Thank You Flying Intolerance Airlines….

Nothing particularly amusing happened at work this week….or in general….unless you count the person who found my blog by Googling, “how can I make someone nip slip” and the elderly man I passed in the parking lot of the golf course where I play in a women’s league who told me as we passed, “You should be at home making your husband dinner.”

I wanted to tell him he should be in a old-folks home, nursing a broken hip, but I didn’t. Mostly because I would never actually do that, but also because I had the kind of week that leaves little to no downtime to really appreciate the absurd.  So, the retort  didn’t come to me until it was too late and he was cruising out of the parking lot in his boat sized Caddy….barely able to see over the steering wheel….his handicap placard dangling from the rearview mirror.

Karma got me back for the thought though, because I played a horrible round of golf. Overall though, it probably had more to do with work stresses I couldn’t shake, than Karma….as my Buddhist friends who really hate when people blame Karma would tell me.

I don’t love hectic work weeks….because they are no fun.  Typically, they occur when I return from a vacation, when all the things that happened while I was away, have become small fires that have to be extinguished and dozens of emails are impatiently awaiting a response….thus was the case this week.

I did take a little bit of time though, probably not 22% of a day, maybe 8%, to read up on the news of the week online.

While browsing articles, I came across a story about the Beegle family….Oklahoma residents who were flying home from a trip to Walt Disney World when their plane made an emergency landing and the family was escorted off the plane by police officers.

Their daughter, a 15-year-old with Autism, had apparently become disruptive on the flight, so the airline crew felt it was necessary, for the safety and general comfort of the others on-board, to remove the child from the plane.

Personally, I’m kind of surprised they didn’t open some latch reserved for fussy babies and those with ambiance disrupting disabilities and boot her from the plane mid-flight…. since reports of similar accounts seem to be a typical occurrence everywhere from restaurants to flights these days, it appears to be the direction we’re heading in and someone needs to be first to implement the policy….so why not United Airlines?

However, I suppose the public shaming that occurred when the family was escorted off the plane by officers….following the flight crew’s announcement that an emergency landing was necessary because there was “a passenger on-board with a behavior issue”….was essentially the equivalent.

When I read the article, my husband and I had just returned from a mini-vacation with our three-year-old son to celebrate Mother’s Day. It was a trip that required a nearly three hour flight and as I’m sure anyone who has ever flown with small children will agree, it’s a total crap shoot.

Sometimes, a child will sit contentedly and without a peep….sometimes, he will fuss, scream, squeal, wriggle, cry, vomit and/or poop for the entire duration of the flight….sometimes, its various combinations of any of the above.

As a parent who has traveled by plane quite a few times with my son, I’ve grown accustomed to the weary expressions of other passengers as we make our way down the planes aisle with the little man. I can practically see the lips of the other passengers moving as they pray to whatever God they believe in that we are seated as far away as possible.

Sometimes, my son is perfectly charming, greeting people as we pass with a friendly smile and a wave….sometimes he’s on the verge of a minor or major meltdown….but whatever the mood, other passengers are often quick to greet us with a roll of the eyes or a disapproving glance in our direction.

When my son was just under a year old, I traveled with him alone to see family out of state.  I was nervous and overwhelmed by the experience as it was, despite the fact that it was only an hour flight.

Getting through security with a diaper bag full of the necessities, a stroller to gate check and an infant I couldn’t just deposit on the floor like a backpack while I broke it all down….one-handed….amid the huffing and grumbling of other, impatient passengers in the security line behind us….was enough to make me want to abort the mission before we even took off.

As we boarded the plane, an older woman we passed, gave me the stink eye as she turned to her blue-haired friend and whispered….in that way people have of not at all whispering….”In my day, I would have never flown with my children. It’s inappropriate.”

To which I whispered….in that way people have of not at all whispering…. “In your day, children also rolled around in the car without a car seat, a large percentage of pregnant women puffed a pack-a-day and kids ate meals prepared with generous helpings of Crisco. Talk about inappropriate.”

