Flight Test

The only thing worse than a baby on a plane is a sick baby on a plane, and that’s what we had. Hannah wailed and flailed and hacked like a septuagenarian on the first flight, basically all the way from Chicago to San Francisco. We thought maybe she had the croup, which involves a cough that sounds like a dog barking. Not a yippy dog, a Weimaraner or something; a big dog. A German shepherd. The thought of a 7,600-mile fight to Australia with a grumpy German shepherd seemed really stupid.

I tried to convince Sarah we should get a room in San Francisco for the night and start fresh in the morning. Was already thinking room service, maybe mozzarella sticks or Caesar salad, but then I got overruled…

The only thing worse than a baby on a plane is a sick baby on a plane, and that’s what we had. Hannah wailed and flailed and hacked like a septuagenarian on the first flight, basically all the way from Chicago to San Francisco. We thought maybe she had the croup, which involves a cough that sounds like a dog barking. Not a yippy dog, a Weimaraner or something; a big dog. A German shepherd. The thought of a 7,600-mile fight to Australia with a grumpy German shepherd seemed really stupid.

I tried to convince Sarah we should get a room in San Francisco for the night and start fresh in the morning. Was already thinking room service, maybe mozzarella sticks or Caesar salad, but then I got overruled.

“I think we should just suck it up and get the long flight over with,” Sarah said. “It’s only"—she looked at the plane ticket—"13 hours and 28 minutes. It’s only, like, what, 27 episodes of Seinfeld? That’s not too bad.”

With a screaming, nauseous, incontinent baby and more carry-ons than a cheerleading team? In close proximity to several hundred people who will hate us? Yeah, sounds like a real barrel of monkeys.

“So it’s a miserable 13 and a half hours,” Sarah shrugged. “Then it’s over, and we’re in Sydney.”

I was scared shitless. Not just about the upcoming flight, but about the larger question: What are we getting ourselves into for the next seven weeks? In general, we’ve got ourselves an agreeable baby, and we figure she’ll just continue as such, but in planning this trip we didn’t take into account much beyond that. Would she be crawling? Would she have stranger anxiety? Have a delicate stomach? Allergies? Could she be braying like a sea lion tomorrow? There were so many disastrous possibilities, none of which seemed to occur to Sarah, who was totally relaxed.

Me? I could feel my blood pressure rising by the second. I considered ditching them during the layover.

* * *

For some reason, I’ve always imagined that the pilots get to choose the movies on an airplane. If so, the guys up there on the flight to Sydney must have been 13-year-old boys: They gave us The Dukes of Hazzard, K-Pax, and Beethoven’s freakin’ Second. Made me want to storm the cockpit.

The long flight, it turned out, wasn’t so bad. Hannah must take after her mother, because she pulled it together and slept for about ten hours—and was deliriously happy for the other three. Gotta love that kid. When I changed her diaper in the lavatory, she looked around like it was the most exciting place she had ever been. The truth is, it may have been.

Time actually went relatively fast (“Only 12 more Seinfeld episodes . . . “), and we landed at the Sydney airport around 7 a.m. on Sunday—which messed with our heads because we left Chicago at 6:30 p.m. on Friday. Where the heck did Saturday go? Hmm. Guess we’ll get it back in seven weeks.

As we were clearing customs and hoping our 11 bags had made the journey OK, I thought I might fall asleep on my feet. My wife, on the other hand, was so excited she couldn’t stand still. She had the same look that I’d seen on Hannah’s face in the lavatory.

We had made it, and it hadn’t been so bad. Sarah never bothered to say I told you so. There would be plenty of opportunity for that in the next 47 days.

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