Two and a half men on a plane

Two and a half men on a plane

We, a grandfather at 65 (yours truly) and a father at 32 had our first experience on a 20-hour voyage from Chennai to New York with a 16-month-old boy bubbling with unbounded and uninhibited energy. We ventured on this adventure believing that lawyers as we were, our logic, analysis and persuasive skills could prevail with the toddler to remain in good behaviour. And of course, the “I know all” feeling of lawyers.

To pack for a toddler is a fine art. I ignore what goes into the check-in bag. What is critical, and perhaps life-changing, are the contents of the cabin bags. While the gastronomic needs planned with meticulous care are packed in the first bag, the second handbag has several critical wares. A spare shirt or a pant, sweater and a jacket to weather the cold on landing in New York etc. These are child’s play. They do not demand the imagination of an astrologer nor the enterprise of a scientist.

The most crucial ware are diapers. The astrologer’s skill at prophesying and the statistician’s recce with averages are put to a rigorous test. How many diapers should be packed in the handbag? Too many is cumbersome. Too few is fatal. After deep analysis and extensive debate based on empirical data, it is decided that 10 diapers should do the trick.

He is all beans. While all others in the plane are catching up on sleep, our entrepreneur is intent on packing up and down the aisle. Suddenly, the active soul comes to a stop and lets out a scream which we understand is the call of nature. First confirm, is the instruction. Then act. For a false positive means a waste of a resource, namely, a diaper.

The diaper change process begins. The three of us squeeze ourselves inside a free toilet and pin the fellow down to the table. By now, he is screaming at the top of his voice, struggling to free himself. Remove the soiled diaper, keep the wet wipes ready; dispose of the soiled one carefully without leaving any remnants. Fit a new one. When one leg goes in, the other comes out. But after a few attempts, the operation is successful.

The process of emptying done, the hunger strikes begins. The wheel of life turns on and on. The father eagerly enquires of the air hostess as to when we begin descent, only to be told that we still have a good 10 more hours to land. He disappointedly remarks that the plane is moving too slowly and grumbles why they can’t make faster flying planes keeping mind his present predicament.

Soon, another major anxiety creeps in. We are left with only two diapers with four more hours to land. We have to be calculative, not wasteful, frugal, not extravagant, discreet in our decision and not reckless. Imagine, we both learnedly debate, what a catastrophe it will be to be left without a diaper for the little one. How do we manage? It’s beyond us!

We raise our hands in prayer to plan the entire process deftly. Our prayers are answered. Nature cooperates. The last diaper sustains till we reach home. I am reminded of Jerome K Jerome’s lovely novel, Three men in a boat.