Best way to roast the broomstick. Must try. Five Stars.

Wait until this gets picked up in a childfree by choice forum

Saturday afternoon I shuffled down the short walkway with my overloaded camera bag and purse to get on a small plane that would take me from Toronto to a connecting flight in Minneapolis. I’m sure I’ve written about this here before, but one of my favorite memories of the six months I took reservations for Delta Airlines was the phone call from the man who was very wary of small planes.

“Tell me…” he said because he knew the distance between his home and his destination was relatively short. “Are y’all gonna put me on one of those computer planes?”

“On a what, sir?” I asked not yet grasping his confusion.

“A computer plane. I ain’t about to buy no ticket to put my ass on one of them computer planes.”

“A computer plane?”

“YES. A computer plane. Them computer planes be crashing all up in a backyard. Tell me it ain’t no computer plane.”

Then it clicked. Commuter. I didn’t have the heart to correct him, so I delicately answered that the only flight we had between those two cities was on a “small aircraft.” To sum up his response, he didn’t buy no ticket to put his ass on that plane.

My other favorite phone call: “Can I sit in the cargo bay with my cat?”


My flight to Minneapolis was on one such computer plane. Very small. Limited space. I booked my ticket early enough in advance that I was able to pick a seat very close to the front of the aircraft, but not the very front because I like to have all my stuff underneath the seat in front of me. And, as you know, when you’re sitting in the front row you HAVE to stow everything overhead. There is no seat in front of you. I always feel sorry for those front row sitters having to get up in the middle of the flight to get what they need from the overhead compartment especially when what they need is a heavily dog-eared paperback copy of Fifty Shades of Grey.

When I ambled onto the plane, however, someone was sitting in my seat. And before I could point this out to him the flight attendant pulled me aside and explained that this elderly gentleman and his wife had been unable to book seats next to each other, and would I be willing to trade seats with him. She pointed at the front row. I surveyed all my stuff, determined that if I shoved it hard enough it would all fit into the tiny compartment overhead, and agreed to this plan. Because, I don’t know, that couple could very likely be someone’s parents, someone’s grandparents. I’d want my dad to be able to sit next to the person he loves on an airplane. I know. Gross, huh? You think I’m gross. Wait until I offer you a sip of the smoothie I’m making out of Marlo’s placenta that I saved and stored in the freezer.

So I traded seats, and I was happy to do so. But I guess this threw the seating chart into some sort of blender because the flight attendant had to negotiate with four other passengers about moving seats. It was complicated, but everyone seemed to be amiable about it and moved their belongings without much fuss. That was until one very frustrated man was given the choice between a seat in the front row or a seat next to a woman sitting directly behind me. She had a child in her lap.

“I need my stuff!” he yelled. “And I most certainly won’t sit next to a BABY.” He yelled this with his arm extended, his finger pointing at the child. Every person who was on board the plane could hear him.

The flight attendant tried to calm him down. “Well, you see—”

“I will NOT sit next to a BABY on an AIRPLANE,” he interrupted, his voice booming through the whole cabin.

Someone a few rows back sensed the escalating conflict and offered up her seat, and he gobbled up the offer like dessert at a buffet. It all happened so fast that it took me a few minutes to process it. I finally stood up under the compartment over my head, turned around and peered over my headrest.

“Hey,” I said to her. “If you need anything, let me know. I know how hard it is to travel with kids, so if you need a break, I’m right here.” She bit her lip to hold back a sob and thanked me.

Something about traveling on planes with kids totally changed me, and now whenever I’m traveling and I see a baby my first thought isn’t, “OH GOD, NO.” It’s, “YAY! IT ISN’T MINE!”

And I didn’t say that to her to be some sort of hero or to prove a point. I said it to her because if that had been me sitting there with an infant Marlo on my lap and someone had made that big of a deal about it, had tried to humiliate me like that, I would hope someone would offer me the same kindness. Because no one traveling with an infant gets onto a plane and thinks, “WHEEEE! I can’t wait to torture everyone around me when my baby’s ears explode during takeoff!”

HERE. HERE IS WHERE I PROVE A POINT: as far as I know, there does not exist an airline that prohibits children or infants. This means that when you purchase an airline ticket, to go anywhere, you risk being put in the company of those dreadful, awful, there-to-make-your-life-miserable human beings. This is just a fact of airline travel. Just one of many facts of airline travel. Children may be on your flight. Sick people may be on your flight. People who do not regularly bathe may be on your flight. EVEN TALKATIVE REPUBLICANS ARE ALLOWED TO FLY.

