From the short series, “A Failed Adventure”
I firmly believe that children under the age of 3 should not be allowed on airplanes. Period. Or at least not on overnight 10-hour flights to the Middle East.
I read in my Lonely Planet Travel Guide to Syria and Lebanon that “As elsewhere in the Middle East, Syrians love children.” How perfect! I too, love children. In the New York airport, my face glowed as hoards of Arab children ran around the gate: little boys holding hands, speaking in a mix of Arabic and English, sucking down their last bites of American candy as we boarded our plane.
With a baby behind me, and another in front of me accompanied by his toddler brother, I headed first for Cairo. Between the three babies, there wasn’t a moment of silence. At first, it was nice. I speak about as much Arabic as a toddler, so the 2-year-old playing peek-a-boo from the seat in front of mine was both endearing and confidence boosting. But the night approached. Knowing that I left New York at 6:30pm and would arrive in Cairo at noon, I needed to get some sleep. I finished my delicious Halal dinner, and settled in for a movie and a little sleep.
Then, no longer entertained by the Richard Gere’s B-movie “Hatchi,” the toddler began to wail around 10 o’clock. His mother, clearly embarrassed, tried to calm him by rocking and bouncing him in her seat, causing my tray table to alternately shake and poke me in the knees. Seeing no change, the mother’s next strategy was to pick her child up and carry him throughout the plane, at least spreading the misery out a bit. Still no luck. This adorable toddler, who I had admired in the airport, screamed from 10pm until 2am – or rather, 9am, breakfast time over the Mediterranean.
I didn’t sleep a wink.