Created By: Firesidegirl on July 27, 2011 Last Edited By: SKJAM on September 11, 2011
Troped

Screaming Plane Baby

Infants tend to cry on public transportation.

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"WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"
--The Noise An Airplane Makes

The characters board an airplane or other public transport. Almost inevitably, a baby will start crying.

Babies are new to this world and have no language skills to articulate their discomfort or understand instructions on how to relieve it. So when they're faced with air pressure changes, unusual loud noises, the presence of strangers and the other hazards of public transportation, they're left with the default of screaming their lungs out. Plus, the child may be ill and in pain, and there's always hunger and dirty diapers to cause further discomfort.

This Real Life situation is often used in fiction when the characters are forced to take public transportation. It may just be an offscreen wail, or the parent of the child may be shown desperately trying (and failing) to hush the infant, or callously ignoring the kid and the pained reactions of those around them.

It can also be used as a characterization moment, with the character being a Jerkass to the harried parent, or demonstrating an ability to soothe the child.

A similar effect happens in theaters, auditoriums, churches and other crowded buildings, but in these cases it's usually possible to remove the baby and alleviate the problem.

No Real Life or Troper Tales examples, please. If you would like to discuss this phenomenon as it applies in reality and ways to cope with it, please consult our discussion forum.

Fictional Examples:

  • On Modern Family Mitchell and Cameron try to keep Lily awake before their flight to Hawaii so that she sleeps in the plane and avoid this. Mitchell tells the story of how he sat next to a crying baby on a flight from New York, then revealing that the baby was Cameron whining about how they couldn't get tickets to Billy Elliot.
  • An episode of The Ricky Gervais Show had a segment in Karl's Diary where Karl wrote about how he had to sit next to a crying baby on a plane.
  • Big Wave Dave's (a short lived CBS sitcom): Marshall has to go back to the mainland from Hawaii for a business meeting. In a throwaway joke he says he doesn't want to, because he knows he'll have to sit between a fat sweaty guy and a mother with a crying baby. In The Stinger he's boarding the plane; when the flight attendant asks him if he'd like help finding his seat, he replies no thanks, he knows where it is. He just finds the fat sweaty guy and mother with a crying baby with a vacant seat between them.
  • In one episode of Frasier, Roz dressed up her daughter as a turkey (it was a Thanksgiving episode) for the flight home so people think "Aww, how cute!", and wouldn't be so annoyed if she started crying.
  • Dilbert gets stuck behind a whole bunch of them in one strip (their moms are flying to the Mothers of Colicky Babies Convention or somesuch).
  • Comedian/folksinger Martin Pearon gives a hilarious account of this on his album Too Close For Comfort.
  • Done more than once on Family Guy. In one episode, Peter, Joe, Cleveland, and Quagmire are sapped, and flown to a mysterious island on a private cargo plane. Despite the fact that they're flying to the secret headquarters of a shadowy organization, on a private plane, there is an indignant mother with a crying baby accompanying them, to which Peter replies "Really?"
    • The second Family Guy example found (there may be three):
Guy on Airplane: Oh great, I always end up sitting next to a damn baby.
Stewie: What did you just say?
Lois: Stewie, stop fussing.
Stewie: Pipe down Lois. (Slaps guy on head.) Hey big man, turn around. Oh you can't hear me now. I was going to watch the movie, but forget it. For the next 5 hours, you're my bitch.
  • Mentioned in the note underneath this Wondermark strip. The characters in the strip obliquely express a desire to shake a crying baby, and the note reads, "Anyone who is offended by this was not on my flight last night."
  • In Hannibal (the book anyway) Hannibal Lecter is at one point pestered on a plane by a family consisitng of a mother, a bratty kid, and a crying baby.
  • Advertising: An E-Trade commercial features its now-famous stock-trading baby discussing his stratgies on an airplane. He is then interrupted by an offscreen screaming baby, and shortly after, another baby turns around to complain to him about the racket.
  • At one point in Mama Is A Fourth-Grader, Natsumi has an Imagine Spot of her potential future career as a flight attendant, and it's her baby (strapped to her back) that starts screaming.
  • Played for Drama in the last episode of Mash, when Hawkeye had a Heroic B.S.O.D. as a result of this trope: he was trapped on a bus full of refugees who are trying to hide from North Koreans when a baby starts to cry, and the mother chooses to smother her own child rather than risk exposing them to danger.