If you want to argue about whether people SHOULD travel with kids on airplanes, well then. No. Don’t even. Save your breath for the giant bubble that you need to blow up and live inside.

For those of you who are like, yeah, it’s a risk, but that doesn’t make it suck any less to have to listen to a screaming baby for two hours in the confined quarters of a plane: invest in some quality noise-cancelling headphones. And then sit back and read a book and be happy that you’re not spending the entire flight shoving Cheerios into someone else’s mouth thinking PLEASE DON’T SCREAM PLEASE DON’T SCREAM PLEASE DON’T SCREAM.

  • Lisa

    Preach! Thank you, from “that mother that has been there”.

  • Nicole

    I wonder if the folks complaining about seat-kicking have ever sat next to a child on a plane? Have you noticed that their legs are only long enough to dangle off the seat and are therefore a millimeter from the seat ahead of them? It’s rather hard to stop a child from “kicking” the seat when in reality they are just moving around.

  • Jenny

    At least the child was only a baby due to age. I kind of wish I’d been on that flight. You did good, Heather.

  • christine

    Huh. Recently I was flying with my 5 year old to Chicago and he was sitting in the seat next to me with his seat tray table down, working hard on a maze. He had been absolutely silent the whole flight, absorbed in his workbooks, as he usually is on flights. All of a sudden, a woman sitting in the seat ahead of him stood up, turned, and shouted at me, “HE’S KICKING MY SEAT!!!” And she sat right back down before I could even close my mouth. I looked at him and lifted his tray table to see that his little legs were fluttering lightly with excitement as he was nearing the edge of his maze. Because his legs weren’t long enough to bend at the knee while he sat upright, his toes just happened to reach the seat ahead of him and tapped whenever he wiggled. I had no idea (and I don’t think he had any idea that he was “kicking” either.) Short of forcing him to sit with his legs in “butterfly pose” for a 5 hour flight, I don’t know how I could have prevented his feet from occasionally tapping. He absolutely was not intentionally kicking her seat, however, and there’s no way the “kicking” was very hard as I didn’t hear a thing going on (otherwise I would have stopped it somehow).

    In retrospect, I feel bad for that poor woman. Why do people get so bitter and angry when they have the opportunity to judge?

    Heather, I loved your story and the fact that you reached out to the woman with the baby. Thank you. Reminded me of George Saunders’ recent commencement speech… (Some of the readers here might benefit from reading it.)

  • JennC

    As my husband loves to say (often in a very loud stage whisper) “The only thing worse than a baby throwing a tantrum on an airplane is a 40-year-old throwing a tantrum on an airplane”.

  • ziggyzabel

    wow, great rant! thanks for sharing, and I’m glad to see you’re not still bitter about how some children behaved when they were confined to a giant flying metal box.

    But maybe you noticed, that’s not what this post was about. It was about how intolerant people can be…

  • valerie

    OH GODAMMIT. Why’d you have to make me cry?!

  • Lori

    On my most recent flight to NYC the man sitting next to me was a
    GIANT. His hands were twice the size of mine. I had the window seat and this
    poor man was sandwiched in the middle seat between me and another man. Needless
    to say I couldn’t even have my left arm rest down. I spent the entire flight
    saddled up to the window to give this man some room to his right. It must be
    hard for giant people to fly who can’t afford First Class. And I had paid extra
    for a coach comfort seat. Not too much comfort on that flight.

  • valerie

    Next month I am flying across the country with my son for the first time. He will be 9.5 months old and, honestly, I’ve never been so terrified of anything in my life. Labor didn’t scare as much as the thought of getting on a plane with my kid. I actually tried to leave him at home, but his father said no way. I don’t want to be the mom with the screaming baby who everyone hates and babies are jerks and you can’t control them, try as you might. There is only so much you can do, ya’ know? And I can’t even take a Xanax! …Or give him one.

  • Lori

    Some people have zero filter when it comes to their own comfort and needs. Sounds like this guy is one of those. Also, none of us know the full story of this man and what situation he was coming from before his outburst on the plane. Not that it really matters, but we should always remember that to judge someone else without all the facts is to unfairly judge someone.

  • Michael Mathews

    Your post really hit home. I hate to admit this, but I once acted like that guy. I hate the first row for exactly the reason you said – no access to my stuff. I also much prefer the aisle because I like to get up whenever the mood strikes me without being a pain to the person on the aisle.

