I think I have an uncanny ability to attract the wrong kind of company. The kind of company that screams and stamps its foot and incites you to consider all kinds of evil measures. I’m talking about children. (I could very well be a Miss Hannigan in the making, singing ‘Little Girls’ in my bathtub and such.) Anyway, this strange phenomenon had always gone mostly unnoticed (though I’ve often found myself saying, ‘Why me?’), until last week when it was blatantly staring at me in the face.
I was on the way to the airport to fly back home after a short break. I walked down the railway platform, luggage in tow, intent on finding a reasonably empty compartment. I finally found it: a carriage so forlorn that rolling tumbleweed wouldn’t have been out of place. I chose a nondescript seat in the middle, tucked away from any possible incoming passengers with their clumsy bags and noisy toddlers. As the last couple of minutes to departure arrived, I experienced a frisson of excitement that I’d gotten away with it! I might actually make the half-hour journey in relative peace and quiet. But the very next moment, a large family of seven clambered in: four adults and three children between them. As luck would have it, they decided to take up the seats next to me, ignoring the countless seats ahead and behind us. Oh, I’d known deep inside it was too good to last. The children cried and laughed. Noisily ripped open bags of chips. Slurped and spilt drinks. Whined about each other to parents who were desperate to believe that their holiday hadn’t ended yet and so wholeheartedly ignored them. Amidst it all I sat with my head in my hands muttering to myself.
As we arrived at the airport, I almost leaped out of the train in my eagerness to escape the madding crowd. After a couple of hours of immigration procedures, aimless shopping and needless snacking, I found myself waiting to board. I fled to the farthest corner, away from all children in sight. I couldn’t have been safer. But once again my powers of attraction seemed to swell and I watched horror-stricken as another family with (another) three children walked all the way down to my little nook and settled themselves in around me. I sadly put my book away because really, I had no hope. As the little menaces hit each other on the head with Barbies and argued about their favorite cartoon characters, they kept stepping on my toes and getting plastic hair in my mouth. I was starting to get very, very tired.
The call to board couldn’t have come at a better time. Another minute and Malibu Barbie would have been an amputee. Once again, I raced down the corridors to get away from the walls that were threatening to close in on me. (Really.) I was looking forward to finally getting to my seat on the plane because I’d been told the seat next to me was going to be empty (ah, those little joys). A quick look around and no sign of danger. All was finally as it should be.
For once in my life, I didn’t wait for the beverage cart or the food trolleys to come rolling by. I was so exhausted that I immediately fell into a stupor, sprawled luxuriously across two economy-class seats. Until sometime in the middle of the night when a terrible howling jolted me back to the world of the living. It sounded like some terrible calamity had befallen someone up in row 33. I craned my neck to look. There was no calamity. Just a little boy intent on giving his vocal cords a good work-out at 2 am local time. Flight attendants kept coming by to check if he could be pacified. Two passengers offered to help the mother calm the boy. I saw the mother give up in despair. I heard a man ask a steward if he could give the boy some sleeping pills. (I kid you not. And here you were thinking I was nasty!)
And that’s when I had my epiphany: I am always going to be plagued by the little people. If I’d been someone who adores children, there would probably never be any around me. But as it stands, the powers that be up there have decided what my cross in life is going to be.