Sound is a series of pressure waves that interact with the organs in our ears to produce vibrations we perceive as acoustic phenomena. I sometimes wonder, if we could rearrange the molecules in the air at will, we could craft the most pleasant and soothing surges of soft and comforting sound imaginable. Furthermore, I sometimes think on how, at any given time, the air around me could possess, by itself, the right combination of timbres and tones to help any particular second pass with audible ease.
So, when the fates conspire to trap me in an airplane with unrelenting sound waves of screeching and whining from Other People’s Kids, I cry out to God for the super-human ability to shape sound. However, I am normally left to the mercies of OPK.
For the bulk of my journey to Oregon to see my folks, I was surrounded. It was nearly the end of me.
To my front was a toddler. He was fairly uncouth about staying put and let out with wailing shrieks every few seconds as his meek parents tried to keep him in their laps. As sitting still was the normal activity on a plane, his aversion to quiescence set the stage for one of the oldest categories of human conflict: man verses environment. Every so often he’d break lose and run to the other side of the aisle, then back. Only to be scooped up by his father and whispered to, I assume about not running across the aisle. He would then squirm and shriek again until he escaped to run his paces.
Across my aisle was a young, wide-eyed boy who had a Nintendo DS. “Good,” I thought, “He’d have something to help him pass the time.” His father next to him had one also and seemed to tune out the boy as he cackled and yelled every few seconds, reacting to his game, giving those around him a running commentary on his progress.
Across the aisle and behind me was a chatty child, a future Jeopardy contestant, asking his father every perceivable question about the position of the air nozzles, to the angle of the sunlight, to the flower patterns on the seats, to the sound a camel makes, to the speed of said camels, running…On and on in rapid fire, the mother flatly shrugging off the queries or making up answers as she went along.
Behind me were two future soccer stars, who routinely kicked and prodded the seat backs. It didn’t happen often enough to warrant a glare, especially as I heard the father trying to maintain control, but was enough, when paired with the additional OPKs, to…
I sat, eyes open, in a perpetual stare at the seats in front of me, bound and determined not to lose this fight. I could win. My mind was strong. The undulating decibels of the shrieking made me squint, the kicks made me squirm, and the video gaming and truth-seeking made my ears bleed; but, in the end, when it was all over, our plane at rest at the gate. I recaptured some of that feeling of triumph I possessed when I returned from war in Iraq.
While I was shaken and a little fatigued, I carried on to my next flight. While I shared the cabin again with the shrieker, he had fallen fast asleep in his father’s arms—finally an answer from God!
I know when I have kids, I’ll “understand.” But until that day, OPKs make me nervous, and a little jittery, especially when I’m sharing such close conditions.