Naturally, after a moment of concern for our daughter’s well-being, we did what any responsible parents would do in a crisis: we blamed each other.
Think you know everything about those tiny airplane bathrooms? Think again.
When flying with our two young children years ago, my wife and I discovered a little-known but highly valuable feature of those bathrooms, at least on our particular plane. But first, a story.
Our two daughters were ages 6 and 3 at the time. Like most parents, we dreaded that anything-can-happen stage of flying with children when wild imaginings of public parenting emergencies compel you to stash all-purpose wipes in every available location of your carry-on luggage and your person.
Fortunately, most of the flight proceeded pleasantly. The girls entertained themselves for the most part, but when they didn’t I kept them occupied with two simple games that, in hindsight, I would not recommend.
The first involved a deck of tiny cards about the size of an adult thumbprint. While impossible to retrieve when they fell off that little seatback tray, the cards did teach me that my 6-year-old was becoming savvy in the less-than-good ways of the world. After a few rounds of blackjack, she kicked back in her seat and said, “Man, it’s like Vegas in here!”
The second game I would not recommend when flying with children is “I Spy.” This game is very effective on Earth; however, when you are looking out the window of an airplane at nothing but blue sky and brown land, you can guess the repetitive result: “I spy something blue (or brown).” The game became inappropriate when my daughter switched to scenes within the plane, leading to comments about ever-so-near passengers like “I spy something yellow on that man’s shirt.” Mercifully, the flight ended shortly after I ended “I Spy.”
Then came the parenting emergency.
We had just reached that moment when the pilot turns off the fasten seatbelt sign and everyone rushes to stand up and gather belongings, even though no one can actually exit the plane for several more minutes. During the shuffle, my 3-year-old decided to run into the tiny bathroom nearest our seats. My wife and I both saw her go in there, but in the confusion neither of us realized that the door was about to close by itself.
In other words, we allowed my 3-year–old to accidently lock herself in the bathroom.
Naturally, after a moment of concern for our daughter’s well-being, we did what any responsible parents would do in a crisis: we blamed each other. Surprisingly, that did not improve the situation.
So, I began trying to coax my daughter into unlocking the door from her side. She started to cry, saying she couldn’t reach the latch. I was trying not to panic, but I knew that given all the passengers in the aisle we were at least at least 10 minutes from the flight attendant reaching us along with any tools like a screwdriver or the “Jaws of Life.”
After a few more moments of anxiety and embarrassment, a godlike voice intervened as if from above. It boomed: “I’m a dad, and I have two daughters. I think I can help.”
As we turned around, we saw a large man approaching whom we hoped wasn’t from Family Services. Instead, he explained that a small plate on the door (at about adult eye level) could be pulled back to reveal a latch that would unlock the door. I followed his instructions, and sure enough it worked.
If your children ever lock themselves in an airplane bathroom, you now have a piece of MacGyveresque knowledge. The only drawback? It may put a damper on any plans to join the Mile High Club.