Sunday, March 11, 2012

200 Moms and Babies and Five Soldiers

In 1977, I flew home on leave from Germany on a long-body Douglas DC-8.  These planes were passing out commercial use, replaced by wide-body aircraft, but charter companies still flew these long, narrow planes with more than 40 rows of seats--no first class.

In the 70s when one million Americans lived in Germany (250,000 soldiers and airmen) the passengers on the cheap charters were Army wives and their kids.  In the 70s when our unit got a replacement soldier, I would assume he was 19, from the South and his 17-year-old wife was pregnant with their second child.  He needed a job with benefits.

I was on an eight-hour flight with maybe 230 wives and kids and five soldiers.  From boarding to landing this long, narrow plane echoed with 100+ kids taking crying--sometimes all at once, sometimes in a crescendo that moved from the back to the front of the plane, getting louder then growing softer as the kids got tired.

I was a pack-a-day smoker then.  Probably half the adults on the plane were in the "smoking area" in the back.  You couldn't see the front of the plane when a bunch of us lit up.  In fact, it blurred the definition of second-hand smoke when there was that much smoke in a confined space.

I thought of this flight today because a toddler was howling five rows back.  I thought 'This is SOOO much nicer than 100 kids crying.

The kid is quiet.  Quiet never happened on that charter flight.  Ahhhhhhh!!!