Wednesday, May 2, 2012

May Day! May Day!

There were three of them; each were blond, Spanish-speaking and obnoxious.  I noticed them as we entered the very last and most distant boarding “lounge” #146 in the sprawling Bradley Terminal at LAX.  Of course, the darling children were given first priority to board our flight, as if locking them down earlier than other passengers would encourage passivity.  Undeservedly last to be called to get on LAN flight 601, by the time we had found our seats it was obvious that the pint-size rebellion was in full tempo.  The apparent parents of this trio were a hapless and helpless smartly dressed couple who seemed immobilized either by their own indifference or some sort of a magical trance.  As if announcing our arrival in their section, the two boys, 3 and 7, became banshee-loud as they entertained themselves by jumping from seat to seat as if testing the cushions for the luckless passengers.  Within moments of being seated in row 19, I was getting ready for my typical takeoff snooze, when those same punishment-deprived youngsters (who occupied row 20) began drop-kicking the back of the seats in front of them; our seats. 
But the 5 year old “princess” of the trio tribe was the cake-topper.  Obviously spoiled by passive, permissive or non-existent parenting, she repeatedly announced her demands at the top of her voice.  If her parents deigned to ignore her, or even whisper that most despicable of all words, “No” (which, as one would expect, they rarely did), the volume and pitch of the shrieking went up. This would be followed by tantrums in the aisle, screaming challenges to any feeble attempts at discipline, and crying jags that would qualify her for any day-time drama.  But, as a final move, Goldilocks had a secret and most effective weapon.  When she was not getting her way, or suffered even a temporary loss of attention, she would express her disdain for us, her doting subjects, by coughing in dramatic and exaggerated style with such broadcasting affect that every one of the 300 Airbus passengers were assured of whooping cough, croup or pneumonia.

“Mayday” I screamed silently as hopes of recovering from the last few days of sleep deprivation vanished amidst the preschool diva’s well-rehearsed whining.  Alas, we were all buckled in for an 8 ½ flight to Lima.  I felt as if I were strapped into a torturer’s chair.  Scowls,or turning and staring at the “precious” young demons, did little to dissuade them from beating out a drummer’s riff on my seatback.  Moving to other seats was impossible and the Jennifer Lopez-imitation flight attendants seemed mildly amused by the tyrannical tyke’s behavior, chatting with the parents in smiling, rapid fire Spanish.  Even pumping Bruce Springsteen through my personal sound system and into my eardrums at full volume barely dampened the din from row 20.  If only the rules against air rage applied to child flyers perhaps we could drop off those terrorists in training at a suitable facility in Mexico.

It was a temper-testing trip, but I refused to let the ill-behaved hellions spoil the beginning of our round the world adventure.  Although I had not counted on my world being shaken up by a kid’s pair of designer sneakers hammering the back of my seat, 19C, this accurately demonstrated an aspect of the trip that we had not actually anticipated: unpredictability.
Like any other journey, or like life itself, there is a significant degree of unpredictability involved. Who would have guessed that at 53 years old I would be diagnosed with a chronic, degenerative disease that would impact, with increasing persistance, every aspect of my life?  On the other hand, adventure requires at least some unpredictability.

How do you respond to unpredictability? Given the nature of living, that will become, if it has not already, a key question. Of course, you can try and control it when it creates negative consequences, but some things (like three strong-willed, misbehaving children on an 8200 km full flight) are not so easily controlled without using drastic measures (gagging the three little monsters and locking them in the airplane lavatory would likely lead to predictable but undesirable consequences). However, the one thing I could control was my attitude.
I was not about to allow some unfortunate and undisciplined children to ruin the first leg of the trip of a lifetime. I decided humor could be found in this annoying circumstance. Observing the responses of other passengers seated around the kids became a fascinating distraction. Before long, it struck me that these different responses ran in parallel to the reactions to being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. First, my fellow passengers tried to ignore what was happening. As a common alternative to that ill-fated attempt, there were expressions of frustration and thinly veiled anger. Finally, exhausted and resigned to many more hours of disruption, those seated nearby, including my traveling companion (Carson Pue, who will figure more prominently in future posts), attempted sleep in some incredibly awkward positions. Finally, acknowledging the situation and being fully convinced that we simply had to do the best we could, everyone seemed to choose their own response, trying the inflight electronic games, reading, typing this blog, or whatever.

Other than the cherubic children seated behind us, the 8200 kilometre long flight was uneventful and had safely deposited us on Peruvian soil just before midnight on the first day: May Day.


  1. Thanks for the good laugh today Bob! It was much needed. I'm sure it was not funny to you at the time. Look forward to hearing how things go in Lima!

  2. LOL thank you for the great laugh Bob!! You are a great writer. I can't wait to read more.
    Safe travels. Barb

  3. Doesn't this make you appreciate having me as your little princess? I'm sorry you had a rough flight Dad. I love you (te amo). I hope you have a better day tomorrow! (Espero que tengas un mejor tiempo que el ultima).

  4. Hi Bob,

    You passed the first test. "life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it."
    We are with you all the way.

  5. "Today, there is a pervasive tendency to treat children as adults, and adults as children. The options of children are thus steadily expanded, while those of adults are progressively constricted. The result is unruly children and childish adults." ~Thomas Szasz

    From now on may all your "unpredictables" turn out to be "serendipities."

  6. Thanks for the post Bob! Glad you made it to Lima and look forward to your updates.