(This classic Dave Barry column was originally published July 22, 2001.)
We set out with a sense of foreboding. If you ever feel a boding, and later on something bad happens, that was a foreboding.
We were traveling from Miami to Minnesota, a state located near, or possibly inside, Canada. The reason we felt a boding was that we were carrying a live baby, and we had stupidly elected to travel by airplane.
I think that, instead of making such a big deal about weapons, the airlines ought to start cracking down on babies. Ask the average airline passenger: "Would you rather sit near a gun, or a baby?" Most passengers would answer: "Definitely the gun, as long as it was not shooting, at least not in my direction."
Under my proposal, when you got to the airport, instead of walking through a metal detector, you'd go through a baby detector. If the alarm sounded, security personnel would search you, and if they found a baby, they'd place you in an airport detention facility until the baby had reached an age appropriate for flying (19 years).
Tragically, the airlines do not have such a system, so we were allowed to board the plane with Sophie. She was the only baby. All the other passengers were adults returning from cruise-ship vacations. A lot of them had those beads in their hair that cruise-ship passengers get after their judgment has been impaired by drinking banana daiquiris before breakfast. All these people wanted to do was sleep.
It was a four-hour flight, and it went very well for, I would say, six minutes. At that point, Sophie became fussy, in that way that babies get when the only thing that makes them feel better is to scream and kick the back of a seat containing a hung-over cruise-ship passenger. The people around us were not happy. One man kept glaring at us, as though we WANTED our baby to annoy everybody. If that man, who was in seat 17-A, is reading this, I just want to say to him, by way of a sincere apology: Sir, your wife looked REALLY ugly with those beads in her hair.
The good news is that after only two hours of fussiness, we found out what was wrong with Sophie. The bad news is, what was wrong was that she needed to throw up, in projectile fashion, all the food she has ever eaten since birth. She had been saving it up for this moment.
Now we were giving off an aroma so strong that it was detected by ground-based radar. ("Northwest 573, this is Air Traffic Control. Be advised that you stink.") Many passengers were asking the flight attendants for parachutes.
So it was not a fun flight, and I sincerely apologize to all of our fellow passengers, except the glaring man. I also apologize to Northwest, which probably had to burn the plane.
Other than that, our trip to Minnesota was great. The highlight was our trip to the Mall of America, which bills itself as "the largest fully enclosed retail and family entertainment complex in the United States." How big is the Mall of America? Here's an actual quote from the mall's official list of Fun Facts: "258 Statue of Libertys could lay inside the Mall."
Where I come from, that's what we call a LOT of Statue of Libertys.
Fully enclosed spaces are popular in Minnesota, where winter lasts an average of 17 months. So the Mall of America is a huge hit. According to the promotional literature, it draws more visitors every year than the Grand Canyon, which of course is not enclosed (you wonder what they were thinking when they built it).
Also, the Grand Canyon offers very limited shopping, whereas the Mall of America has more than 500 stores. I got the impression there were at least 10 stores devoted just to refrigerator magnets. Also, every 35 feet there's a store selling food. So basically you have thousands of people circulating around, shopping and chewing. It's the ultimate American vacation experience. The only thing that would improve it is if you could rent burros, the way you can in the Grand Canyon, so you could shop and chew in a seated position.
In the middle of the Mall of America is - I swear - an amusement park. It has a roller coaster and various other rides, so that if you get tired of shopping and chewing, you can get sick.
Speaking of which, Sophie was great on the flight home. As far as I know. We sent her Federal Express. You probably think I'm kidding.
(c) 2009, Dave Barry
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