Experiential Birth Control

A Calories in the Crust story about the longest three hour Amtrak experience of my life.

Easter Sunday always brings a lot of excitement and I’m not just talking about pretend Jesus taking the form of a swan or however that story goes. For example, recent history’s high, holy holiday includes creepy staring across a table of traditional Easter sushi, marveling at Taylor Momsen’s ability to wear an entire brick of black eye shadow until she asked to be moved to another table. Last year was all about kransekake and a traditional murder among friends. Easter 2013 on a northeast-bound Amtrak train was no exception.

Disclaimer: I can’t imagine how hard it is to raise a tiny human. Literally, I have no concept of it. Sometimes I even forget to feed my cat. I do not mean to offend anyone who may be in the very noble process of bringing up bebés. To my readers, friends, family, coworkers, industry friends and other people I know with kids, well those kids are awesome. I sincerely love them and any of the their potential, future siblings. And possibly their little friends. Everyone else choosing to further overpopulate the world with miniature vanity projects? Those kids are monsters about whom I unequivocally do not care. And probably dislike.

It doesn’t take much for a regular Amtrak rider to boast about just how much they love to travel that way. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s generally very quiet, there’s outlets and wifi and you need only show up to the train station 10 or 15 minutes before you’re scheduled to depart. Sure, holidays are going to be more crowded and as such, we weren’t able to upgrade to business class, but the selling points I just mentioned apply to coach class too… that is until ill-behaved children and their self-involved mothers come barreling down the aisle as if they’ve just barely made it to Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross and Hogwarts Express is pulling out of the station. (canigetachocolatefrog?) They seemed to have enough crap for an entire semester, anyhow.

With that, a rain cloud moved into place dimming the afterglow of a glorious weekend in a 4-star hotel in Georgetown, where I slept in a pillow fort I built in the bathtub because the person with whom I was sharing a room snored so loudly it kept me awake through both the xanax and ambien I’d taken as a combative measure. What I’m trying to say is the kids, who I soon came to think of as an immortal child from Twilight and the kid from Problem Child, immediately started screeching at a deafening volume and their mother, who, moving forward, will be known as BMOTY for bitch mother of the year, immediately made it clear that discipline was not part of her child rearing process. These were not the sweet kids who peacefully coexist with you on a plane and you don’t ever notice them because they’re mesmerized by an iPad or their moms have slipped them Benadryl and they’re zonked out. I know it sounds harsh, but just stay with me here for a minute and trust that these kids were way too old to get away with the shit they pulled.

By the time we got to Baltimore, completely demoralized by the fact that the Gators clearly decided they were not going to show up and play basketball, Immortal Child’s incessant screaming caused me to develop my most serious case of nervous twitch to date. Enter holier than thou mom — she was like one of those UES mommies you read about who birth chemical babies at the age of 60 or something — with her “easy child,” both trying to cram into the seat next to John, who was working on a presentation he was giving next week. For clarification, here’s my memory of the seating chart:

HTTM (holier than thou mom) pulls out a stack of children’s books. Debbie turns to me and says, “oh. my. god. she. better. not. start. reading. those. out. loud. That is not acceptable in a space like this.” Of course she started reading the books. I debated reading some of the more steamy sex scenes from 50 Shades aloud to counter. Immortal Child was screaming NO over and over and over while Problem Child was, for all I know, rigging a molotov cocktail with her juice box that she planned to throw at me and blow up the train. I’d already heard enough rounds of The Pet Goat for 10 lifetimes, so I did what any mature 31-year old would do and mocked the kids by loudly saying, “noooooo noooooo I get it, I don’t want to hear it anymore either!” to Aunt Debbie. I no longer cared.

This sets B’moty into a something of a tailspin. Though I have to say, if this was the real life ‘momma grisly’ reaction Tina Sarah Palin has been brilliantly satirizing squawking about for the past six years, the punch it packs has been vastly over-exaggerated.

B’moty: Excuse me, I don’t have to listen to this!

Me: Well, we’ve all had to listen to your kid screaming for the past two hours.

B’moty: I’m a single mother trying to take care of my kids and do something nice for them like take them to the White House! I’m a lawyer!

Then, by all means, take care of them. For fuck’s sake, maybe take action other than yelling at me. Also, if you think that’s justification to shut the three of us up now, you’ve got another thing coming.

John: Great, I’m the president of a consulting firm, she (Debbie) is a managing partner there and she (me) is an advertising executive.* Now that we’ve all established our professions, Debbie why don’t you talk about raising two kids as a single mother.

BOOM, motherfucka!

* Also, while the word director is in my title, I wouldn’t call myself an advertising executive. This wasn’t the time for technicalities.

Debbie: I raised two boys as a single mother and frequently traveled with them both domestically and abroad; I can assure you I never allowed them to act like this.

B’moty: I don’t have to listen to you! I’m just trying to do something nice for my kids!

Me: And I’m trying to stream this basketball game and ride back to New York without blowing out my ear drums trying to tune you out.

B’moty: Well, I’m sorry I ruined that luxury for you!

Me: Thanks for the finally apologizing. And guess what? The expectation that I ride back to New York in relative peace and quiet is completely reasonable and commonly anticipated.

HTTM: You know, every child is different. I have a really easy child. Every one is different. It’s not her fault.

As Louis CK would say, no one cares about your shitty kid.

B’moty: My children are wonderful!

Would we say that?

HTTM: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to imply your kids are, um, difficult.

B’moty: You all are so disrespectful.

Me: You are.

Debbie: I feel sorry for you. You’re going to have a lot of problems.

Annnnd, SCENE.

I always pegged lawyers as the type to keep up with current events. Perhaps she’s the exception to that rule. So, letting go of her flawed argument about a White House visit — currently canceled because of the sequester — being the nice thing she was doing for her kids, let me just quickly catalogue for you all the nice things I remember my parents doing for me when I was three………. Long list, right? I’m surprised any of you actually made it through and are still with me. Listen, if this had been a $2.50 subway ride, I would have never said a word. With that, you totally get what you pay for. However, this little one-way journey back to NY literally cost more than half of my last round-trip fare to LAX.

Soon after the dust settled there, I had to get up and go to the bathroom. B’moty was walking Immortal Child up and down the aisle to try and get him (her? I couldn’t tell) to calm down. I quickly stepped aside giving her more than enough room to pass by. She looked at me and barked, “Excuuuuuse me is what you say!” I couldn’t help but think, lady, there are a lot of things I’d like to say to you and I can assure you ‘excuse me’ doesn’t make my top 100. However, my momma always told me, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all, so I gave B’moty one last “this stare absolutely means GFY” eye-roll and moved on.

I do not pretend for even a minute that it’s easy to travel with kids. When I see my friends jokingly post on Facebook about the apprehension that accompanies taking their kids on a plane/train/extended car ride — especially doing so solo — it’s not hard to read through the lines and see they are slightly terrified by the myriad of things that could go awry. I don’t envy that. However, at the same time, it’s not my problem and I should not be expected to gladly accept the three hour tantrum your child is throwing at a deafening volume. If you can’t control it, get it a babysitter and just take the older kid, who might actually get something out of the experience. In the end, I was mostly happy my less than tolerant attitude didn’t leave me like this:

The point of this rant is that I’m never dating again and I’m going to see about getting my ovaries taken out. I never ever want to be saddled with this sort of responsibility. Like I said earlier, I sometimes forget to feed my cat. I never forget to buy Chardonnay.

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