My son ended up flying silently that trip….lulled to sleep by the hum of the plane’s engines before we even took off.

In the moments though, when my son does not fall peacefully asleep and instead reaches an emotional breaking point of sorts, caused by any variety of little people problems, I do my best to soothe him….to redirect his energy by encouraging him to use his words to communicate his frustrations….or, I offer a distraction.  In either case, I’m firm, but loving and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t….but I never apologize for him.

It’s not because I’m inconsiderate, or because I don’t care about the overall comfort of others.  I don’t apologize, because I don’t believe I have anything to apologize for.

My son is a human….a tiny human who is learning how to manage and express his emotions as best he can with the tools in his little arsenal.  Tools he’s gained through our guidance, encouragement and the experiences he’s had in life to test them out and identify their boundaries.

A flight isn’t a fancy restaurant or an adult-centric form of entertainment….it’s a mode of public transportation, where, for the price of a ticket, virtually anyone has the right to a seat.

Airlines allow assholes to fly….pre-gaming bachelor/bachelorette party attendee’s to fly….Alec Baldwin, Justin Bieber, Diana Ross and that chunky French guy who was in that one movie with Katherine Heigle, have all been allowed to fly…. repeatedly….and I’ve never heard of their various handlers trailing behind them with apologetic expressions on their faces or passing out goodie-bags full of treats in the hopes of buying a little compassion and understanding should one of them “become disruptive” as they have been known to do….and often….in nearly EVERY inappropriate situation possible.

In fact, on our our most recent flight, there were a number of people exhibiting various versions of what I would consider to be disruptive and comfort robbing behaviors.

There was the guy *sniff* across *sniff* the aisle *sniff* from me *sniff* who *sniff* really *sniff* needed *sniff* a tissue *sniff.*

There was the woman who boarded the flight with a fried fish dinner that made the entire plane smell exactly as I would imagine a room full of Kardashian’s might smell.

There was the very large man who was occupying both his own seat and half the seat of the woman next to him…. whom he was not traveling with…. and who looked as though she would be flying uncomfortably on one butt-cheek to our final destination.

I actually wouldn’t have mentioned him here, except my son said hello to him as we passed and the man just grunted nastily in response while mumbling something under his breath.

In the moment, my son looked at me and said, “Mommy, he didn’t say hi to me” to which I whispered….in that way people have of not at all whispering….“Not everyone has been taught manners.”

There was the woman who complained about everything….to seemingly no one in particular….and to seemingly no one who cared. She complained about her leg room, the seat-belt light, the turbulence, the channels available on the individual television sets, what the person in front of her was watching, the line for the bathroom, the beverage cart that only came through once, the lack of a free pillow, the temperature, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc….

There was the guy who fell asleep and snored so loudly I considered offering to foot the bill for an airline pillow if one of the other passengers would consider smothering him.

There was the guy sitting adjacent to me, just up the aisle who removed both his shoes and socks for the flight and made me lose my appetite for the yummy snack I had purchased, because he desperately could have used Ped-Egg.

I wondered what would have happened had I pressed the Flight Attendant call button and complained that any one of the above was being disruptive and destroying my flight experience.

Would they have offered me a free, in-flight meal to soothe me….a ticket voucher for a future flight….a free drink….a free upgrade upon my return flight to a row with more leg room….or a first class seat on a sister airline?

Would they have announced that our plane was going to make an emergency landing because another passenger on-board had become disruptive?  Then, upon landing, would police have escorted the woman with the fried fish dinner off the plane…. the styrofoam food container clutched in her hand as evidence of her shame?

I’ll never know, because I didn’t push that button….because I’m a human too.  Only, I’m a grown-up human who recognizes that the world doesn’t revolve around me and my personal comfort level….that I share the world with a lot of different people….and also….I’m kind of nicer than that.

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