It was Christmas Eve and I was catching a late flight home after visiting my older brother in the less than mythical city of Brisbane, Australia. The plane had been delayed an hour, an hour I decided to fill by drinking beer in the lounge. Then the plane was delayed again, for another hour. Fine by me I thought, I’ll drink some more beer.
By this time a majority of my fellow passengers were beginning to become frustrated at the plane and its ongoing tardiness but I was having a great time, talking nonsense to the other passengers while making up little back stories about them in my mind…
The Elderly Inter-Racial Couple whose love has conquered all, the Woman in the Red Dress intent on escaping her mysterious past, the Incessantly Bickering Couple whose dark secret threatens to tear them apart, the Quiet Nerd who drowns out the world with his headphones but still sees everything, the Lone Survivor who’s been to places that would make your soul cry, the Ridiculous Young Man that has consumed far too much beer…
At some point I become the main source of entertainment for many bored travellers in my proximity. I begin telling these random strangers surrounding me about the make-believe back stories I’d invented for them and that I thought it would be great if our plane crashed onto a deserted island and we got “LOST”. Like the show…
Astonishingly my alcohol-infused imaginary tales went down well and many laughs were had. Beer makes for excellent story fuel.
But I digress, eventually the plane arrived and everyone passively shuffled to their seats. Liking to be an example to the indecisive and the dawdlers I efficiently make my way to my seat well before anyone else. Which actually means I have the longest to wait ’til the plane takes off. Hmm.
A beautiful woman eventually fills the vacant seat on my right. All golden locks and bronzed skin she was. Real bronzed skin, not that Oompa Loompa orange you see on desperate young girls or the reality TV skanks they’re emulating. My soon to be flying companion had a casual internal confidence that showed when she smiled at your storyteller. She was not alone; she also had an equally physically impressive fiancé/husband in tow. And a baby.
Both were exceptionally handsome specimens.
It’s generally accepted by the social consciousness that flying in close proximity to a baby can be a chore. Well, the gods must smile on me because I’ve never had to endure a flight with a screaming baby.
We make small talk, this brand new directly out of a magazine family and I. The little one sitting on his mother’s lap is fascinated by this strange young man and starts smiling and goo goo/gaa gaa-ing at him.
“He likes you”, the father states, his eyes gleaming proudly at what he had created.
“Hopefully he grows out of talking to strangers before he’s of abduction age”, I think to myself.
“Kids have incredible perception”, I respond, only slightly less weirdly than my stifled thought.
On the whole all babies look the same to me but this kid was kinda cute. With genetically flawless parents like his he’d have no excuse to not be.
As the plane makes its way deeper into the flight this kid and I start bonding out of shared boredom, in that “we’re both in this together” way. I pick up his toys and return them to him when his spindly underdeveloped hands drop them, when I do he starts grabbing my hands and squeezing them. Possibly in an attempt to develop his spindly underdeveloped hands.
At this point I think maybe this is the limit, you know, small child playing with a potentially weird strangers hand. I look to the mother for a sign; reassurance or fear. One of the two. I receive the former conveyed in a gentle, easy smile. Anything to keep the kid quiet I guess. Eventually the little one gets bored of his new toy and falls asleep.
Here’s where it gets interesting…
At some point the baby starts crying, as babies are prone to do, motherly instinct kicks in and she immediately knows the baby needs feeding.
There are two options when it comes to feeding a baby. The first is the natural way, the original way, the full of colostrum-y goodness and is everything a growing kid needs way. The second is the bottle, the option of convenience for busy mothers everywhere. Being the epitome of health, the young-ish mother sitting next to me chooses option number one. Naturally.
I try to behave like a normal person and act like this situation is an everyday occurrence. I keep my eyes averted and pretend it isn’t even happening. This plays quite well until the kid grabs hold of my fingers…
Weird: The three of us physically joined in some unnatural Human Centipede-esque moment…
Weirder: The kid starts yanking/squeezing my fingers in some kind of lactation induced frenzy…
Weirdest: The sudden jerking of my previously still hand causes me to instinctively look down to witness the exact instant the child, who had obviously had his fill, withdraw his mouth from his attractive mothers engorged breast, leaving me glancing at a fully exposed, non-baby attached breast…
It takes a while for my brain to even recognise what is happening but I slowly force my gaze away and turn my horrified/aroused/confused face upward (in what felt like supreme HD slow motion) towards this little instigator of awkwardness’s parents to see if any of this insanity has been witnessed. Two blank stares gave me my answer.
I opened my mouth to say something, anything, to explain myself in some way as to why it appeared I was unashamedly leering at this woman’s breast.
No words. My mouth words weren’t working.
The awkward silence that seemed to linger into infinity, and beyond, was broken by the fathers’ hearty laughter. The kind of laughter you’d imagine Thor laughing after he’d smote a frost giant. Amused laughter.
“Let’s just cover that up shall we?” he states with a wry smile as he drapes part of the baby’s blanket across his partners chest. The mother also appears unphased as her lackadaisical smile returns.
This reaction shocked me almost as much as the preceding incident. Even more so. Who were these people? Where did they come from? Who reacts like that? Placing myself in their shoes I’m not sure I would’ve handled the situation with such a noble grace.
The remainder of the flight passed without incident and I spent the rest of my flying time trying to reconcile reactions to actions, with limited success, while resuming my “returning little instigator his fallen boredom killers” duties.
As the thrall disembarked upon arrival, as is the usual way, over the din on the previously seat bound hostages, the child’s mother leans in and thanks me for being so understanding and for keeping the child amused. Thanked me.
I offer a half hearted “It was no drama” and thank her back. Only god only knows why, or what for.
I have no idea what the moral of the story is.