Traveling with kids: the Baby Jacqueline story.

December 12, 2009 5 Comments A+ a-

Traveling with kids can be a nightmare. A few years ago, when I was flying regional jets, I worked a flight from Chicago (ORD) to White Plains, NY (HPN). This was one of our most hated flights. Similar to New York-Palm Beach flights, the seats can be filled with whiny brats--and their children, too.

There is only one Flight Attendant on the Embraer-145. This 50-seat RJ is configured 1 and 2--meaning in each row there is one seat on the window, the aisle, then two seats. After the plane was boarded, I did my compliance checks (seatbelts, seatbacks, electronic devices, etc.) In Row 15, on the "A" side, was an man in his mid-thirties, lost in his newspaper. On the "BC" side in Row 15, was a thirty-something woman, struggling with a child next to her in the window seat. The little girl, about four years old, was screaming at her mother, crossing her arms, yelling "no" and refusing to have a seat or put the seatbelt on.

I didn't want to add to the mother's stress--I saw she was struggling with the girl to make her sit down. "Baby Jacqueline," she begged, "please sit down and put your seatbelt on!"

The child made loud, "I'm not doing anything you tell me to do" sounds. Sorta like....meh! Meeeeh! Meh!

"Baby Jacqueline," she implored, "we'll buy you a toy when we get home if you sit down, please. I'll get you the American Girl doll you want." (And, yes, she referred to the child as "Baby Jacqueline")

Nothing. The kid kept messing around. She was playing with the Passenger Service Unit (PSU) which is the fancy name for the panel above your seat with the lights, Flight Attendant call button, and the vents on it. Bing! Bing! Bing! Baby Jacqueline played with the call button. Bing! Bing! Bing! The child loved that call button! In her seat, "Baby Jacqueline" stood on her tippy-toes, reaching over her head to keep pressing the button: Bing! Bing! Bing!

I had a fine line to walk--to keep the Mom as a customer happy, but to remember I had a plane full of other passengers who expected an ontime departure and an ontime arrival.

Bing! Bing! Bing!

I walked towards the back of the aircraft, and leaned down to the mother and quietly asked if there was anything I could do to help her. "No", she managed to reply before turning to the young girl and saying, "Baby Jacqueline, if you don't stop the Stewardess is going to be mad at you." (No, Lady, I wouldn't be mad at your four year old, I promise...)

Bing! Bing! Bing!

Because we had started to push back--that is, the tug was moving us away from the gate, it was imperative that this little girl be sitting down with her seat belt on. It is an Federal Aviation Regulation--a requirement for pushback. I would need to inform my Captain if everyone wasn't in compliance. I very nicely asked the mother if she needed more time--that I would call the Captain and ask him to wait until she was able to get her little girl settled...

Bing! Bing! Bing!

The harried mother turned away from me and conceded to the little girl. "Baby Jacqueline, I have some candy for you. Wait...wait a second, I'll get it for you. It's right, yes...yes, right here" Having moved three rows to the back of the airplane, this vantage point allowed me to see the woman struggling with the bag she had under the seat in front of her. Bing! Bing! Bing! She was digging around and finally came up with the prize: a huge bag of M & Ms. This was not the individual sized bag you see at a convenience store. This was a "fill your candy dish" size of brightly colored pellets.

Bing! Bing! Bing!

The mom pulled open the bag of candy at the seams and handed the entire huge bag to her brat. Baby Jacqueline, in turn, took the colossal opened bag of M & Ms and flung them forward-in a motion similar to a lawn sprinkler.

Bing, bing, bing, indeed! That was the sound of those M & M's flinging through the air and smacking unsuspecting people in the back of their heads, six or seven rows away!

Watching all this from his single seat in the same row, Baby Jacqueline's father leaned across the aisle and his wife, grabbed the little girl by her left foot and pulled her down. As she was quickly and unceremoniously being seated by his action, he yelled at her, "Sit down, goddammit!"

The little girl was reduced to a puddle of tears and sobs. Mom seatbelted her in. From the back of the aircraft, I walked forward to my jumpseat, kicking aside hundreds (okay, not hundreds, but a lot!) of brightly colored M & Ms.

Since we were taxiing out, I situated myself on the jumpseat, facing the passengers. Our pilots' procedure is to call before making that final turn onto the runway--one last check to make sure everything is okay in the cabin, and we can take off. Oblivious to what was going on in the cabin, and it was now a non-issue, through the interphone, I told the guys "all set."

The pilots turned onto the runway, and started the take-off roll. When they rotated--that is, pulled the airplane's nose into the air to begin to fly--all those rainbow-colored M & Ms rolled towards the back of the airplane where they collected into a substantial pile at the last row.

And, because they all fell asleep once airborne, I never heard another word from the Mom, Dad or Baby Jacqueline.

Blondie
Blondie

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Amy
AUTHOR
December 16, 2009 at 3:58 PM delete

Where do I even begin with this? First off, the father should have interjected much sooner, like immediately instead of sitting there being oblivious and then blowing up at the end. Geeze!

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Anonymous
AUTHOR
December 18, 2009 at 12:39 PM delete

Ah, HPN. I live near there and encounter that attitude on what seems to be a near daily basis! I appreciate the validation that its not just my imagination. Love your blog. Keep up the great (and super entertaining) work.

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Michael
AUTHOR
December 21, 2009 at 6:26 PM delete

Oh what a great story! That is wonderful. Merry Christmas Blondie..I check your blog everyday! All my best....Michael aka Marlene..Stewedbeef's roomie

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Anonymous
AUTHOR
December 27, 2009 at 2:47 PM delete

First, let me say that I adore your blog!

I have a question. What would have happened if "Baby Jacqueline" had totally refused to put on her seat belt? Would she, and her family, eventually been escorted off the plane? Just curious.

A couple of years ago I flew from ORD to LHR, with a muslim family across the row from me. In addition to two small girls, they had a small child who cried/screamed pretty much the entire flight. The parents did little to comfort her, or try to make her shut up. At no point did a FA intervene - either offering assistance, or shooting the kid.

What generally is done when a child screams for the majority of an 8 hour flight? This was an overnight flight and sleep was impossible.

Incidentally, it was a very religious flight. They were the last to board, and as soon as they came down the aisle carrying this crying baby, all you heard was.."Oh god, no..."...(referring to the child, not the muslim family themselves)

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Blondie
AUTHOR
December 27, 2009 at 11:14 PM delete

Had Baby J not sat down, I would have called the Captain, who would have stopped the pushback. If the baby continued to refuse and the parents hadn't taken over, they would have, eventually, been removed from the flight.

As for crying babies and inattentive parents--I can only offer so much much. After that, we're all stuck with a screamin' kid. And, while it's uncomfortable and not at all pleasant, it certainly isn't the worst thing that could happen on an airplane

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