[Abby’s Road] Flight

I’m back. In my pocket I have a good 25 stories I could share about my time cavorting about lower (and upper) Bavaria. I decided last week that upon returning to the States I would spare you the gory details of beer drinking, volksfests and barbecues and keep it musical. I was prepared. Then something happened on my way home on Wednesday that changed everything I planned on mentioning. There are a few silly bits I would like to get out in the open before I get serious, however.

  1. Dragging myself through airports and train stations over the last two weeks, despite my deep dislike for James Murphy and his arrogant mumblings in interviews since the dawn of time, I made a decision: after avoiding it at all cost (because I am petty), I am officially in love with This Is Happening. There is something incredibly empowering about minute 3:06 of “Dance Yrself Clean.” At 80% volume on my headphones while walking through Heathrow, despite my mediocrity, I felt supremely important when listening to it. Go figure.
  2. I discovered that my German isn’t so bad after all. I mean, it isn’t good. All I’m saying is that I was able to communicate with people with exponentially less hand gestures than on my last visit. For me, this is a win.
  3. While I claim to know what’s going on musically, it took FM4 to open my eyes to Virginia’s own Wild Nothing. I’ll bet you’re shocked and appalled…but please keep reading.

So. Flights can be a nightmare. Especially return flights. En route to a holiday destination, all revved up and excited for the weeks ahead, the meal service tastes like manna from heaven. The journey home is a different story altogether. Who the F serves a hardboiled egg and spring onion sandwich to a plane-full of already smelly and road-weary passengers on hour 6 of a flight from London to DC? British Airways this past Wednesday, folks, that’s who. Of course, there’s always the quintessential boisterous nimrod who believes his or her travel experience was more intense than everyone’s and wants the cabin crew and all passengers to know about it. But, as a coach traveler, one must tolerate many people, odors and situations. My return trip this time around was especially notable.

I walked to my center, aisle seat to find to my right, a boy of about 6 years of age. To his right sat his mother. It was the 3 of us in the center section of row 31. He was clutching a plastic music box to his ear that played Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 16 in C, repeatedly, while his mother hummed soothing words in heavily French-accented English to him. Before the plane was off the ground I heard the first of many abrupt vocalizations coming from the boy. It was at this time his mother gave an unnecessary apology for her son’s behavior. I asked his name, she told me, mentioned he was severely developmentally delayed and, aside from guttural exclamations of glee and/or sorrow from deep within his throat, non-verbal. He did, she explained and I observed, respond favorably to music. It calmed him.

Throughout the 7 hours in the air she occasionally sang to him as he rocked back and forth in his seat – “Frère Jacques” and other songs unfamiliar to me. At the meal service he reached over and gently touched my arm and face and she, absolutely exhausted, apologized yet again. I wasn’t lying or patronizing her when I smiled and said that everything was fine. For lack of a better word, I was honestly “fine.” Do understand that I become agitated when a person in line ahead of me at the market checkout takes an additional 15 seconds to scavenge for exact change in their wallet. My overreacting and being easily disturbed is a reality and not a quality I am proud of, so forgive me for surprising the hell out of myself in this particular situation.

I am not looking for commendation for being a decent human being, make no mistake. I believe it is noteworthy to mention however, that being human also means that sometimes we lose our cool, especially when trapped with 300 other people at 35K feet. I admit that I asked for (and was given) more wine than usual on this flight and, at times, had my headphones at an intense volume ordinarily reserved for, say, well, nothing else, really. That said, observing the communication between this mother and her son and the role music played in their dyad is a beautiful memory forever stowed in the suitcases of my mind. Where words fail, music speaks.

Happy weekend.

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