    I was in business class on a 2-2-2 plane in the middle group of seats, and there was a father with a lap child next to me. His wife was across the aisle with another lap child. I thought I would be helpful and have them sit together and I would avoid being next to one of the lap children. Oops, there are only 3 oxygen masks so only 1 lap child was allowed per 2 seat section. The flight attendant offered to move me to a window seat, which I accepted. I felt like a complete jerk about the fuss I had raised, and I apologized to the flight attendants before we landed. I think I even said that I was sorry I had acted like a child myself.

  • Michael Mathews

    You know, there are bad kids and bad parents, but I thought the point was that the guy made a huge scene about it. He could have just DISCRETELY asked if the flight attendant could change him into a seat that wasn’t next to a baby because he wanted to do some work.

  • Michael Mathews

    I posted above about the time “I was that guy.” I’m a lot more sensitive now. I’ve often found the best thing to do is to say very little and let the crew sort out the seating. Just yesterday I had my favorite aisle seat and there was a family of 3 in consecutive window seats (my row and the two behind it). The flight attendant found someone who wanted a window and moved one of the three forward one row. The guy next me was fine staying there where he could at least turn around and talk with his wife and their son behind him. The key is to just be discrete. It’s even ok to say that you don’t want to move, but you don’t have to announce it to the whole plane.

    Finally, after many thousands of miles of flying, I’ve come to realize I’d rather sit next to a parent and child than a self-absorbed a-hole. I’m trying very hard not to be one of those myself.

  • Stephanie

    My worst airborne experience was flying home from Long Beach 2 years ago with my then 7 year-old & 4 year-old after saying a final good-bye to my dying father just hours before boarding. Everything sucked and I was barely holding it together. It was all very unexpected: he was healthy & only 65. It caught us all off guard & of course my kids didn’t understand. The stress, emotion, fatigue and grief had done us all in & it showed. Big time. My 4 year-old cried the entire flight, oftentimes loudly & sometimes accompanied by my 7 year-old. An older couple across the aisle loudly complained a few times and I apologized. I could not calm the kid down. After hearing the woman complain that my son was a spoiled brat, I lost it! I turned and snapped at her to please excuse my kids inability to know how to act after spending a week in hospital waiting rooms & an uncomfortable motel while their only Grandfather was dying. I then burst into tears myself. The woman said nothing. But, I will never forget the understanding passenger behind me who reached over and put her hand on my shoulder and said that she was sorry for our loss. Compassion really isn’t all that hard.

  • Magatha

    WTF? You know what? You are off topic. This is not about Kids Gone Wild. This is about someone who decided in advance that a baby’s appearance on the same plane meant that he was going to be victimized, so he threw a preemptive fit. I don’t have children. I have flown on airplanes. I have no idea why you thought your comment would be illuminating or appropriate. Please note that I am not telling you to shut up. I wouldn’t do that and this is not my blog. But damn, get a grip.

  • Sarah Blake Perez

    I feel really dumb even saying this, but guess what, Margaret? You were a baby once. A toddler even. A small child who didn’t understand that your kicks and screams bothered other human beings. In fact, every single person on this planet was a selfish, self-centered little person at one point. It seems as if you never grew out of that. I feel like you might be difficult to travel with. Or live with, work with, pretty much do anything with.

  • Marie

    Once a long time ago, before I had kids and even wanted any, I had a last minute work trip, my brother’s wedding the night before, as I boarded the plane at 5am with NO SLEEP prior, I was HORRIFIED to be seated next to a baby. I think – shock shock horror horror was written all over my face ahahaha. I did make peace with the situation and the mother told me she noticed my expression, oops.

    How things have changed.

  • kmpinkel

    I am with you Heather, I feel for those parents and will be the first to lend a hand, but I ALWAYS have earplugs in my carry on, for more than the baby issue. Yay for you and boo for him!

  • Everyone needs a break, sounds like you were handing them out right and left on your “computer flight”–hope that man on his next flight has a seat assignment next to happy toddler who wants to show him all her “stuff,” offers him chewed on Cheerios and sings It’s a small world all the way home.

  • Dinks!

    I’m a frequent flyer, with over a 100k miles flown last year. It always boggles my mind when people act that way. We’re all in this together buddy, no reason to be a dick about it.

  • Danielletodd

    That gentle foot tapping may not have been as benign as you might think. I know from experience that that little fidgety feet on the back of your seat can grate on your nerves after a while.

  • Florida

    On one trip, our youngest at the time enjoyed a Benadryl nap for most of the flight. Worked like a charm … Heather, you had a previous post about Netflix. It finally hit me. Your the wife on “House of Cards” aren’t you?

