By Anita Doberman: Columnist
If there is one thing that I learned living in the South, it’s that a Southern lady maintains control no matter how badly her children act. A few weeks ago, after an absence of almost five years, I embarked on a trip to Rome with my children. I was determined to maintain Southern composure. Except that I am Italian, and Southern composure is the furthest thing from my genetically wired Mediterranean temper.
The day of the trip arrived, and to my enormous surprise, checking in at the airport was relatively painless. The first flight was barely an hour long. A couple of flight attendants and a passenger commented on how well-behaved my children were, and I politely thanked them and soaked in satisfaction. I was displaying Southern composure splendidly.
But, as we taxied to the gate, my 2-year-old — without warning — vomited all over me, herself, the gentleman sitting in front of us and the central aisle. “Mama, I bart,” she said, meaning barfed. We were sitting in the front of the plane so the mess was between nearly all the other passengers and their freedom. As I reached in my diaper bag to get some wipes, the flight attendant came to the speaker and announced,
“Little sister here in row 5 barfed in the aisle. Please wait for us to clean the way before you leave your seats.”
If anyone on the flight missed the action in row 5, he or she was in the dark no longer. I began to feel frantic and worried about the smell that seemed to have enveloped us.
The plane had come to a complete halt on the tarmac (apparently standard practice when I fly Delta, which I suspect hates me). My children were crying and I asked the flight attendant – with some urgency – if I could use the restroom, but she told me I had to “remain seated until the fasten seat belt sign is turned off.”
I was covered in vomit and compulsively tried to get as much as I could off my blouse, though I was mostly just rubbing it in. After 30 minutes inside a hot and stinky plane, the flight attendant proceeded to clean the aisle, and we finally exited.
I had only 15 minutes to get to my connecting flight, which meant no time to get changed. I ran through the terminal, having completely lost my Southern composure. I wonder, if I ever had one — a crazy Italian woman at the Atlanta Hartsfield Airport trying to get from Terminal A to Terminal E in a matter of minutes (naturally the two farthest points in the airport). I desperately pleaded with a man on one of those beeping airport cars to give me a ride, but he said he couldn’t. Somehow I saw Terminal E on the horizon, and I made a mad dash to my gate. We were the last passengers to board.
After takeoff, I was able to change my clothes and my daughter’s. The rest of the plane ride was mostly atrocious, and 11 long hours later we exited the plane anxious to greet my relatives. They asked me how the plane ride went and, even though I was exhausted and looked disheveled, I responded with perfect Southern composure: “It was just fine.” “That bad?” said my mom, pointing to my hair. As I reached, I felt something stuck to the side of my head, a little piece of “bart” from our first flight.
Well, I smiled, there was always next time.