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November 16, 2011

The Joys of Teething NOT!

Tom McLaughlin

In route to Frederick from Kuching – I swore my child would not be the one to keep the entire airplane awake with howling as so many others have done in my travels. I had all the medicines; cold remedies, knock out drops and stomach powders from the village.


However, we were totally unprepared for four teeth to begin to emerge over the Pacific. The gums seemed clear as we left Kuching in Malaysian Borneo for our annual trip home. Two days in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, also brought no hint of pending disaster.


We visited the embassy and the visa office. My Peace Corps family of long ago treated us to a wonderful homemade farewell dinner with many spicy hot Malaysian curries. The white enamel surfaces lurked under the gum line like four huge volcanoes ready to erupt.


We sat in row where the wall backed up to the kitchen known as the bunker seats. A cot was attached for my 10-month-old son Dzul to blissfully sleep the 20 or so hours away. Across the aisle was an elderly, non-English speaking Chinese gentleman who, I assume, considered himself lucky to have won an aisle seat with extra leg room. Next to him, in the window seat, a stunning Sri Lankan lady, with a two-year-old, engaged us in lively banter.


The extreme build up began with simple whimpering and gradually convulsed into a two-hour screaming, crying, unyielding bursting of the sound barrier. To make matters worse, the two-year-old joined in while the poor Chinese man got my son Dzul in one ear and the Sri Lankan lad in the other.


For the life of me, I could not figure out what was wrong. I had raised two lovely daughters and I could not recall anything like this. Finally during one of howls where I thought the jaws might disconnect, I caught a glimpse for four white slivers just breaking the gum line.


The end of business/first class section was just beyond the kitchen and a flimsy curtain separated us. Occasionally a snooty individual would peek through to see what was amiss and then give a dirty look. Miffed, I held Dzul and when he got wound up for a blood curdling murderous howl, I pulled the curtain aside and aimed his mouth in that direction.


I enjoyed the reaction as people pulled off those expensive noise canceling headsets as the echoes bounced around the small, high and mighty, pompous cabin. There was not a place for the sound to escape except to slowly dissipate among the ear drums those uppity people.


The cabin attendants, obviously unnerved by the complaints from the la-t-da bunch, went into a mothering mode that would rival the ol’ Mother Hubbard. Every remedy available on that plane was thrown into the effort. Finally, Dzul blew himself out and fell asleep.


Things fell into whimpering sleep mode for the rest of the flight with the ever-watchful attendants ready to deploy should his voice ascend above a whisper. He remained cry free except for when we went through immigration and customs when he got wound up again. We were ushered to the front of the line rushed through two or three government agencies and into a waiting cab.


…Life is good. . . . .


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