Flying With the Gunches
LORI OSIECKI ILLUSTRATION
Take my advice. If you go somewhere on a plane, there are certain things you shouldn’t take with you. Like a grand piano. Or a young child.
With either one you got a lot of extra packing and a lot of extra noise. But the piano won’t say that it has to go potty immediately after the captain has turned the seat belt sign on.
I got to explain.
One of the Gunch cousins, Bovette, decides to have a destination wedding in California. It is going to be gorgeous, and she needs little kids to dribble flower petals in front of her as she prances up the aisle.
My daughter Gumdrop volunteers her two, because it’s too hot to hang around here anyway.
So she and myself pack up little Lollipop, who’s 7, and Go-Cup, who’s 5. We will fly instead of drive, which will save us 20 hours of being asked if we’re there yet.
Gumdrop’s kids have never been on a plane before, and she says they might learn something. Well, we all learn plenty.
The first thing we learn is that airlines sometimes don’t sit everybody together. We get two seats on one side of the aisle, one on the other and another one five rows away. There is a man in the seat next to one of our seats, scowling at his phone and looking like he don’t want to move.
“I don’t want to disturb you, Mister,” I say real cheerful. “My grandson Go-Cup will be sitting next to you. If you notice him getting a little green around the gills, just give him this,” and I hand over the throw-up bag.
“Use the bag, honey,” I tell Go-Cup.
And what do you know, this man instantly insists that we change seats. I tell him how nice he is.
Lollipop learns about airplane bathrooms. She says she don’t need no help, thank you, lurches to the back of the plane by herself and looks around frantically until the flight attendant says, “That’s the bathroom right there,” and unfolds a piece of wall to show a space tinier than a broom closet with a metal potty and a metal sink and a lot of pictures that have diagonal red lines across them. Lollipop sits on the potty, does her business and stares at the pictures. She figures out the diagonal lines mean you aren’t supposed to do what’s in the picture. No cigarettes. No drinking faucet water. Then she gets up and there on the lid is another picture – somebody throwing stuff in the toilet, with a line across it. This really means you aren’t supposed to throw random items in there, but she interprets it as “Don’t put the toilet paper in the toilet.” Where then? Finally, she lurches back to her seat and holds out the damp paper and says, in a trembly little voice, “It’s real hard not to break rules in there.”
I quickly tell her to shove the paper into my empty Styrofoam coffee cup. Then I myself totter to the bathroom to get rid of it. I also snatch the unfinished gallon-size tank of Coke that Go-Cup bought in the airport – “I asked for small. They said this is small!” – to pour down the sink.
I fold the bathroom door shut, the plane lurches and I drop the Coke. I bend over to grab it, bump my head on the sink and it rolls away. Coke splashes out all over the floor, then under the door and with the next lurch, up the aisle. I unfold the door and hiss to the flight attendant that I spilled a Coke. He looks at this tank-size cup and says “You brought that in the bathroom?” I guess pretty soon there will be another sign in that bathroom with a picture of a huge Coke cup and a line through it.
Meanwhile, the passengers in the back of the plane are looking suspiciously at that liquid washing into the aisle from under the bathroom door. They are thinking it’s something worse than a spilled Coke.
Go-Cup is leaning out of his seat, watching it all. “Is the plane going to crash?” he squalls, in a voice that carries to first-class. Then there’s a lot of uproar. I ain’t going to talk about it no more.
Next time I’ll take the grand piano.