Community Feedback Replies: 43
  • July 27, 2011
    TonyG
    On Modern Family Mitchell and Cameron try to keep Lily awake before their flight to Hawaii so that she sleeps in the plane and avoid this. Mitchell tells the story of how he sat next to a crying baby on a flight from New York, then revealing that the baby was Cameron whining about how they couldn't get tickets to Billy Elliot.
  • July 27, 2011
    fluffything
    • An episode of The Ricky Gervais Show had a segment in Karl's Diary where Karl wrote about how he had to sit next to a crying baby on a plane.
  • July 27, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Big Wave Dave's (a short lived CBS sitcom): Marshall has to go back to the mainland from Hawaii for a business meeting. In a throwaway joke he says he doesn't want to, because he knows he'll have to sit between a fat sweaty guy and a mother with a crying baby. In The Stinger he's boarding the plane; when the flight attendant asks him if he'd like help finding his seat, he replies no thanks, he knows where it is. He just finds the fat sweaty guy and mother with a crying baby with a vacant seat between them.
  • July 27, 2011
    RedneckRocker
    In one episode of Frasier, Roz dressed up her daughter as a turkey (it was a Thanksgiving episode) for the flight home so people think "Aww, how cute!", and wouldn't be so annoyed if she started crying.
  • July 27, 2011
    terrafox
    Real Life: The problem is so pervasive that airlines are trying anything they can think of to alleviate it. Some proposed solutions so far have included: Adults-only flights, "Family" cabins (at the very back of the plane), banning children from business and first-class cabins.
    • When Malaysia Airlines banned children from its Business Class cabin, it was seen as controversial by the press, yet has received substantial support from much of the flying public.
  • July 27, 2011
    LeeM
    Dilbert gets stuck behind a whole bunch of them in one strip (their moms are flying to the Mothers of Colicky Babies Convention or somesuch).
  • July 27, 2011
    foxley
    Comedian/folksinger Martin Pearon gives a hilarious account of this on his album Too Close For Comfort.
  • August 21, 2011
    Firesidegirl
    Bump.
  • August 21, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    The most likely cause of the babies' distress is being discomforted by the higher-than-usual air pressure, and the relatively simple process of alleviating the pressure buildup is rocket science to them.
  • August 21, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    • Done more than once on Family Guy In one episode, Peter, Joe, Cleveland, and Quagmire are sapped, and flown to a mysterious island on a private cargo plane. Despite the fact that they're flying to the secret headquarters of a shadowy organization, on a private plane, there is indignant mother with a crying baby accompanying them, to which Peter replies "Really?"
  • August 21, 2011
    thegrenekni3t
    • Mentioned in the note underneath this Wondermark strip. The characters in the strip obliquely express a desire to shake a crying baby, and the note reads, "Anyone who is offended by this was not on my flight last night."
  • August 21, 2011
    PapercutChainsaw
    Can we call this Babes On A Plane? Please?
  • August 21, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    ^ That name doesn't invoke the visceral reaction the current name does. When I read Screaming Plane Baby, I knew exactly what the trope was talking about. Babes on a Plane doesn't provide the same connection. At least not to me (and I have personal experience with this trope).
  • August 21, 2011
    X2X
    ^^ That could possibly work as a redirect, but I'd rather not try to shoehorn in a Snakes On A Plane pun when Screaming Plane Baby gets the trope's point across quite well.
  • August 21, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    Page quote:

    "WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"
    --The Noise An Airplane Makes
  • August 22, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
    This is usually the case when a character is traveling Coach but not if they are traveling business class or first class.
  • August 22, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    The second Family Guy example I was able to find (I believe there are three):