  • Kate Friend

    That might have been me. I was flying when my oldest was 9 months and I was pregnant with my second. My baby was actually pretty good all flight, and I had some of my fellow passengers comment on how happy she was. But the air conditioning wasn’t working and it was about 90 degrees in the plane, and there was turbulence as we descended, and then the baby threw up. And there was no barf bag in the seat pocket in front of me, like there was supposed to be, and then I threw up. I was so mortified and used a whole pack of wet wipes cleaning it up and giving wet wipes to everyone around me just in case. I think it was a woman across the aisle from me who held my baby for me then. The flight crew looked at me as if they were horrified I existed. It was the worst experience of my life, and it would have been totally preventable if the seat pocket had had a sick bag like it was supposed to.

  • Abbie

    My sister travels often with my 2 yr old niece. My 2 yr old niece is… a handful. An adorable handful, but still. On one particularly difficult airport trip, after 2 hours of delays and tantrum # 6 or 7, someone approached my sister to tell her that she was doing a great job, and that she was a very good mom. My sister, who isn’t terribly emotional, then cried (a lot) because she was so grateful for the kind words. Thank you for stepping in and offering kind words to someone who could have been my sister!

  • KristenfromMA

    I’m child-free, and I understand the importance of not being an asshole to those who aren’t.

  • KristenfromMA

    Huh, never thought of that.

  • christine

    Look, the last thing I want to do is start an argument here… But I’d like to clarify my points, lest you take this in a different direction. My main point was that neither I nor my son had any idea he was kicking. Otherwise, I would have stopped it in a heartbeat. In general, I go out of my way to make sure that my kids don’t bug other people, especially cranky people, whenever possible. My kids are not perfect, by any means, but I work very hard to keep them in line.

    Also, I have NO DOUBT that the fluttering on the back of the seat can be grating, just like lots of things. So can the person next to you chewing ice loudly or cranking the volume on her iPod past the limits of the earphones. My issue is how you choose to react to it. Do you turn into a monster and tear the poor kid a new one? Or, show some kindness in your approach (google George Saunders graduation)? There’s nothing wrong with asking him to stop… politely

  • KristenfromMA

    People like you make the rest of us child-free people look and sound like assholes.

  • Danielletodd

    Fair enough. I just got the impression that you didn’t quite see it from the side of the woman as well. Sure, it may have been an overreaction but people do have the right to be annoyed.

  • tami

    Not everyone has children, but no adult exists who wasn’t once an infant or child.

  • Christina Uticone

    I don’t know why he had to yell about it, though I would also have expressed a preference not to sit next to an infant. He’s a dick for how he handled it, for sure, but not for not liking sitting next to babies on planes.

  • letsallchillout

    I love this! if you’re a grown adult, then hold your emotions in check for a few hours if need be. Sometimes things in life don’t always have to go just as you’d like them too. In the nicest way possible, I say “get over yourself!”.

  • TJ

    I think that dude was on a Southwest flight with me not long ago. You know SW, you grab a seat, any seat when you board. This guy was third to last of passengers to board. It was a full morning flight, so only seats available were in the very back rows. He was on his cell, flight attendant trying to direct him and the others while he was still chatting to hurry and sit so we could take off, he stops right beside me and proceeds to throw a giant fit. He was not going to sit in the back of the plane!! She was trying to calmly speak to him, he was not having it. Kept yelling at her that he refused to go to the back. No one offered to trade. Finally, I looked up at him and in my best scolding teacher voice I told him today is the day you will be sitting in the back of the plane as quite obviously there are no other seats so go sit down-NOW as the rest of us would like the flight to begin. Shockingly, he went and sat. Such ridiculous behavior from a grown man. I swear I cannot handle ill-mannered people.

  • val

    Can I get an AMEN!

  • kate

    oh god, one of those talkative republicans is my mother in law. she LIVES for the middle seat so she can have TWO strangers to share the gospel with!

  • lar

    Thank you.

  • Kates

    Buying an extra ticket won’t always cut it. Just because you paid for that seat doesn’t mean the airline won’t put someone in it. Flights are almost always oversold, and so they need to get as many people on as possible. You can try fighting it, but good luck.

    I understand that kids are not controllable, and that sometimes you have to travel with them, but I’ll admit that sometimes I get really angry at parents who are going on a flying holiday with little ones because they want to, not because they have to. I respect their desires and rights, but think about taking a road trip (unless you live someplace like Hawaii, then nevermind). I didn’t get on a plane until I was six, and that was only because my grandfather was dying halfway across the country.

