Archive for August, 2008


Planes, Trains, and Ryan

August 1, 2008

If you’re a Bill Cosby fan like me you’ll remember his famous stand-up routine where he talks about a little boy on an airplane named, “Jeffrey”. Now Little Jeffrey was “4 years old”, and knew his name not because the little boy told him, but because “his mother said his name all 2500 miles of the trip.”

Cosby’s genius style is creating comedy from actual real life. I have laughed again and again at his real-life situation with “little Jeffrey”…until I recently met Ryan.

I was on my way home from Dallas, Texas and after a 3-hour layover in Salt Lake City I was very anxious and prepared to board the little airplane that would zip me back to Portland. As I quietly sat in Terminal C working my New York Times Crossword and waited for my boarding time a mother, who I will forthwith call “the Marshmallow” because her body type resembled that of the Michelin tire guy, and her two young chunky mini-marshmallows blazed a trail of chaos down the terminal. The two young boys zig-zagged from one gate to another, running into passengers and literally bouncing off the walls. The Marshmallow barked commands at them that would make an army drill sergeant cringe.

Distractions are common in airports so I waited for the little brood to move their hubbub on down the terminal and was immediately distraught when they plopped down right beside me. Oh boy, I thought. This is going to be a fun plane ride.

I didn’t know the half of it.

For the next hour at Gate 07 in Terminal C the modest crowd of trapped air travelers were subject to listen to the crazy parenting style of The Marshmallow and her bizarre brood of chunky children.

“Mamma, why aren’t we getting on the plane?” asked the oldest.

“Because the plane is still in the air,” said the Marshmallow as she chomped on a King Size Snickers.

“Well how are we going to get on the plane if it’s still in the air?”

“It won’t be in the air for very long. Now shut up and have a snack.” She turned to her younger son. “Ryan,” she barked to her little 4 yr old as he nearly knocked over a hobbling grandma, “what did I tell you about bumping into people? Watch where you’re going!” Never said ‘sorry’ to the poor lady. I suspect that if she had tumbled to the ground due to her spastic son she still would have be oblivious to the poor lady’s screams of “help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”

This family format continued until the plane taxied in to Gate 07 and I double and triple checked that I had my iPod & earbuds super-handy. I knew I was going to need the earplugs to filter out the barking of The Marshmallow and Ryan’s constant questioning. I boarded with the last group onto the plane. I drug my carry on bag through the narrow aisle looking for seat 13E. I found it. Then I spotted who was sitting right behind me…


Ugh! I felt what little energy I had left from the day deflate out of me like a truck tire blowout on the sizzling Texas interstate. I stored my bag in the overhead compartment and casually took my seat against the window. The kicking started immediately.

“Ryan, what did I tell you about kicking the seat!?” The Marshmallow’s discipline techniques were unequaled. He stopped – for about 5 seconds.

Bump – Bump – Bump

“RYAN!” barked The Marshmallow so that everyone on the plane certainly knew at that moment that little Ryan was acting his age again. “Stop kicking the seat or I’m going to cut your feet off!!”

Oh, I wanted to turn around and say with a smile, “can I do it?” But I refrained. The seat kicking continued, without a single apology to me until the throughout our short delay and takeoff. I was absolutely gleeful when the nice-looking flight attendant gave us the go-ahead to turn on our electronics. Not only was I going to tune out with my trusty iPod, but I heard The Marshmallow offer her mini-chunks a choice of DVD movies to watch on a little viewer. Whew! I hoped that would keep them occupied.

Thankfully, it did. I sat the rest of the trip jamming with Meat Loaf and enjoying my complementary sip of beverage and a peanut. As soon as we reached Portland International I grabbed my bag and snuck out of the plane as fast as I could before the Marshmallow clan debarked.

Home at last, I vowed, like I do after every plane trip, to never to fly coach again. Thanks to Ryan and The Marshmallow it’s first class only for me from now on!