Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Community Baby

Faithful readers might recall that air travel is not my best thing. It isn't even down the hall from my best thing. They said it couldn't be done, but I once missed a connecting flight during a five-hour layover by falling asleep in a gate in the wrong terminal. Air travel and I have agreed to hate each other.


Still, my recent trip to Boston seemed auspicious. I had booked my first-ever cross-country trip that was non-stop, on an airline I hadn't tried, and it was a cheap ticket besides. I sat in a middle seat between an old, small, translucent gentleman, and a younger opaque fellow who studied a PowerPoint presentation on financial planning for six hours. Neither one had any body odor, if by "body odor" we are referring only to a surface fug, and not something manufactured on the spot internally using only beef jerky and a team of bacteria. So things were looking up. As I sat down, I noticed a small sign printed under the window that said "seats in this row do not recline," which was disturbing. I chose to see this sign as a directive to adjust attitude, and sat up in mandatory primness imagining that all the rest of the rows said "seats in this row do not recline all that much." It helped. 


The flight was fine, the pilots hit the ground with the restraint they get the big bucks for, and I was in a good state of mind for the return trip. And that is when several miracles occurred. I arrived at the correct gate in time to visit the IPA dispensary across the way, unpacked my new used laptop, located a wireless connection, figured out how to suck out some Internet all by myself and had a Facebook chat with my sweetheart. Somewhere, pigs flew and weasels learned to play Parcheesi. So things were looking up.


I sauntered over to the gate and inquired whether my Alaska miles could be credited to my Delta account, and they made it happen. Just then a woman came up and said she had been talking to someone--she pointed towards an old woman trembling behind a massive baby stroller--who had never flown before, let alone with an infant, and could use some help. The counter people peeled out and began to speak to the old woman with kind voices, one shouldering the baby and the other folding up the stroller and seeing it to the plane. The old woman was rigid and mute with terror, and the personnel were respectful and reassuring, easing her on board.


She and the baby, of course, were installed in the row behind me.


My seat mates were two jolly Boston men who looked like they might be capable of both odors and excessive noise, and exhibited neither. So things were looking up.


We may have been two-thirds of the way across the country before the infant behind us reminded everyone he was there. The old woman, still more or less paralyzed, was not able to be a comfort to him. Within a minute, the Alaska Air flight attendant, Mr. Kelly Morrow, scooped up the child and bobbled him up and down, entertaining him with his shiny name tag for a good ten minutes before he had to distribute sodas. He produced for me a hot sandwich that was amazingly not bad. The infant rediscovered his lungs a bit later.


Two rows up, a beautiful woman asked to hold him, took over the easily-consoled baby and wrapped him in a dashing faux-leopard blanket. He was adjusted to full-view cooing position and handed around the plane. An old man in the next row demonstrated his foot-tickling expertise. The baby body-surfed around the cabin.


Flight attendant Kelly dropped to one knee to check on Grandma, who revealed that she was, in fact, great-Grandma, and had had all her lower teeth removed the day before. This is a really hard thing for anybody, taking a baby across country, especially on your first flight. You're doing a wonderful job. Was anyone planning to meet you at Portland? Her daughter and granddaughter were, yes. Do you know where they were planning to meet you? Not exactly, no. Worry bloomed on the old woman's face. How many parts to an airport were there? Kelly extracted some phone numbers and went to call the family and make sure they were coming, and find out where he might personally escort her. The baby was briefly returned.


At the next squall, the beautiful woman jumped up and asked for diapers and baby wipes along with the baby. She disappeared for a while and came back with the child pink and resplendent in leopard fur, and the old woman's neighbors distracted her with chat and cheer during the landing. Someone retrieved her bag from the overhead bin, someone else carried it, someone held the aisle clear for great-Grandma and her escort Mr. Morrow, and there was a general blessing of hand-pats and foot-tickles all around. I believe back in row twenty a collection was being taken for the baby's college fund. And someone who is not comfortable with or attracted to babies and had nothing else to contribute decided to pen an essay.

30 comments:

  1. So many people report poor service, I LOVE to rave about the good stuff. I am a little concerned, though, about how much Karma you used up in a single cross-country flight. Watch out for falling pianos!

    ReplyDelete
  2. This was exactly what I needed to read to start my day. It's an excellent reminder that there is goodness and kindness in this world.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh, how wonderful! I was on a nonstop Alaska Air from Seattle to Reagan National two months ago, and I had a great time too. I was in those same seats (that don't recline) but with extra leg room.

