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7 Helpful Tips For the Child Who Made My Flight Hell

Every Saturday we ask some of our favorite writers to fill in for us. Today, we have former Cracked.com writer Anthony Layser, who is now the deputy managing editor of Asylum.com and the recent recipient of a nut shot courtesy of the gods of airline seating assignments.

Various religions, child protective agencies and a 1974 made-for-TV movie starring Linda Blair all contend that we are born innocent. This is false. We are actually born savages. Names like "preschooler" and "tot" do little to convey the viciousness that resides in the hearts of these tiny insane human beings.

During a recent New York to Los Angeles flight, I experienced the multifaceted wrath of one such little girl. Maybe it was the fluctuating cabin pressure or the veterinary pharmaceuticals I'd (inadvertently) taken in place of my usual preflight tranquilizers; but as I stepped off the flight, I knew what it was to have been emotionally raped by a toddler. My search for guidance concerning this troubling episode led me to consult the website of Dr. Phil McGraw--a rich bastion of insights. The following recounts my tormentor's behaviors with corresponding advice from the eminent television psychologist's site.

#7.
Using Airplane Seating As A Repelling Site

Upon arriving at my assigned row, I found a woman on the brink of collapse as a curly-haired child -- let's call her Mothra -- bounded from the floor up to the middle seat, then back to the floor, then up to the window seat using the magazine pockets for footholds. As she attempted the maneuver again, I quickly slid by and took the window seat. I offered Mothra a friendly smile. She responded with the wide eyes of a mad scientist receiving an unexpected visit from a future test subject.

Disciplinary Advice from DrPhil.com:

"Dr. Phil says you're sending your child a mixed message. 'If you give in some of the time, you're tough some of the time, what you have is called the intermittent reinforcement schedule. It creates the most resistant maladapted behavior of all.'" Seriously.

How I Should Have Responded:

By smiling at her chimp-like seat gymnastics, I sent Mothra the first in a series of intermittent reinforcement signals. In retrospect, I should have snarled and/or growled.

#6.
Sadistically Unplugging My Headphones

I specifically book with airlines that offer satellite TV, because I enjoy drifting in and out of consciousness to the rhythms of canned sitcom laughter. Sadly, Mothra had no interest in satellite TV or artificial guffaws. Like Pavlov's dog, she quickly learned that my eyes would jerk open and the plea, "Please, I beg you, stop doing that," would result every time she removed my headphone plug from the armrest jack.

Disciplinary Advice from DrPhil.com:

"Children need to be able to determine with 100 percent certainty that forbidden behavior will be met with consequences. For example, Dr. Phil advised a mother whose daughters wouldn't get out of their pajamas to tell them: 'If you don't change out of your pajamas, then you're not going to have your pajamas anymore. I'm going to take your pajamas and we're going to throw them away.'" Seriously.

How I Should Have Responded:

I should have threatened to steal an article of Mothra's clothing.

#5.
Unleashing Incomprehensible Tirades

Mothra removed my headphone plug from the armrest no less than a dozen times before her mother decided she should be taken to the restroom. Had I known that unplugging headphones was her way to signal she needed to urinate, I would have walked her there myself. Upon returning, Mothra's mother took pity on me and had the child sit in the aisle seat. Mothra immediately tried to scale her mother in what I can only assume was yet another attempt to silence the audio from my satellite TV feed. As the woman grappled with her menacing spawn, Mothra let out screeching banshee howls that bore into every eardrum throughout the plane's cabin.

Disciplinary Advice from DrPhil.com:

"Follow the Fast-Food Rule ... Always repeat back [her] 'order' (what [she] wants) before you tell [her] your 'price' (what you want)." Seriously.

How I Should Have Responded:

These outbursts were so angry and guttural, that I truly believe they were calls for the total breakdown of society (a few could have been baby obscenities). Following the Fast-Food Rule, I should have repeated back her order of "Anarchy, anarchy, anarchy" before telling her my price, "Only if you place yourself in an overhead storage bin."

