I get nervous when we roll up to TSA screening. Nervous because I am worried what they will do when they find the arsenal of weapons in the Commander’s Star Wars backpack which he refuses to put in the check thru. I am sweating, my ponytail has fallen to the side and my eye make up is running. I look like I just finished an Olivia Newton John workout circa 1985 and I look guilty of a crime. I wonder if the outline of 3 water pistols and a lightsaber will set off alarms and if the TSA agent will actually deem these items dangerous because the Commander will go all Osama Bin Laden if they try and confiscate them and I may actually be stuck in Disney forever. I sweat more at this thought.
I begin to disrobe. “Your jacket and shoes, ma’am,” the TSA agent motions for me to put them in the bin while TIT is now loose from the restraints of his stroller and very interested in the conveyer belt which he thinks is just another ride at Disney. With one shoe off, TIT decides to make a break for it and tries to dart through the metal detector while the person on the other end is getting the wand waved over them. I try to grab him but I can’t and I don’t want to piss these TSA people off because they have a lot of power when you are trying to smuggle chocolate milk and super soakers on a domestic flight. “My son,” I say pointing to TIT who is now deciding which way to run while I am in pursuit. “I need to grab him before he boards a flight for Miami!” One of the TSA guards tries to detain TIT by standing in front of him until I can get through the metal detector. TIT looks up at his challenger. Despite the hulking size of the TSA agent and the unfamiliar face, TIT isn’t deterred. He tries to shake him, spin left and bolt right, but he tumbles into the guy’s knee and falls to the ground. “Hold him,” I scream to the agent, almost hoping that this guy pins my 19 month old on the ground because I really don’t think he gets the fact that this kid has solid moves and will take off faster than most flights in this airport.
I get the special treatment because TIT’s actions and they test each bottle of milk and each Pediasure for explosives. The TSA agent rummages through my bag with gloved hands, inspecting every item in it as he removes each piece one by one. My carry on is cavernous, every pocket filled strategically with items to “Shut them the fuck up” on the plane. I have goodies, snacks, milk and enough changes of clothing that my kids can depart, arrive and travel in 3 totally separate outfits. I have bribes, dollar store gizmos, Xanax and Benadryl (for them). This is Orlando so I am sure he’s seen worse. He gives me a “my thoughts are with you, but I am so fucking glad I am not on your flight” look as his rezips my tote and sends me on my way.
TIT is going through a daddy phase. I am grateful because it gives me a good excuse to hand him off. “Oh wow Matt, look how excited he is to see you,” I say as TIT screams Daddy over and over again when Matt walks into a room. But TIT doesn’t just reserve the bellowing of “Daddy” for just Matt, he is impartial and any male to walk by, TIT will scream “Daddy”. So as we are getting comfortable in our seats on the plane, TIT is hollering “Daddy” to every man to walk down the aisle. And he isn’t just saying it, he is screaming at the top of his lungs and now ending the word with a quizzical question mark and pointing. “Daddy?” “Daddy?” I try to laugh and say equally as loudly as TIT, “Oh no, ha ha ha, Daddy is right there,” as I point to my husband and assure all the men getting on the plane that TIT is not a product of a sperm bank. I swear that he gets this and he is just laughing his little balls off inside, because he starts doing it louder and emphasizing the question mark and pointing with exaggerated excitement.
Matt for sure has the easier seat. We always split up, two and two, because we all know how well man-on-man defense works. He takes the Commander and pours him some Sprite in a cup and you would think he just cured cancer by how proud he is at this accomplishment. The Commander is leisurely drinking his Sprite and playing Angry Birds on his iPad when over here in my row, the TIT has taken apart a Wendy’s hamburger and is throwing fries at the seat in front of me. Matt looks over, smiles and turns the page of his magazine. But I know that the iPad has only 28% power and I know he is going to be fucked somewhere over Georgia when that shit goes out. So I smile back at him and hand TIT another fry, which he looks at, and screams “Daddy?”
It’s a short flight, only 2hours and 15 minutes and we are already about 55 minutes into the flight. Zac had given up on screaming Daddy somewhere over Georgia and the Commander’s iPad is still working. Score one for Matt because once the novelty of annoying people with his incessant “Daddy?” wore off, TIT just made it easy on himself and went with the pirates torturing baboon noises.
“Ayyyyy ugh ayyyyy, RRRRRR!”