    I love this story, and I'm sure that many people, me included, appreciate being reminded that good stuff happens too.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Really loved this one. Going through a bit of a hard time and it's really lovely that you took the time to write about some good people who acted out of their goodness.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you for this post - I echo all of the above comments - cheers to the decent, kind and caring people in the world (of whom we hear much too little).

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you for your contribution to "International Goodness Day" today! I just love what happens when people work together. 19 miners out safely so far. 10-13-10 Elaine

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oh, what a lovely post, Murr!

    ReplyDelete
  8. It's usual for the "if it bleeds, it leads" story tellers, and highly unusual for the quirky but gentle..I highly prefer the latter! Cute baby too.

    ReplyDelete
  9. forgot to finish the thought after the word storytellers (insert) to tell their tales....
    Is it Friday yet?

    ReplyDelete
  10. hahahaha they all bought it. When are you going to tell us what REALLY happened?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Alaska Airlines needs this post for their brainstorming ad agency...imagine!

    ReplyDelete
  12. If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. The Dalai Lama.

    A whole plane full of people practising compassion made a whole bunch of us happy. Thanks for this, Murr!

    ReplyDelete
  13. What a lovely post and how sweet everybody stepped in to help great-Grandma! There really are too few stories like this one out there. I'm sure things like this happen regularly, it's just so rare to hear about it.

    ReplyDelete
  14. ...and she made a mighty fine fist of penning the essay. Thank you. This was heart warming.

    ReplyDelete
  15. On a different flight, a different story - one colicy baby was given a bottle warmed by the flight attendant in which some crushed up Xanax had been introduced. Criminal prosecution later, that attendant no longer flies.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Shoot, and the attendant even warmed it up? I think Xanax is a fine enough idea. I am however cheered by my observation that one or two people with a good attitude can infect all the rest of us just as surely as the opposite can happen. Kinda makes you want to initiate these things.

    In other developments, I am now looking up the phrase "made fine fist of," because it looks like something I might need some day.

    ReplyDelete
  17. So nice to read a feel-good story for a change. Well-written, as well. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I haven't flown since '96, but this post gave me hope. Delightful. Thanks for the morning smiles.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Actually, some of the best flights I've ever had have been on Alaska Air. They really have great crews and they provide "service". This was such a lovely post! Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  20. You made my day. I have a friend traveling today on Delta and she reported the plane had been hit by lightning and she was still sitting on the ground hours later while they checked the plane out. I hope her traveling companions are as helpful as the ones you noted.
    As you said, kindness can be contagious. I am sure the great grandma will remember this day. But what's the story behind teeth being pulled the day before and traveling with a baby across country? Surely a big story behind that.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Murr - You've made me laugh so many times . . . and now you've made me cry (which happens more often as I get older, but still). Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Wow. That's almost enough to destroy my lack of faith in humanity. Are you sure this was real life and not a Lifetime special?

    ReplyDelete
  23. Late reading this on a Saturday morning and brought a tear to my eye. I love it when folks can just work together to help... and bless that Grandma for even attempting that! Yikes!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Loved the post, and Tiffin's comment too (If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. The Dalai Lama.). Thank you both for the cheer.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I can't help but wonder at the circumstances that placed GG-ma in charge of that baby alone on a cross-country flight, the day after having her teeth pulled, when she had never flown anywhere before. If I were the child's mother, I'd be sipping the Xanax-flavored milk myself.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Shoot, and the attendant even warmed it up? I think Xanax is a fine enough idea. I am however cheered by my observation that one or two people with a good attitude can infect all the rest of us just as surely as the opposite can happen. Kinda makes you want to initiate these things.

    In other developments, I am now looking up the phrase "made fine fist of," because it looks like something I might need some day.

    ReplyDelete
  27. What a lovely post and how sweet everybody stepped in to help great-Grandma! There really are too few stories like this one out there. I'm sure things like this happen regularly, it's just so rare to hear about it.

    ReplyDelete
  28. This was exactly what I needed to read to start my day. It's an excellent reminder that there is goodness and kindness in this world.

    ReplyDelete
  29. So many people report poor service, I LOVE to rave about the good stuff. I am a little concerned, though, about how much Karma you used up in a single cross-country flight. Watch out for falling pianos!

    ReplyDelete