Friday, July 27, 2007

Batboy & Other Children

This post deals with stories involving children and also the demise of the granddaddy of all tabloids. World Weekly News will cease to publish very soon after 28 years of gleefully chronicling the exploits of alien babies, animal-human hybrids and dead celebrities. It is a publication that is part of the empire that includes the National Enquirer and other known supermarket tabloids. There was a time when the outlandish, fabricated stories, that for some reason certain parts of the population were willing to believe, was fashionable and profitable. By the way the folks that actually believed these stories are the same ones who think wrestling is real and the moon landings were fake.

But the growing population of the web and the easy access to various publications around the world online have brought on the demise of such entities that a few years ago seemed to be so strong. In fact World Weekly News, which billed itself as "The World's Only Reliable Newspaper," will continue to live on but only in an online version. Trees will no longer need to die in order for people to get their fix of “Bat Boy.” (You all remember “Bat Boy” the half-bat, half-human child found in a cave, with a face that only a mother could love – and a blind mother at that).

Besides the proliferation of the web one of the other reasons this publication had a shorter shelf life is, ironically, truth is stranger than fiction. The very fact that I have been doing the “Stuph File” for years on the radio and now here online proves this. While we may not always have something as exciting as “Bat Boy” to deal with there have been a slew of stories that some might find hard to believe.

Well in honour of “Bat Boy” we have a couple of stories dealing with kids, but admittedly today they are of the milder variety. First up, the picture of “Bat Boy” might frighten some because of his somewhat grotesque smile. One’s smile is very important, even at an early age and a smile is of course enhanced by one’s teeth so it is important to take care of them even very early on. Do you remember your first dental appointment? How old were you – perhaps three or four?

Well how is this for a freak of nature – little Megan Andrews amazed doctors and her family by being born with teeth! Although Megan is only two weeks old, she has already had two dental appointments. No one noticed until about a half hour after Megan was born that she had chompers. Her mom, 20-year-old Claire Slimming of Brighton, England, who may want to reconsider the whole breast feeding thing, used a midwife to aid in the delivery. The midwife did the usual after-birth inventory; ten fingers – check; ten toes – check. She was then astonished when she put a finger inside her mouth and counted seven teeth. Doctors gently took out four of the teeth because they were falling out anyway and might have choked Megan. The others are pretty secure though so they plan to leave those in for now. No word yet on how soon she might be getting braces.

The other story dealing with children is about the noise they make. I must be one of those rare folk who are not really bothered by the sound of other people’s crying children or a toddler in the grasp of the terrible twos having a supermarket or airline tantrum. Frankly, I’m more concerned about the child that appears to be too quiet. Those are the ones you have to watch closely.

As irony would have it, I am actually writing this on a laptop while waiting for a doctor’s appointment (don’t worry, I’ll live) surrounded by a plethora of maladies and yes, the omnipresent vocalization of a choir of ankle-biters. I revel at the look of agony of some of my fellow citizens who are clearly unimpressed. I, on the other hand, embrace the circle of life – the extremely young struggling to be heard and those at the other end of the grumpy spectrum who are just here to perhaps get the doctor to stamp their final boarding pass.

Speaking of boarding pass, the story deals with a woman who said a flight attendant kicked her and her son off a plane last month because the toddler kept saying "bye-bye plane" to another jet. Kate Penland of Buford, Georgia, was flying from Houston to Oklahoma City on June 16th on a Continental ExpressJet flight that was 11 hours late when her one-and-a-half year old son Garron started saying goodbye to another plane he saw as it taxied on the runway. A flight attendant, who had been giving safety instructions to passengers said, "It's not funny anymore. You need to shut your baby up." The flight attendant then told her, "It's called baby Benadryl," and made a drinking motion.

Well, let’s stop to look at the facts here. Penland’s flight was 11 hours late! We’re all lucky that the only thing the kid was saying was "bye-bye plane." Other passengers on the flight said the kid wasn’t talking any louder than the adult passengers. What really seemed to annoy our air hostess was nobody was listening to her vital speech on safety regulations. (Nobody listens to those announcements. Sadly, we only wish we could remember them when the jet is barrel-rolling us toward the ground!)

Here’s the most bizarre part of the story. Penland rightly said that she wouldn't drug her child. Besides, she explained that Garron would likely fall asleep soon. The toddler wasn't crying or throwing a fit. But the flight attendant was. She had the plane turn around and return to the gate and Penland and her son were ordered to leave. Penland, and for that matter many of the other passengers were alarmed at the turn of events.

According to ExpressJet, the flight crew has the authority to remove passengers who interfere with the safe operation of a flight. Gee, an 18-month-old was simply saying "bye-bye plane.” He didn’t have explosives in his shoes. He didn’t order the flight to Havana. He didn’t sing the Barney song. Those are all good reasons for ejection. He didn’t throw a tantrum or have a meltdown. He was only offering salutations to another flight.

Penland has a difficult time believing she or her son caused that type of problem. Airline officials said they were investigating the matter, and Penland want answers. I think I already have the answer. It’s time for the flight attendant to say "bye-bye plane.”

The truth is stranger than fiction. When I hear stories like this I tend to believe more and more in “Bat Boy.”

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.

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