At a pitch ten times as loud as the engines roaring, “ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR, EEEEEE AW EEEE AW EEEEEEE AWWW”
“Switch seats with me,” I say to Matt. “No way, why?” he asks as his seatmate, the Commander reclines, arm behind his head and watches at movie on the iPad. “Because it’s only fair. I have been sitting with TIT the whole time. You got the easier kid. He’s driving me nuts.”
TIT understands the power of torture. He, even at this young and nubile age, has mastered the art of humiliation and enjoys inflicting pain upon his parents. In my efforts to shut him the fuck up, I went to song before I attempted dance. I belted out the alphabet about 100 times. If I lowered my voice below a dull roar, TIT would wail and I’d have to sing it louder again. But then he grew tired of the alphabet song and I was forced to a low point, to place I didn’t want to go in public. I had nothing left but to reach for the one and only song to soothe him as a baby.
“Put an A upon a slim gold bar take an E a Phi and that is who we are. With our colors that are green and white, AE PHI will be our guiding light…” I sang. I sang very loudly, loud enough that people two rows up turned and looked back at me. I crooned and swayed and sang the entire sorority rush soundtrack for him. TIT was now gleeful at my public humiliation. Downright chipper, TIT is giggling with delight when the Commander’s iPad goes dead.
I see it happen. The Commander looks forward and turns the iPad over. He shakes it. Probably a fix-it move learned from his father. When he realizes that it’s dead, he gets a panicked look, which most likely matched both his father’s and mine. “It’s dead, Mommy. My iPad is dead.” I reach for my bag and go to the “emergency compartment, but the Commander has smartened and no way is some crappy dollar store toy going to soothe the beast. “Do you want to play with some Angry Bird cards?” I ask, reaching over my husband and handing him a pack of unopened cards.
“No.” I see the tears start to well in the bottom of his eyes. I have seconds, only a few before the eruption into a full-fledge tantrum so I have to act quickly. I see the man in the row behind us buzz for the stewardess and assume he is either going to ask for another drink or ask for us to be thrown off the plane over Virginia. But then I realize the iPad mini was in my bag and I reach for the last iDevice with any power. It only had 12% but I was hoping it would last us until the final descent.
The TIT who had been silent for about 10 minutes got bored. He has saved the energy he could have been using during that respite and come back louder and stronger with these unearthly barking sounds. He alternates between laughter and hysterics and casually glances over at me to decide which one is more torturous to me. “Do something!!!” Matt says as he takes another sip of his cocktail and reaches for an alternate publication. “What the fuck would you like me to do?” I say, curse word and all. Because really, I had done song and even some dance. I had read some horrible Brown Bear shit. I fed him fry after fry. I was out of tricks. I am unclear as to what brilliant plan my husband wanted me to apply at 35,000 feet. But then it dawns on me and I reach in the seat pocket and pull out the barf bag. I take some crayons in my bag and make a puppet and I am pretty sure I just won mother of the fucking year! I am queen of the mile high mother’s club. I manage to silence TIT and my husband as I act out a full puppet show for him with inked up barf bags.
The pilot comes over the loud speaker and announces we have begun our initial descent and I breathe a sigh of relief. I know that in less than 15 minutes we will be back on ground and I am 35 minutes away from being back in my own apartment. The Commander, going on 4% iPad juice is playing a game peacefully. I feel the plane begin to inch its way down through the clouds. The sights on the ground become clearer and I gaze out the window enjoying the fleeting moments of quiet when I turn to hear TIT making some new noises. They were muffled at first, then he got louder with some grunts and groans. These were new noises and I wasn’t sure if he was trying out some new sounds in the hopes of giving our seat neighbors a parting gift. Then I see his chest heave in and out, his mouth opens and it’s like a scene from the Exorcist. A volcanic eruption of chocolate milk and French fries come flying out with seismic force. I had just used the barf bag for my puppet show, oh how irony loves to bitch slap me and I am down to about 5 wipes in my Huggies container. I start to try and catch the next bout of vomit with the US Airways magazine but it’s too late and I am covered in chunks of chewed potato pieces. I reach in my bag to grab the only thing I can find which is absorbent and I start to wipe us both down with a diaper.
If our neighbors didn’t see the incident, they most definitely smelled it. The vomit had mostly landed on TIT and me and I quickly filled my barf puppets with what I was cleaning up off the floor. “When we land,” I say to Matt while wiping my vomit covered neck off, “We run. We get off this plane quickly and with purpose. Grab everything – bags, kids, car seat and just go.”
We all ride in silence until the flight lands, even TIT is quiet. And for the last 10 minutes of this miserable flight, despite the fact I smell like fraternity house and any hint of Xanax has worn off, I find my rare slice of smelly quiet luxurious.