Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bulkhead-hoggers beware

So the key element to successful air travel with young children, the missing puzzle piece, the thing you cannot do without is . . . BULKHEAD. Ah, bulk-head. I love the tough, no-shit, slightly dirty sound of it. I. Always. Get. Bulkhead. Do I sound defiant? Challenging? That’s because I am. I DEFY you to take my bulkhead away from me. It’s not going to happen. That bulkhead is rightfully mine and I always get it.

Now, it’s not always easy because sometimes other people want the bulkhead.

Occasionally these people are also parents with a few little critters in tow and in these cases, when they’ve gotten to the bulkhead before me, well, fair is fair and there’s not much I can do, except try to squeeze into whatever remaining seats there are. But that, I find, is rare.

Usually the people who beat me to the bulkhead are just big old lazybones. Honestly, I can’t even tell you why someone without children or another kind of handicap would even want the bulkhead – I had never even heard the word “bulkhead” before Primo was born. But these people have heard of bulkhead. They’ve heard of it and they want it – maybe because it has more leg room, maybe just because it’s special – and since they are totally unencumbered, having no children or handicaps, they get to the gate before us and they get the bulkhead.

Do not think for a second that bulkhead is something that can’t be taken BACK. Getting bulkhead is not some irreversible process, like when a meter maid starts writing out a ticket and just can’t stop. So these non-parent, non-handicapped bulkhead-hoggers may reserve the bulkhead but they don’t have a hope in hell of keeping it when they’ve got me on the plane. I am indefatigable. Like a goddamn bulldog.

“Sorry, the bulkhead is taken,” the airline rep at the gate informs me.

“All of it?” I reply.

She nods.

“Well, is there any way you could move the people sitting there?” I ask as sweetly as possible, “You see, I have two young children, and it is really helpful for us to sit in bulkhead, not just for us, but for everyone on the plane. Trust me, the kids will be much less of a bother if you can just get us the bulkhead.”

Sometimes this works. But sometimes I have to take it to the next level. Sometimes the airline rep says she can’t do anything about it but that if the people sitting there want to switch me with, they certainly can.

That’s when things get nasty.

“Its OK Nik,” David pleads as we ready to board, “We don’t need the bulkhead, “Its fine.”

What he’s really saying is, “Please don’t make a scene.” And he can forget it.

“It is NOT fine,” I reply, “We DO need the bulkhead so Seconda won’t kick the back of someone’s seat or stand up and pull the hair of the person in front of her, and it also really helps her to sit on the floor in front and play with her dolls and lie down or whatever, We need it AND we deserve it.”

In this one specific circumstance, I feel totally, one hundred percent entitled. That bulkhead belongs to parents the way highchairs at restaurants belong to us and changing tables in bathrooms belong to us. People without kids have EVERYTHING ELSE to enjoy – such as a flight uninterrupted by whining, nagging, and tantrums. They can read their books and magazines and have illuminating conversation and meet new people and join the mile high club or just sleep. Sleep, for God’s sake! I think its just plain greedy to want the bulkhead on top of that.

So we get on board and I very politely ask the bulkhead-hoggers, often tall, skinny twenty-something guys traveling alone or else middle-aged couples who have a lot of bags and seem nervous about flying, if they wouldn’t mind switching seats with us since I have these young children and it would really help us out to have a little more room to entertain them. Often this simple plea works. But on the rare occasions when it doesn’t, I have to get nasty. I just do.

That’s when David takes the kids and moves down the aisle while I rip the bulkhead-hoggers a new asshole, calling them rude and selfish and telling them they are gonna regret it when my kids scream and yell and puke on them for two hours straight.

This is how I always get bulkhead. It may not win me any popularity contests but I have to say it makes the temporary relocation of me and my family seem a little more like a vacation. It really does.