- OMG stop filming parents and children for the purpose of shaming them. Just. Stop. Doing. It.
- Eight hours is a long-ass time to listen to a toddler scream. I validate that whole-heartedly.
- You know who probably suffered more than the passengers on the plane? The kid’s mother – who was traveling without help or support. Even though she appeared nonplussed according to eyewitness accounts from a gaggle of Judgy McJudgerpants, I’m going to go ahead and assume this eight-hour torture-fest was not fun for her.
Still… something about this kid-free zone concept doesn’t sit right with me.
And if you don’t think children qualify as a subset of people, ask yourself this: What if we were talking about the elderly? Don’t we have laws in place to protect against agism?
But really, is it fair, or even right, for us to say, “I don’t won’t to sit by that type of person because that type of person annoys me and ruins the experience I paid for?” I don’t like sitting by people who take their shoes off and saturate the surrounding air with their acrid foot stank. Can I demand a shoe-free-free section? I once watched a grown man on a plane pick his nose, roll the booger luxuriously between his thumb and forefinger for a substantial period of time before gobbling it up. I nearly vomited. Do I get a booger-free zone? When traveling to the Dominican Republic for my honeymoon, the experience was quite nearly ruined by a pretentious fuck of a woman who loudly yammered on and on about her self-important consulting business for three solid hours. Pretentious fuck-free seating? Yes, please!
I’m being a bit silly, of course, but the fact of that matter is that there are many types of people who can ruin a flight for someone, but doesn’t social etiquette require us to just kind of, you know, suck it up and accept that this is what it means to share spaces with people… even ones we paid a lot of money to be in? An airplane is not like an adult-only restaurant or venue where the ambiance and entertainment merit an age limit. It’s a mode of transportation and a necessity for many – including families – to get from point A to point B.
You know what story went viral the same week as the Toddler As Air-Devil video? This one about a single mom who was traveling solo with her kid. When the toddler collapsed into full meltdown before boarding, and the exhausted mama knelt on the floor and tried to collect herself enough to solve this insurmountable problem, a group of strangers surrounded the pair. They began to sing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” They offered water and fresh fruit from their own carry-on bags. They knelt on the floor together, a village, united in empathy.
I had a similar experience the first time I flew with my daughter, then 14 months. We boarded a plane in London, in August, bracing ourselves for the 8-hour flight to Ohio, and wound up sitting on the tarmac for an unbearable 45 minutes while the crew worked on the broken air conditioning. Red faced, pouring with sweat, confined to a seat and angry as all get-out, my baby girl screamed. And I mean screamed. Her whole body raged and I was absolutely terrified. But, miraculously, within minutes, the passengers all around us began fanning my “obnoxious” child with their magazines and newspapers, smiling and cooing, nodding at me with support and solidarity. Not a single one took out a camera and snapped a pic of our struggle. No one demanded we leave.
Kid-free zones are one solution, but I can’t help but ask: what if we used our discomfort to grow a little as humans? To stretch our capacity to exercise patience and empathy? Sure, it’s easier to demand convenience, and we don't owe these small, glimmering kindnesses to each other. We really don’t. But, boy, wouldn’t that be better?