Babies… and the Golden Age of Air Travel
I’ve heard people describe a time when flying was glamorous.
Ladies and gentlemen dressed up for their flights (much in the way I imagine people used to put on their better clothes when they needed to talk to a loan officer at the bank)
To hear someone who had been on a flight in the “Golden Age of Air Travel” — the era usually being specific to the imagination of the person describing it — the food served above the clouds made terrestrial meals taste like pig swill. One imagines a brigade of French chefs, high toques firmly ensconced on their heads, sweating away in a galley, whipping up lobster thermidors and chocolate souffles.
Flights took off and landed on time and people applauded when the plane touched down.
Everyone, of course, was well mannered. People helped each other with their bags. Politeness and civility ruled. No one ever passed gas while on a plane.
Men doffed hats and behaved liked gentlemen despite downing multiple martinis and didn’t ever behave like misogynistic cretins to the women around them.
It was a golden age! A more civilized time. A better time. A time we should all long for and hope to return to while accepting, wistfully, we never will.
I’ve had enough folks from that generation paint these wonderful images that I might almost believe it was all true if it wasn’t for one fundamental question:
What about the babies?
A Reference Point
I am currently at 30,000 feet somewhere over Louisiana. It is not a bad flight. We took off on time. No bickering over whose wearing or not wearing a mask (are we all past that now? Yes? Fantastic! Way to mature society!).
Our flight attendants are both friendly and competent. I’m usually happy if they are just one of those but to get a two-fer? Wow.
Yes, we could all have used a couple of practice rounds of “how to put bags in the overhead bin in an expeditious manner” but, then, what flight wouldn’t benefit from that?
While no one, years from now, will ever remember this flight as anything special (or, frankly, remember this flight), it is perfectly pleasant.
And there is a baby about four rows back who has got the most amazing cry going on.
It is almost lyrical.
Loud shrieks mixed in with sobs. The volume hitting ever greater crescendos. What rhythm! What lungs! What vocal endurance! Add in a base player and drummer and that baby is ready to go on tour!
And I then I hear a guy grumble loudly to the flight attendant about “why can’t they get that baby to stop crying.”
Statistically speaking every flight is going to have some jerks on it.
But, statistically speaking, a lot of flights are going to have babies on them as well.
What About the Babies?
Babies cry. It’s an almost universal feature of a baby. If there was a Family Feud in which one hundred people were asked to describe something a baby does, I’m pretty sure ‘cry’ would be high on the board.
It’s one of the most fundamental sounds of life.
Yes. I would rather be on a plane with a baby cooing. Or a baby sleeping peacefully the whole flight. But babies are babies. They are going to do what they are going to do.
And sometimes they are going to cry. And occasionally they are going to have accidents and those accidents may be messy and stinky
Parents generally do the best they can (okay, not every parent, but I try to give people the benefit of the doubt) but there are times it doesn’t matter what a parent does: that baby is going to express themselves.
Being near or next to a crying baby doesn’t bother me one bit (the noise-canceling headphones help but they didn’t bother me before I got them).
However, I do recognize that there is nothing particularly glamorous about a baby crying on a plane.
Which leads to the question: what the heck did babies do during the Golden Age of Air Travel?
Were babies “in the good old days” just fundamentally different than they are today? No crying or spitting up or pooping? Were all babies automatically seven years old? Was colic not a thing then?
Maybe it wasn’t the babies. Maybe it was the flights.
Did those flights include professional nannies to go with the French chefs?
Was there a special dimly lit soundproofed section of the cabin that all the babies got put, in complete with cribs and spinning airplane mobiles and lullabies read by a co-pilot?
I guess it is possible but… I suspect not.
Let’s face it, if that was the case, all those stories about the Golden Age of Air Travel would have absolutely highlighted the “Royal Baby Class” to go along with the stories of the standing rib roast wheeled down the aisles and hand carved by white gloved attendants.
No, I suspect that babies on planes seventy years ago were pretty much like babies on planes these days.
I bet they cried up a storm and had accidents. I bet their harried parents still had to contend with some jerk (likely a bit better dressed than today’s jerks) complaining about the baby crying.
Maybe there really was a ‘Golden Age of Air Travel” and maybe some of those flights were pretty nice.
But when someone starts rhapsodizing about that magical period, ask them: what about the babies?