What's That Smell Coming From Row 10?

It was a commuter flight; the passengers professionals with briefcases and other small personal items. The plane was small too; some would say tiny. But, in Brian’s defense, so was the restroom.


At the time, I thought we were an adorable family of five. Two dads, three very young children, beloved by flight attendants the world over. (See: “The Super-Friendly Skies.”)

Thirty minutes earlier, when we entered that diminutive aircraft with our noisy children and ample carry-on luggage, I had seen the sole flight attendant widen his eyes and wince. It was a sign of things to come.

Before takeoff, the frosty flight attendant comes over to explain the children’s safety procedures, perfunctorily. I call him Trevor. Trevor is an old-fashioned gay man. Does he like children? Not so much. Gay men with children? Not his thing. Suddenly one of our kids lets out a scream. Trevor recoils.

Soon after her bottle, one of our girls begins to groan in my arms. (I won’t say which one, to protect the guilty.) Next, she wriggles her little body for a good fifteen seconds. Finally, a smile appears across her little face. She is having what later I label an unusual intestinal event.

Reflexively, I pretend to be asleep. Out of the corner of my eye I can see that Brian grabs the diaper bag, lifts up the still-smiling baby from my lap, and carries her past the few remaining rows to the restroom. He opens the door. He assesses the situation. Too small for the requisite rigorous cleaning. He looks to the flight attendant for assistance. Again, Trevor recoils.

Brian spots a few rows of empty seats in the middle of the plane. “Could I perhaps…?” he asks Trevor politely but with obvious haste. Trevor clears his throat, about to object, but he’s too slow. Always thinking on his feet, Brian has already turned around and is making a dash for the empty rows.

What happens next I am not able to see, but ten minutes later he reemerges with our girl, all cleaned up.

While Brian walks back proudly to our row, Trevor’s voice on the P.A. system breaks the monotonous roar of the engines: “Everyone please turn on your fans to dispel the stench coming from the middle of the aircraft.”

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