    Guy on Airplane: Oh great, I always end up sitting next to a damn baby.
    Stewie: What did you just say?
    Lois: Stewie, stop fussing.
    Stewie: Pipe down Lois. (Slaps guy on head.) Hey big man, turn around. Oh you can't hear me now. I was going to watch the movie, but forget it. For the next 5 hours, you're my bitch.
  • August 22, 2011
    jaytee
    ^^^Love it.
  • August 23, 2011
    randomsurfer
    In Hannibal (the book anyway) Hannibal Lecter is at one point pestered on a plane by a family consisitng of a mother, a bratty kid, and a crying baby.
  • August 24, 2011
    larynxist
    Expand this to babies screaming in all inconvenient places, or is it good where it is?
  • August 24, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    ^ Babies screaming on Planes is Truth In Television. It's an inevitable part of flying that fiction utilizes for drama or comedy. Soo... I don't know, I think either would work.
  • August 24, 2011
    ZombieAladdin
    Advertising: An E-Trade commercial features its now-famous stock-trading baby discussing his stratgies on an airplane. He is then interrupted by an offscreen screaming baby, and shortly after, another baby turns around to complain to him about the racket.
  • August 24, 2011
    SKJAM
    As someone who's taken a lot of cross-country buses, Screaming Bus Baby also happens. I swear I was seated in front of the same screaming baby five trips in a row. (Same route in the same year.)
  • August 24, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    There's also the theatre baby. Bright lights and loud sounds probably prompt the kid to cry, and the rest is bad parenting. (YMMV of course)

    ^ I had one trip, Home > Bus > Airplane > Bus > Hotel, after the weekend > Taxi > Airplane > Bus > Home; and the ONLY mode of transportation I didn't accompany a wailing child was Taxi ride. So yes lol, this does happen on buses too.
  • August 25, 2011
    terrafox
    Real Life:
    • When flying on a plane, always carry a pair of disposable earplugs. If you are of the generous mindset, carry several pairs and if a baby materializes near you, hand them out to nearby passengers. Give the offending parent a hard glare or a shaming comment because as the adult who is at fault for introducing the noise hazard into the cramped confines, it is their responsibility to mitigate the hazard they have unduly exposed others to. Needless to say, there are a lot of irresponsible parents out there.
  • August 25, 2011
    AFP
    To be fair to the parents, I'm mildly curious just what, pray tell, they are supposed to do about the kid, assuming it isn't just a case of the kid being hungry or needing a clean diaper. Sometimes you travel by air simply because it is the only practical way to get to where you (and the baby, presumably) need to be.
  • August 25, 2011
    CrypticMirror
    ^either (a) don't take babies on planes, adjust their lifestyle to the realities of being a parent and stop trying to live like they still don't have kids (preferred option), or (b) a trip to the family doctor the week before to get a light medication to keep the baby asleep for the trip (something pet owners frequently do on long train, bus, or car trips to keep highly agitated pets calm).
  • August 25, 2011
    terrafox
    ^^ That is not unfair to the parents to begin with. If you create a slipping hazard in your house (i.e. by spilling a drink) do you just leave it there? Or do you clean it up, thereby eliminating the hazard? If the former, you're irresponsible. Bringing a baby on a plane is creating a noise hazard to the surrounding passengers and is no different. You introduced a hazard to others and it is your responsibility to eliminate/mitigate that hazard's impact to those who have done nothing to you.
  • August 25, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    The crying is inevitable. I believe the babies are reacting to the higher-than-earth air pressure, and have no language skills to articulate their discomfort or interpret the message on how to relieve the pressure buildup, and are left screaming by default. Not to mention the loud noises during takeoff. That is probably why the wailing lasts inextricably from take-off to landing and abruptly stops the moment the stewards give you permission to run for your life.

    Feel free to blame the parent for theatre-banshees though. Not going through the effort to find a nanny/sitter so you bring your kid to a dark room filled with people to deliberately expose yourself, and your kid, to bright lights and loud noises; that's a little more blame worthy than the likely-necessary, plane ride with unavoidable discomfort for the baby.
  • August 26, 2011
    terrafox
    ^ The inevitibility of crying is irrelevant, and the other causes of baby-crying are inherent to the operation of the aircraft. It is still the irresponsibility of the parents which has exposed others to the noise hazard they have brought onto the plane. The parents had the choice to not take the flight to begin with.

