This just makes me sick: Plane passengers in the US press for child-free flights. Because children dare to cry or squeal or just plain be kids on occasion, a reality that some passengers apparently cannot deal with.
You know what? I’ve been on several flights with young children. I’ve even been the passenger seated next to a small child on a long flight. I’ve also been the young kid on a plane who was viewed with suspicion for the mere crime of being present.
I spent two transatlantic flights seated next to small kids. Once I sat next to a five-year-old Ukrainian Canadian boy. He chattered throughout the flight and insisted on showing his picture books to me. At one point, he climbed onto my lap. If I was lucky, he spoke English, quite often he chattered incomprehensibly in Ukrainian. His mother, who was seated across the aisle with the boy’s baby sister, didn’t seem to speak English at all. It wasn’t the most comfortable flight I’ve ever been on. But guess what? The Ukrainian family with two small kids had as much right to fly as I.
A couple of years earlier, still a teenager, I sat in the first row next to a mother with a four-month-old baby. The baby was cute. She also kept throwing her toys at me and dumped a rattle into my food. She also cried quite a bit, particularly during take-off and landing. Considering the nasty headaches I tend to get from the pressure difference during take-off and landing, I could certainly sympathize with the baby. And unlike me, the baby neither had any idea what was happening nor could she express its discomfort in any other way than by crying. And to be fair, the flight attendants offered me another seat, but I declined. Because I liked my window seat and besides, I was happy to have ended up next to a nice young woman with a baby. Business travelers still scared me at that age, because I remembered the looks they would give me when I was the young kid on the plane. And the worst fate I could imagine was being stuck next to such a person on an eight hour flight and having to feel like a dirty beggar, if I had to get up to go to the toilet. And in fact, the worst seat neighbour I ever had on a plane was the overweight Japanese businessman who would give me a dirty look whenever I had to go to the toilet and then asked to change the seat, because I – a quiet ten-year-old – was troubling him. I guess he would have welcomed child-free flights. I for one would have welcomed flights free of sour-faced businessmen.
The terrified woman who kept praying all through a long flight, the woman in business attire who poured three mini-bottles of whiskey into herself on a one-hour flight, the Anglo-Indian businessmen who seemed to resent the fact that he was seated next to – gasp – a woman and the Australian rancher who spent two hours talking about his ranch, in a barely comprehensible accent, were all low points of flying as well. And don’t even get me started on the fountain of vomit, who was so sick that she filled not just her own barf bag and mine but also that of the bloke across the aisle (not her fault, the turbulences were nasty and she was actually nice). I’d rather sit next to a baby or toddler again than next to any of those people, because at least the kids don’t know any better.
I suspect the reason why I was seated next to small children twice was precisely because I was young, 16 and 23 respectively, casually dressed and didn’t look like the sort of person who would complain about kids being kids. Precisely because I wasn’t a sour-faced businessperson.