curious incident of the apple juice on the plane

Last weekend, we flew to North Dakota. And then we flew back. We had a few comments at how good at traveling Brooklynn seemed to be, and our standard response has become some form of the phrase “this ain’t her first rodeo”. By my unofficial count, subject to correction, Brooklynn has now been on twelve plane flights covering four different airports, and this isn’t counting the six flights when she was still just a beta version in utero1.

As well seasoned a traveler as the little one is, she isn’t without her moments. These moments are becoming more pronounced as she gets older and increasingly vocal and willful about making her own decisions.

Moment 1: Security line in DIA

From everything I know about DIA, most of which comes from second hand sources, the musings of overheard business traveler conversation, and occasional commentary on the news, it was designed to successfully handle far more people than it currently does. I tend to believe this since the C terminal sits half empty every time we see it.

I also know that when the security screening area was put in place, it wasn’t designed to handle the current federally mandated regulations. Unfortunately, this is the case with most major airports these days. With airlines charging borderline ridiculous bag fees, more people (like us) are going with carry-on luggage only. Taking off shoes, taking out laptops, isolating approved minuscule amounts of liquids in a clear bag and shoving everything plus coats, five bags, and a stroller through the x-ray machine takes time.

So, the security line backs up.

Like I said, from what I know, DIA can handle a lot more people than it typically does, and we generally have a wait consisting of less than 3 minutes in line. Brooklynn is fine with three minutes.

Apparently, Friday mornings are actually busy times. Our wait was more on the order of 20 minutes or the length of time it takes to shuffle slowly back and forth in the queue 13 times. Brooklynn was great through half of it. She sat in her stroller and watched the people on either side of us also trudging slowly back and forth, like beginning skiers traversing across the slope of the mountain, to afraid to pick up speed to actually turn in the direction they really want to go.

She wanted to get out and seemed ready to cry. We let her out. No meltdown. She wanted to walk not holding Mommy or Daddy’s hand. She’s a big girl. Plus, she’s still just wary enough of strangers that we weren’t concerned about her wandering too far away. No meltdown. She wanted to push her stroller by herself. It’s an umbrella stroller: very light and very pushable by small children. No meltdown.

Small children pushing their own umbrella strollers tend to ambulate in more of a general direction than in a particularly straight line2. The requirements of the security line course we sought to maneuver through actually had a straight line stipulation, particularly when passing around the poles holding up the rope. This means that Rhiannon had to touch the stroller ever so slightly in a course-corrective manner.

And Brooklynn wanted so badly just to push the stroller by herself is that too much to ask WHY ARE YOU TOUCHING MY STROLLER MOM GET AWAY!?!


Face down sitting puddle on the floor in the security line. Tears. Sobs. A minute later, a nice older lady several people in front of us waved to Brooklynn going around one of the 180 degree turns and everything was fine.

Meltdown 2: Beverage Cart

On weekends, we typically let Brooklynn sleep in. She gets up early during the week due to our work schedules, so it’s good for her to catch up a little. By letting her sleep in, I really mean that we ignore her first time she wakes up, wait for her to go back to sleep, and get up when we’re all ready to see each other for the day.

On Sunday, her Grandma came and got her from outside our bedroom the first time she woke up. She had been coughing a bit that night and neither Rhiannon nor I slept all that well, so we didn’t mind the reprieve. We slept in. Brooklynn did not.

We drove see Brooklynn’s cousins and family, who also just so happen to live about five minutes from the airport3. She slept on the drive there, about an hour, and then played hard for the afternoon. With us, she might take a two or three hour nap in the afternoon. Too much excitement to sleep and a short nap lead to a tired baby getting on the plane.

Up early. Short nap. Hard play. We had a tired child on our hands getting on the plane and we were hopeful she would fall asleep with the noise and vibration of the plane. I think she would have. She cuddled on my lap with her blanket, and each time, just when it looked like she was going to close her eyes, the kid across the plane one row behind us cried.

And he cried for the first 40 minutes of the flight.

When the flight attendant came by with the drink cart, Brooklynn was still up and suddenly very interested in what was going on. On Friday’s flight, we got some juice for her. She doesn’t drink juice, as in I think we can count how many times she’s had it in 16 months and still have some fingers left over, so we figured maybe it would be a nice treat. So we got juice again.

The little plastic cups on planes also have little plastic lids and little coffee stirring straws work just fine for little people to use. Brooklynn’s sipper cups are all straw-based, so she’s no stranger to using pressure differential to move liquid from low potential energy to an area of higher potential energy. Her sipper cups are also spill proof, and we don’t worry about inversion.

Airplane cups, however snuggly the lids are on4, still have a significant hole in the top to allow the straw into the liquid reservoir area. When the cup is tipped far enough, liquid comes out. You may ask yourself why any sane and rational person would actually do this when they are perfectly capable of using the straw in the preferred fashion. I would posit that you are asking the wrong question. The real inquiry here is whether any small child can actually be considered sane and rational.

The answer is no.

Brooklynn took the cup and tried to tip it as she drank. Rhiannon held it level. Brooklynn took the cup again and tipped it, and I pulled it back level. Brooklynn took the cup, indicated with some wild hand waving that she was in charge and we should back off, and proceeded to pour juice on herself, into Rhiannon’s hand (thanks to her fast reactions), and a little bit on our pants.

At this point, the juice cup went away, our glasses of ginger ale were quickly finished, and the seat-back trays were properly stowed in the take-off and landing position, and everything disappeared.


Some snacks, blanket time, and cuddling with Mom, everything was better. She even had time at the end of the flight to stand in the aisle and flirt with the guys sitting in the row across from us. (Hopefully the guy in front of us didn’t mind too much, especially considering he was the recipient of the sipper-cup-turned-geyser event earlier in the flight5.)

So, for several hours of travel, to limit the outright meltdown time to around 10 minutes it good. Seasoned traveler good. Awesome baby good. And everything can be traced back to her wanted to do everything herself don’t touch it IT’S MINE! type of reactions. I guess that’s what you get with a 16 month old.

Irrational outbursts stemming from mundane actions. Well, that also describes some adults I’ve seen when traveling. And they aren't nearly as cute doing it as Brooklynn is.

  1. Has anyone ever documented how less noisy and disruptive kids are before they’re actually born? The differences are amazing, especially from the male perspective.
  2. I present this statement as a fact, but, admittedly, my population sample consists of one child, my own. Statistically speaking, this is both biased and insignificant.
  3. Sometimes the benefits of living in smaller, rural type cities cannot be understated.
  4. We know by trial that the lids are actually liquid tight.
  5. Seriously, pressure differentials are nothing to be messed with.