    Hearing protection for the child alleviates the aircraft noise exposure and a simple breathing technique the parent can execute on their child will alleviate the pressure differential in the ears.

    The airlines could do more by requiring families with babies to be seated only in the very last rows at the far back of the plane. That can reduce the noise exposure to almost half of the innocent passengers on board.
  • August 26, 2011
    AFP
    Why the back half of the plane? If you put them in the front half of the plane instead, then they have larger seats with more room for the parents to deal with the kids.
  • August 26, 2011
    foxley
    Can we stick to fictional examples please?
  • August 26, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    Maybe a caveat in the descriptions for No Real Life Examples and no blame-bait.
  • August 27, 2011
    terrafox
    ^^^ The front half of the plane is for those who have paid exhorbitant amounts of money (often as much as a new car) to not be disturbed by screaming plane babies (and to receive other perks), and to the great credit of the airlines, some have already begun banning babies from their more expensive class cabins.

    However, there is some potentially "evil" logic behind your suggestion that I do like. By requiring that the baby be seated at the front of the plane, you're also requiring the family to purchase the ludicrously expensive tickets for the business/first class cabins because those are at front of the plane. Such a change in policy from banning them from the higher class cabins to requiring them to be only in the higher class cabins could be a de facto ban due to the cost of tickets in higher class cabins, provided the airline doesn't do something stupid like offer a discount for families of babies; finally the rest of the flying public can travel in (relative) tranquility, with no screaming.
  • August 27, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    ^ My guess is you're a frequent flier huh? ;p

    If this page sees publish, we may have to put certain locks and caveats to prevent heated discussion like we've enjoyed here in YKTTW. Impassioned comments are enjoyable, but we want to avoid an edit war.
  • August 27, 2011
    SKJAM
    I know that in the case of the Screaming Bus Baby (or babies) it was impoverished mother(s) going from a rural town to the city to get treatments for their seriously ill infant(s) and back again; much as I hated the little darling(s}, they were in a kind of pain that I can only imagine.
  • August 28, 2011
    terrafox
    6-8 times/year on commercial carriers; double that if you count multiple legs of the same journey; always 8-15 hour flights. That does not count chartered and other non-commerical flights (but babies don't fly on those). Personally, I always have a few sets of earplugs for myself, but as a champion of the people, I want to see a world where we can all fly in relative peace and quiet. Air travel is bad enough to begin with; it doesn't need to be made worse by irresponsible parents, and as I typed before, bringing a baby on a plane without offering some hearing protection to your seat-neighbors, is irresponsible.

    That said, I can agree to sticking to fictional examples only, especially considering this wiki is about fiction, first and foremost.
  • September 3, 2011
    Firesidegirl
    Bump...
  • September 3, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    Roll an Update :) This is close to ready, the description just needs to look like the comments.
  • September 10, 2011
    Firesidegirl
    Can someone else do it? I'm new...
  • September 11, 2011
    SKJAM
    If you so wish, yes. I'll at least work up the description and post it in a bit so folks can comment on that.

    ETA: Okay, any last-minute examples or suggestions?
  • September 11, 2011
    dotchan
    Needs A Better Name--the current trope name implies a far narrower trope than it is. Crying babies are irritating in any form of public transportation, it's just worse on a plane because you're generally stuck listening to the little tyke scream for at least an hour.

    In fact, this trope is Played For Drama in the last episode of Mash, when Hawkeye had a Heroic BSOD as a result of this trope: he was trapped on a bus full of refugees who are trying to hide from North Koreans when a baby starts to cry, and the mother chooses to smother her own child rather than risk exposing them to danger.
  • September 11, 2011
    SKJAM
    Screaming Transportation Baby?
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=ju0yc4sqqyn1larumgir2t4l