#4.
Wiping Saliva On My Black Coat And Bag

Judging by the amount of times Mothra shoved her hands in her mouth, one might assume her miniature paws tasted of dark chocolate or foie gras. This resulted in everything she touched being christened with a shiny film of saliva. This included my black coat and laptop bag which, by flight's end, looked as though it had been attacked by banana slugs.

Disciplinary Advice from DrPhil.com:

"It helps to think of your toddler as sort of a caveman. With all their grunting and grabbing, toddlers often seem quite primitive. To communicate with them, you have to speak in a primitive and almost prehistoric type of language." Seriously.

How I Should Have Responded:

In nonsensical language, I should have explained to Mothra that she was spreading potentially harmful germs and defacing private property. According to DrPhil.com, that particular statement involves two throaty grumbles, four loud squawks and a fart noise.

#3.
Turning Complimentary Pretzels Into Paste And Sculpting It

As soon as the airline staff handed out complimentary pretzels, Mothra tore into her single-serving pouch, flinging pretzels across her tray table. She then chewed them, spit them back up onto the tray table and proceeded to play with the moist sludge. Mothra's mother was somehow napping through this, which allowed her daughter to toil for what seemed like an eternity. Until now, I've tried to brush off this memory as a pet med-fueled hallucination.

Disciplinary Advice from DrPhil.com:

When your child starts to misbehave, deprive [her] of something [she] values ... "Whatever [her] currency is, [she] needs to know, When I do A, I lose B.' Take it away and [she] doesn't see it again ... Make a ceremony out of it." Seriously.

How I Should Have Responded:

I should taken the liberty to remove the mess myself, depriving the child of her prized spit up-turned-Play-Doh. To bring ceremonial flair, I could have given a rousing address about how nausea had spurred me to action.

#2.
Staring Into My Soul

When not thrashing, screaming or fashioning regurgitation, little Mothra spent much of the trip looking upon me with unblinking eyes. Standing on her seat cushion, Mothra's two-and-a-half foot frame would loom over me as her expressionless orbs scanned my being from a few inches away, daring me to return a glance. Sometimes I would turn to see if she was still looking. She was, and when I peered back I found only darkness in her soul, and a little slobber on her chin.

Disciplinary Advice from DrPhil.com:

"A very effective consequence for undesirable behavior is isolation, with no social reinforcements. Find a room or place that is devoid of stimulation to put them in when the bad behavior occurs ... If you like, install a video camera in the room so you can keep an eye on your child from another room." Seriously.

How I Should Have Responded:

Since it was nearly impossible to isolate Mothra on a plane -- bar locking her in an overhead bin (as I had fantasized) -- I should have just ignored her and used my cell phone camera to safely determine whether or not her soul-gazing had subsided, rather than stoking her behavior by actually looking over. I also could've pretended I was invisible and that Mothra was actually peering out the window -- amazed at being 40,000 feet above her typically subterranean lair.

#1.
Being Conscious For All But The Final Eight Minutes Of The Flight

Mothra's final piece of villainy was simply falling asleep. Exactly eight minutes before the plane touched down, she partook in the exact pleasure she had denied me the previous five hours. The gesture displayed a purity of spitefulness so impeccable that I suddenly had a vision of Mothra's future as a successful Somali pirate or, at the very least, a big-time divorce lawyer.

Disciplinary Advice from DrPhil.com:

"When [she] doesn't get what [she] wants anymore, you're going to pay," he warns. "First [she'll] throw a tantrum. Then [she'll] yell and scream. Then [she'll] say, 'I have to go to the bathroom. I'm sick.' [She'll] choke and gag and puke on the floor ... You have to be prepared to go there." Seriously.

How I Should Have Responded:

By wishing her mother well, and heading directly to a urologist to inquire about a vasectomy.

Check out Anthony's last column, in which he offers some Suggested Improvements for the Guy Who Mugged Me Last Week.

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