‘Fellow travelers from Hell’
Now, why couldn’t it have been Drew Barrymore and her daughter who sat behind us on our 17-hour plane ride?
See, I happened to run into Drew and her daughter in the lobby of our building the other day, and boy, was she nice. I had spotted a cute little girl sporting an unmistakable school uniform and said, “Hey, is that a Brearley Girl?” (Brearley being the name of the exceptionally fine New York City girls’ school that The Child attended.)
The Brearley Girl thus addressed responded with true B-Girl enthusiasm as her mother beamed. I then praised the school and threw in a few deets about my own Brearley-burnished daughter. (Math Whiz, Tech Genius, Forbes Thirty Under Thirty honoree, and so on and so forth.)
Realizing I was being, well, gushy, I focused my attention on the blue-jumpered sprite in front of me. “Hmmm…fifteen?” I guessed, knowing that little girls want to be thought of as much older. “Ten. Next week!” she piped up. That’s when the mom chimed in with the girl’s name, then held out her hand and said, “I’m Drew.” Me, (knowing that celebs, at least in New York, never want to be acknowledged as such) “Nice to meet you, Drew. I’m Alice. I live in the secret apartment.” (To ten-year-old) “Wanna see?” So I opened the swing door next to the elevator to reveal the shiny red door to the Ken & Barbie House. “I’d show you, but I’ve gotta run. Maybe next time!”
It was a lovely encounter, especially when I remembered that Drew had been our main competition for the K & B House. (She wanted it for one of her staff.) It would have been so nice if it were she who sat behind us on our flight. Though I realized that wouldn’t happen, since no doubt she would have flown first class.
I briefly considered first class when booking our Africa trip. I say “briefly” because I practically had a heart attack when I saw the price. When I told Dude Man, he said something like, “Why not go for it; it’s only money.” When I quoted the figure, he said, “For both of us, right?” “Nope; multiply that by two.” “Oh.”
I think he was relieved when I admitted that, even if we sprang for it, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy myself. I’d be thinking every single minute of those 17 hours that the flight was costing as much as the entire tour.
So there we were, settling into what Delta calls Premium Select (which wasn’t exactly peanuts, though they did give you some), when I see a mom and a dad towing two small children down the aisle. I’m crossing my fingers and holding my breath when, sure enough, they stop right behind us and consult their boarding passes. “We’re right here!” chirps the female parent in one of those gratingly annoying sing-songy Mom Voices.
Well, all I can say is that I’m so grateful that Dude Man bought me noise-cancelling headphones — and that I elected to bring them on this trip. (Which I almost didn’t, since we were going to be traveling from lodge to lodge and bringing head phones meant more gear to tote.)
The kids — boy around seven, his sister, around five — weren’t so bad, except for the occasional obligatory seat-back kick. It was the parents. They kept it up with the (loud) sing-songy voices: “Mommy’s going to go potty. Would you like to go potty too?” “Here, let Daddy help you pick out a movie.” Whereupon he reads the description of every single child-friendly film. “You loved Frozen. Oh look! The Little Mermaid!”
Seventeen hours, friends. Seventeen hours.
Well. Flash forward three weeks. Through three weeks of amazing African adventures. Enough to fuel many a blog post.
Our travel home started with an hour-long ride in an open safari vehicle, followed by a flight in a plane so small it was like wearing a plane, then a small regional jet from Maun to Johannesburg. Six hours and two airport lounge stays later, we’re settling into our seats in Delta Premium Select when I hear, “Let Mommy buckle that for you.”
Yes, it’s them. The Flying Family From Hell. Same seats, right behind us. Same sing-songy voices. Same periodic kicks in the back. For seventeen hours.
Those noise-cancelling headphones were worth their weight in gold. God bless you, Sony.
New York City. October 2023.