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The Screaming Baby

There was nothing I could do. The baby was screaming, and there was nothing I could do.

The plane was full. That is because flights into Newark had been canceled for days due to a record breaking blizzard in the northeast. It was my third attempt to fly home. I had been stranded in Nashville for four days longer then anticipated.

I was ready to get home.

I settled into my seat, pulled out the inflatable neck pillow and fired up a digital version of my friend Betsy's book, City of Ghosts. That is when the screaming began.

= Many infants cry on airplanes, and it is always a bother. They start to whine and you steel yourself for noise, because you are, after all, in a tin can with no way of escape.

But this was not crying. This was screaming. Raw, unbridled, diaphragmatic screaming that only babies can accomplish. Piercing, incessant, teeth-hurting screaming. And there was nothing I could do.

It wasn't my baby. It was someone else's baby, and it was being set on fire. At least, he thought. Unhappy is too gentle a word. This child thought he was dying.

It went on for an hour. Sixty minutes. A long fucking time.

Just when I thought the baby had worn himself into sure slumber the screams would begin again. I started to understand why parents might consider drugging an infant.

At first I was empathetic to the poor mother who was sushing her child as quietly as possible, but eventually I got up and went to the lavatory solely for the purpose of shooting this kid's mom a dirty look. Not my proudest moment but I had no headphones and so was literally sticking my fingers in my ears.

The screaming was all I could focus on. I tried meditating, being present and deep breathing to calm myself. It didn't work due to the screaming.

Finally, blessedly, before I jumped out the emergency door and ended it all, he stopped. He slept. The baby had stopped screaming.

And after a long sigh the next thing I heard was an overly earnest Nashville man who discussed the finer points of the Baptist Church the entire remainder of the flight.


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Sixty minutes of baby screams is nothing. Try thirteen hours: L.A. to Auckland nonstop. When I deplaned, I suppressed the urge to suggest to the mother that her kid should be an opera singer. Thankfully the booze was free on that flight. And always travel with earplugs.

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