"Lilly, you a monster, okay? Okay Lilly?"
I watch the three-year-old twins running around the airport terminal, full of laughter and games, shrieking and giggling away. It's so nice to see people actually happy to be in an airport, even if their joy comes strictly from youth. It lends the desolate place some much needed cheer this holiday season.
Right behind me, surly business folk are typing away on their laptops, always plugged in, despite the hour, despite the day. Money is to be made, and they will make it even as they step onto the plane, talking into their Bluetooth, checking their financials with an app on their phones.
To my left, a few old women totter, nodding off and starting awake when the twins venture too near. Those girls are the only children on this flight. Eight at night must be too late for most kids, I guess. Either way, I feel lucky. No crying brats, no fighting siblings. These two toddlers I can handle. At least they're happy.
We're all lined up now. The man behind me smells sticky sweet, like old tobacco and coffee. I hope I'm not sitting next to him. The woman right in front of me is sneezing. Gross. Actually, I'll take stinky man over sick lady.
Oh, isn't that cute? The twins are mimicking the scan machine as the flight checker goes through the tickets. Most people are chuckling. I guess I'm not the only one who finds them adorable.
Oh, the father is talking to the checker. Trying to get them on board first. I don't know how I feel about that. On the one hand, they have a lot of stuff, and they'll have to settle those two in. On the other hand, stand in line like everyone else.
Family boarding. Blast them. They'll probably take up all the space in my overhead bin.
"Mama, can I press the button?"
"Mama, turn my light on."
"Mama, why are we moving?"
"Mama, are we taking off yet?"
"How about now?"
"Are we taking off now?"
"Mama? Mama? Mama!"
They're sitting right behind me. They're so full of energy that they must be overtired. I'm sure they'll sleep soon.
The woman next to me turns around.
"They're adorable," she says.
The mother shoots a harried-but-grateful look at her. "Thank you," she says. "I hope you feel that way by the time we land."
"I'm sure they'll fall right to sleep," came the reply.
The mother nodded, not convinced.
If I have to hear 'Old MacDonald' or 'Jingle Bells' one more time in off-tune toddler shout-singing, I may go insane.
I changed my mind. Bring back the songs. Anything to stop them from kicking my seat.
"Stop squiggling," I hear their mother say. "You're bothering other people."
You've got that right.
Did that little girl just call me a witch? This is getting out of hand. I know she didn't mean it (I think), but, really, I spent $60 on these holiday-red nail tips. Someone should teach those kids some manners.
"Not everyone with red nails is a witch, babies," I hear the mom say. "That was just in that one movie, okay?"
Thanks for confirming, Mrs. Can't-Shut-Your-Kids-Up. I hide my nails behind my Kindle cover and try to continue to read.
I cannot handle any more children's laughter. I don't want to hear it ever again in my life. Do these children never sleep? Why, in the name of God, would their mother let them have a tickle-fest on a plane? What is wrong with people?
"Mom, can I tell the nice lady to get me juice? Can I tell her to get me peanuts? Mom, why did she give me Cheez Its? I thought we were getting pretzels."
Child, can you talk at a volume other than the top of your lungs? Don't we teach these things 'inside voice,' anymore? I think I'm losing it. Their little happy voices are chipping away at my last shreds of sanity. My brain feels like mush.
We are finally descending. I will never have to deal with those hap-hap-happy brats again. Praise the Lord. I cannot handle another minute of their prattling on. Oh God. Now they're talking about how their ears hurt. I didn't think it was possible, but they've gotten even louder. They're trying to pop their ears by going "YAYAYAYAYAYA." I'm going to pop my fist in their faces in a minute if they don't stop.
I have a headache.
We're all getting off now
The mother smiles wanly at anyyone who is looking at her, which is everyone, so aghast are we at the attack of insistent toddler-cheer for three entire hours without respite.
"Thank you all for putting up with us," she says.
Oh. So she knows how utterly annoying they all are. I'm not sure if that's better or worse. I chance a glance at her. She looks haggard, her eyes glazed over. I decide not to say anything. Her flight has been as rough as mine. And she doesn't get to walk away.
I still think she's a bad mom, though.
**From the assumed point of view of the woman sitting in front of me on our flight to Connecticut.