    I fly a lot (unfortunately), and most kids and parents are pretty great, but I can’t understand a) subjecting yourself to the hassle of travelling with little ones, or b) subjecting others to the potential nightmare of screaming/kicking/vomiting little ones. If I ever have a child, I won’t say never, since I’m in a mixed continent marriage, but I’d rather pay for other people to travel to us than travel with a small child myself.

  • Kate S.

    Count me with the tearies.

  • Kate S.

    I am officially horrified.

  • Kate S.

    That is terrible!

  • Sarah

    On a recent overseas trip with my two small (7 and 5) children, the airline screwed up our seating and all four of us ended up sitting separately. At that point, there wasn’t anything we could do but hope passengers would be kind enough to switch seats with us so that I could sit by my kids. Well, no one was willing to switch with my daughter, who had a center seat, and the man seated next to her was particulary dickish about it. So, my little girl had to sit by herself, between two stangers, one of whom was a complete ass. Turns out karma is a huge bitch because half-way through the flight, my duaghter, who is not prone to motion sickness and who almost never vomits, spewed the most disgusting mixture of milk and pineapple all over Mr. Dick. It was hard to keep the smile off my face.

  • Kate S.

    After having my own babies to deal with on planes, I would LOVE if airlines had a box you could check to say you would prefer to sit next to babies or something. I would be all too happy to be the person to help instead of sitting far away, unable to do anything but empathize.

  • Bethany

    I was traveling back from California with my 8 month old baby boy. We were leaving out of Vegas on a midnight flight on a Saturday night. I was sitting in my seat with him on my lap and this very tall, scary woman, who had been partying all weekend (her words) started throwing a fit when she saw my son. “I ain’t sitting next to no baby!” Turns out, she was in the wrong seat. So she moved to her correct seat in the row behind us. The elderly couple that sat next to us were pleasantly surprised at my son’s good (quiet) behavior. Anyway, at the end of the 5 hour flight I wait until everyone gets off and I am getting ready to get off the plane, I notice the woman waiting for me. She says, “I would like to apologize to you. GOD GOT ME! Your baby was so quiet and good. And that man sitting next to me smelled so bad and then he PISSED in his seat!!! GOD GOT ME!!!”

    I still use that line…

  • Made me cry. If only we could muster this kind of empathy for so many more scenarios. Maybe, just maybe, these words of yours will be a step toward that.

  • Jenny

    I must be a freak of nature, because I would happily volunteer to sit next to babies on planes! I love babies, and my only kid is almost 7, so I miss playing with little ones.
    I’ve long believed that those who seem to hate children are suffering from intense self-loathing. We all used to be children! Did you hate yourself when you were three and had an earache? Geez.

  • Kimberly Wydeen

    I travel quite a bit and I am childless. When I see a parent with a child who is virtually ignoring a child who is being disruptive, I get annoyed. But not with the child. With the parent. But I must say, this happens so rarely I never think to avoid the parents and children automatically. I will say that the worst flight I was ever on was when I sat next to somebody who recently quit smoking and did not wear a nicotine patch. Consequently, he shook his leg the. entire. flight.

  • Kimberly Wydeen

    I understand how you didn’t know that he was kicking the seat. But he was still kicking the seat. Even if it wasn’t intentional, it might be grating on a long flight.

    Respect goes both ways. If you want people to respect your children, you need to respect them. A swift apology and a reminder to your son not to kick is all that needed to happen here.

  • Ari

    First class, then? There are, in my experience, far fewer small children in first class (maybe it depends on the airline, but really, I have two small kids myself and I’m pretty sure that most parents don’t want to pay a premium to spend their flights apologizing to people who shelled out more money and are thus proportionately more annoyed).

  • Debra

    Good lord. Do people just think hey today I’m going to just bug the shit out of someone and fly with my baby? Shits and giggles, right? Ever think she might be going to a funeral or a family emergency or escaping a bad situation?

    Lots of crappy parents out there and their kids will annoy wherever you are but trapped in a metal box is a time for love and compassion, not hate and bitterness. I’m not sure it’s a good idea to fly with that kind of bad energy to be honest. Source energy might have a plan for the low energy folks that I want no part of!

  • Debra

    Good post. Some us grew out of the asshole phase others not so much. Assholes were put on earth so we can try to be less like them. Like Life Lessons. Just like that baby was put there as a lesson for him.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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