. So I implemented:

5. Operation Hot Tub Time Machine: Great movie, by the way, I was pleasantly surprised. In my final attempt at preserving my love of the ocean–and my toe– I would limp to the leisure center, sit in the Jacuzzi and put my toe in front of one of the jets. Perhaps, if I was lucky, the poison would disperse and travel away from its centralized location on my toe

(insert HOUSE-like graphics where the poison breaks into little balls and moves through the bloodstream–though hopefully not causing some kind of massive internal damage which may or may not include full-body paralysis. If I do go into full-body paralysis, people might mistake me for dead. Then I would be buried alive. And that would make pretty much all my major fears realized.)

When a baby is born, and the nurse puts it into the arms of its (because it could be a he or a she, or some kind of tranny thing or a he “trapped in the body of a she” or a she “trapped in the body of a he”..etc..) parents the first thing they (also, these days it could be a he/she couple, a he/he couple or a she/she couple or other/other couple) do is count the ten fingers and ten toes (then whether its a hermaphrodite or not). (Way too many parenthesis, right?)

So, you sit there wondering, will I come back from Europe with one less digit? Will my parents cry when they see the little stub where my perfectly pedicured big toe once was? Will my brothers laugh when I hobble around because my balance no longer serves me since my equilibrium is destroyed from lack of big toe?

As I sat in the hot tub, I thought about all these macabre possibilities…then I thought about Hot Tub Time Machine, because really–HILARIOUS movie….and then, before I knew it, and before the fat guy in the speedo could re-start the jets…the pain began to subside.

I plan to do a follow-up operation this evening, possibly called Operation Hot Tranny Mess (name still in the works). The current status of the mission is looking brighter. The redness is nearly unnoticeable, the swelling has gone down and I can walk without people checking to see if I have a peg instead of a leg.

Thank you for your concerns, prayers, well-wishes, candle-lit vigils and donations to Make a Wish. The cheery prognosis could not have been possible without you.

And….we’re back in the future. For the record…it was a sea urchin.
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The Journey

the-hobbit_2422493bI’m going to begin by thanking all the people who helped me get to the airport this morning. To my mom, for giving me life and teaching me how to live it ever since. To my dad, for making my morning totally stress-free despite our natural inclinations for stressfests. To my grandma, for making me a whole pot of coffee even though I could only manage to drink one and a half cups (albeit large ones). To my grandpa, for driving me through LA rush hour and making me a PB&J so I have a little bit of home on the road. There are a million things I could thank them for, but there’s a few.

This morning was a blur. I slept fairly well considering my—well, considering my personality. By “sleeping well”, I mean two solid hours of sleep. Then I woke up and BLURRR and suddenly…here I am at the airport, an idle 4 hour wait before my plane begins to board.

As of this moment this has been the most hassled travel experience I’ve ever encountered. Although I typically maneuver two suitcases like a pro, today I feel the handicap of a lack of sleep and my cumbersome backpack, purse and pillow. I’m falling all over the place. The line for security was a nightmare (second only to the flight out of Dublin, which was hell on Earth). I’d decided, against my better judgement and prior travel knowledge, to wear my boots to the airport. Usually I go no-hassle and wear flip flops, but today I was that girl.

I’d already been suffering from an uncomfortable sweat for the last 24 hours which only seems to be getting worse and worse. So I get up to the scanner and I’m struggling to get my sweaty, semi-swollen feet out of my boots. My mother’s voice echoes in my head from earlier that morning, “Don’t you want to put socks on?” I could slap myself. In case there was any question about this over the last 22-23 years of my life, my mother is ALWAYS right about this kind of stuff (even if we ALWAYS tell her she’s wrong). As I’m writhing on the floor in an all out battle against my Calvin Kleins, I can hear a collective sigh out of the seasoned travelers.

I wanted to ease their minds and assure them, “I know what it looks like, but I know better—I swear. I’m one of you, truly. All I wanted to do was save a little weight in my luggage.” Was it worth it?? No, nope, not a bit. I motioned for the man behind me to move ahead of me, but he politely declined, “We aren’t going anywhere fast, anyhow.” Secretly, I think he was just enjoying watching me struggle with the suede beasts unrelenting in their attachment to my feet.

There was a moment where I thought I’d be stuck in Los Angeles, unable to pass through security and falling victim to my own vanity. It would have served me right. But, it worked out, as things tend to do. After hobbling down the line, pushing my four trays, I cursed myself, sat down on the floor and with a firm yank I finally pried my foot free of its fashionable prison.

Finally able to look at the security line ahead of me, I discover that instead of the usual metal detector, LAX has finally begun using the dreaded and highly contoversial body scanner. The women in front of me opted for a pat down, and were awaiting a female attendent. “It’ll be a few minutes,” the security agent alerts them.

I’ve been a little skeptical about the scanner, on one hand believing in the paramount importance of national security, on the other holding a strong libertarian belief in personal liberties. I know what David Morse is going to say about this, and so let me defend what I was about to do.

#1- In order to preserve national security, sometimes a minor “violation” of personal freedoms is necessary. There is a line, of course, a line between the reasonable and unreasonable restriction of freedoms. I believe in the power of the people to act as a check to determine for themselves which liberties they are willing to sacrifice. Blahdittyblahblahblah. It is obviously a very complicated issue which I’ve been weighing in my mind and I’m willing to admit that you (David) may be right, in fact, you probably are–but that brings me to…

#2- After the epic battle royale with my shoes, I was not waiting around in security anymore. The judgement of the 200 people waiting in line behind me (no exaggeration) was burning into the back of my skull. If that means that some lucky TSA agent gets a glance at my lady bits, so be it!

It’s amazing how quickly personal values get thrown out the window for something as simple as public humiliation.

#3- Last year, I had a particularly invasive pat down in Frankfurt, Germany by a very aggressive and masculine young woman. I’m talking under the bra and partial gynecological exam… I’m still trying to decide which is a larger violation.

 Update: As I was writing this David told me to opt out.
A) You are SO predictable
B) I fail.

Judge away public-at-large, I am at your mercy.

And so, as has become the custom, I leave you with a toast. After looking around the airport, I know who has truly earned this drink.

Here’s to you, TSA Agent who looks at the body scans, may the sight of naked travelers not force you to poke your own eyes out.

“If God really had intended men to fly, he’d make it easier o get to the airport.”
~George Winters