Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pee on a Plane

Taking flights out of LAX is always so fascinating. Every time I step onto a plane in LA, I leave with the most interesting collection of Californians on board with me.

Today was no exception. Despite the fact that I’m currently as busy with Greek life as the gods on Mount Olympus, I took a flight back to Texas this afternoon to attend a rehearsal dinner and weekend wedding.

Almost immediately after I sat down at the gate, I identified my most interesting person of the day. She was petite, blonde, and skinny; she had designer shades perched on her head and a Louis Vuitton dangling casually from the crook of her arm; she was dressed head to toe in black, with the exception of the suede fringed boots she was sporting. Already she was shaping up to be a perfect embodiment of every stereotype associated with Malibu/LA.

But wait; there’s more.

Fringe boots was traveling with an entourage. Her “people” included: a towering boyfriend in a flat bill hat who I took to be a music producer or something equally as edgy, three kids under age seven (two of whom were twins), an Asian nanny and some sort of chauffeur/publicist/random professional in a suit.

Lets skip ahead a little ways. Fringe boots, boyfriend and 7-year-old are sitting behind me on the plane. The youngest ones are across the aisle, yelling across the plane angrily that Susie (Asian nanny) refused to let them watch a movie. I feel slightly embarrassed for Susie, but am not surprised because again; it’s so LA.

Here’s where Fringe surprised me. We were within minutes of landing in Albuquerque for our connecting flight when the kid behind me starts making uncomfortable noises. “I realllllly have to go to the bathroom,” he says at least three times in a shaky voice. Music producer ain’t havin’ it though. “I gotta go too man,” he says to the kid, “but you gotta’ hold it til we land. Five more minutes. You’re a big boy right?”

The kid is silent for about 10 seconds. “Yeah, I can hold it,” he says. And that’s when it happened. “Oh no,” I heard him say quietly. “Oh no.” He had peed his pants. Two minutes to landing and the kid had just peed right there on the seat. “What if they see, what if people see?” he asked again and again. His little voice was gripped by a child’s rendition of panic.

And you know what? Fringe handled the whole thing great. I kept waiting for her to call Susie over from across the aisle, or scold her son for embarrassing her/losing control/peeing on a public airplane seat. Instead, she said, “Get me a clean pair of socks.” She wiped that kid off, she cleaned the seat, she changed his clothes and told him nobody would know. In other words, she just took care of him.

“Nobody knows, nobody knows,” the kid repeated back, and it was clear that he had found comfort in her words. So thank you, LA mom, for cleaning up that pee the way you did. You could have shamed your son; it would have been so easy to hurt him or embarrass him while he was feeling vulnerable. But instead, you reinstated his sense of well-being and security. More than that, you gave him a love that wasn’t dependent on him coming to you spotless after being buffed and shined into childhood perfection at the hands of patient Susie.

Needless to say, I switched seats after the pee incident occurred. I was genuinely moved by the mother-son moment I witnessed, but I was more moved by the thought that pee could potentially be leaking down the aisle toward my carry-on. From my new seat, I watched as a flight attendant sprayed Lysol onto the seat after Fringe et al de-boarded.  I’m sure the spray down helped, but I couldn’t keep myself from cringing a little when a new passenger sat in the seat formerly known as pee seat. Let’s hope the saying is true: that what you don’t know can’t hurt you.

So, a toast in honor of Fringe. Here’s to changed perceptions and not judging books by their covers and all those other cliches that remain so poignantly true.


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