Sam's Guide to Flying on a Plane

Part of me wants to write about how American Airlines is the worst airlines ever—with their delays, their lack of customer service, and providing snacks “for purchase only”—but in fairness, none of this was their fault. The flight was on time, there was minimal turbulence, there were two beverage service opportunities, and one of the flight attendants even smiled at me once! I mean, it still doesn’t compare to Southwest who pushes more food on you than a Greek grandmother and whose flight crews are so friendly that I’m still pen pals with two of them. Another was even the maid of honor in my wedding! But I digress. As usual.


This is about Sam.


And for the record, he’s flown well before. He’s sat so quietly and contently that other passengers might not even realize the potential tantrum surely percolating near them—like a geyser beneath the Earth’s crust and ready to blow.


But this particular flight was during naptime. So that geyser blew.


The following is all by Sam. I mean, I typed it, but it seems to be his modus operandi. I have witnesses.


First, let’s cover security. This can be a stressful process for your mom. She has to show her boarding pass and ID to the gentlemanly TSA agent. Not to mention take off her boots, her scarf, her coat, her hooded sweatshirt and lug all your luggage, which has been crammed into carry-on bags because American Airlines refuses to check bags for free, all while your dad returns the rental car. Insist on having her hold you while she does all of this. If you’re lucky, your older brother will also make things difficult by refusing to show the TSA agent his boarding pass. And yes, now is a good time to ask for gum.


Next, scream as your mom carries you through the terminal. Be loud. And high-pitched. She will offer you lots of things: candy, water, a smoothie, more gum, a soft pretzel. Refuse it all. As usual, hold out for the good stuff. Then refuse that too.


Your next step will be to wait at the gate. Look around—all these people will soon be trapped on a plane with you! Make them nervous. Whine. Crawl under the seats. Climb over the seats. Run everywhere! Bump into people! Knock over their carry-on bags! Leave a trail of crumbs everywhere you go! This is your time to shine!


Board the plane slowly. As you pass each row of seats, inch uncomfortably close to every passenger. Go ahead, lean in close and give their pants a sniff. If they smile at you, smile back and linger a few extra moments—until it starts to get weird and your mom runs out of cute comments about you. Then, charge up ahead in the aisle and bump your head into the butt of the person in front of you. If you can, try to weave in and out of their legs.


Once you’re seated, refuse your seatbelt. Demand to switch seats with your mom. Twice.


Ignore your mom’s cute little attempts to lecture to you about taking off and aeronautics and physics and other bits of nonsense she actually knows nothing about. She’s just putting on a show until you’re in a trance on your Kindle and she can zone out with her headphones.


And speaking of your Kindle, play on this for at least half the flight. I mean, it is fun, right? Don’t forget to make a big stink about not having Wi-Fi access, but after that, enjoy yourself. Watch twelve seconds of The Minion Movie, then promptly close out of that and work on a train puzzle for ten seconds. Then, eight seconds of the alphabet balloon-popping game, followed by six seconds of the Lego game with the train track construction. Four seconds of the PBS Kid’s app and two seconds of The Lego Movie. Repeat this sequence for an hour while your mom assumes all is well and starts to relax. This is your cue to act up.


This part is all about improvisation. Utilize the tools you are given, play to the personalities around you.


For example, if the man in front of you is sleeping, use this. Bump his seat repeatedly. Lean forward and try and engage in conversation. “Hi. Sam.” This should suffice.


If your dad and brother are seated behind you, climb over the seat to get to them because you miss them desperately. Sit still for no more than twenty seconds and then insist on climbing back to your mom. Repeat.


Next, you know your mom has candy. She’s saving it for those desperate moments when you seem inconsolable, so after a dozen or so pieces of gum, she’ll be ready to dole out something else. Go for the lollipops. Lick them to the point that they’re sticky, but haven’t lost their shape. If you can, try to get three at once. Start adhering them to various surfaces: the clean, hygienic tray table…the seat cushion (your flotation device)…the sleeping man’s head in front of you…your mom’s phone…your mom’s cheek…anything else belonging to your mom—magazine pages are always a favorite because she cherishes those.


Other favorite snack-time activities include: crushing Goldfish/crackers/cookies/other crumb-intensive treats and dispersing the crumbs across a wide radius—the wider the better; picking out the chocolate chips from granola bars—eat the chips, dispose of the granola in the aforementioned radius; sorting Skittles on your tray table—this is a good one because any bit of turbulence will send the fruity little candies flying and you can then justify a tantrum about the lost ones.


Next, I like to spend a good amount of time under the seats. Doesn’t matter which seats—in front of you, behind you, across the aisle, be creative. Wrap an arm or leg around something so that it’s difficult to be pulled out. If you can do this during landing or takeoff, even better because the flight attendants will start gently nagging your mom to fasten your seatbelt.


Important note: when your mom is agitated, you are winning. Never forget that.


At some point, your mom will order a drink. She will try to hide it from you because American Airlines is too cheap to offer cups with lids. This should enrage you. It is your cue to start dumping water on everything. Start with your own pants. Then you can demand an outfit change. This is a cumbersome task for your mom, even if she does have access to clean, dry clothes.


And if she doesn’t, this is more fuel to your fire. You can then begin dumping water on her. And her bag. Aim carefully for any electronics she has. And books. And her crotch—is there anything worse than having wet loins? Consider it payback for every time she’s been too lazy to change your diaper.


At some point, some kind soul—probably a cousin—will offer you Starbursts. Yes, these are the same candy that your mom has recently offered you and which you refused, but the ones Katie has offered you are just better. It’s about the source—you need Katie and Mike to like you and you want to encourage candy from them. With your mom, you just want to maintain control.


Another important note: don’t infuriate your mom too much. You still need her to love you. She’s the one able to reach your oxygen mask in case of a crash. This isn’t a suicide mission.


Fly safe! Be strong! As your dad likes to remind you: never give up!