This here bringer of the pooper to the fun party

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?”

flying

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.

  • Michelle Bennett

    Amen. We traveled to Australia last year with a 3 year old and a 5.5 year old because my mother-in-law was dying and I wanted to punch any person that gave us the stink eye with regard to our kids. Given the choice, we would much rather have flown anywhere without them but that was not an option. People who want to control their plane-mates can simply stay home (or drive themselves – preferably off a cliff).

  • I LOVE Ali’s comment! “Let’s get this handsome sugar man cleaned up.”

    Heather, that was lovely of you to say that to the woman behind you. Everyone needs some support in those moments.

    I once helped a woman through a difficult flight because she had two young kids and was travelling alone. It wasn’t until we were making small talk during disembarkation that she was moving to work in the same office as my husband. She told this story to everyone and I have the BEST reputation!

    I used to fly for work so I also have a ton of terrible flight stories – NONE of them involve children.

    My worst flight seat companion was an ADULT male (on a very long flight to Australia). He smelled like he had crapped his pants and three times during the flight he refused to let the flight attendant take his empty pop can and then he crushed it against his forehead. I spent the 1st half the flight cringing in fear against the window with my hand over my nose to help block out the smell. After the 3rd can crush, a lovely older man across aisle got up to speak to the flight attendant and she came back and asked me to follow her. I was moved up to a different section. The man and his wife came to find me at the baggage carousel after the flight and I hugged them in gratitude.

  • Jenn R

    I hate to tell you this (and I’m sure you’ll be fine), but I flew to Rome with my 6 month old last Christmas and I would much rather go through labor again than recreate that flight. I have never been more mentally and physically exhausted and uncomfortable. Fortunately, the way back was much better, but I think I might have some kind of PTSD because I start to twitch whenever I think about it.

  • andrea

    Amen.

  • laney

    “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”

    I don’t know how else to take this except that there was no way for you to keep your kid from making someone else uncomfortable.

    Everyone is saying that the woman was wrong to yell at your kid, but yet you keep keep insisting that nobody’s opinion except your own is valid in this situation.

    I am sorry your kid got yelled at by a stranger, but when kids venture out in public they will learn that not everyone is nice. It’s a tough lesson, but a lesson nonetheless.

    I also think the last comment is a generalization for all the comments on this post, not just this particular comment in particular. Deep breaths and don’t take everything so personally.

  • Kimberly Wydeen

    I stated several times that I thought the delivery was inappropriate. The woman in front should not have screamed. To an adult or a child.

    My point here is pretty simple: everybody has problems. Everyone. If you are traveling with a child, then people can clearly see the issue you might be having (screaming, etc.) But there might be somebody who is traveling who also has a problem, who is also on their last nerve, who is also doing the best they can. But their problem is not quite so visible.

    If you want others to give you and your children the benefit of the doubt, then you need to model that behavior. Was the woman in front of the original poster out of line? Absolutely! But is the proper response to get ridiculously defensive and paint your child as an Angle Who Can Clearly Do No Wrong? Perhaps not.

  • lisajey

    I have been there, but it’s been so long… my youngest graduated high school this year, so yeah… It is no picnic, and SOOOO hard! But I must admit, I don’t like to hear baby’s screaming… but really it’s not out of inconvenience to me… it’s more so because if it continues and the mother or parent is totally aloof or unaffected, ignoring the screams, it infuriates me. Even I… I who hasn’t rocked a baby to sleep in over a decade, can figure out how to calm a baby… if nothing, I know how to make him or her/as well as the other poor saps on the plane feel as though I am trying to ease my child’s pain. I’ve been on a red-eye once, where the mother just stood in the aisle bouncing the kid up and down as he howled. She held him around the belly, as he faced out to us. He must have been about two or three… but it was obviously doing nothing – at THREE OCLOCK in the morning. He was miserable, and the bouncing was making it worse, and yet she continued the entire 6 hour flight. It took everything in me to NOT get up and relieve that mother of her burden. I felt so bad for myself – yes – haha – but also for that kid… They should require lessons before they let some people be parents. That is all… 🙂

  • Courtney Landes

    The guy was an ass and absolutely had no business being so loud and humiliating the mom. If he had thrown that fit because the seat assigned on his ticket placed him next to a child, I would support giving him the option of flying in his assigned seat politely or taking another flight.
    However, he was being asked to volunteer to change his seat, and I support his right to refuse that request (politely.) If I were assigned a seat next to a baby (or a sick person or a loud Republican, or anyone I would rather not sit next to), I would politely suck it up. That’s different from volunteering to move to a seat where you know you will be uncomfortable.

    You were given the choice to move to the front row and could have declined. You mention that you took a moment to think about it before agreeing to move. Declining is not what he did wrong. What he did wrong was making a scene when he declined.

  • Kristen

    YES. When people complain about screaming kids, I want to be like, who has it worse? You, or the person who is responsible for that kid and is being humiliated right now?

  • Bean

    Thank you for posting this, honestly I’ve only ever seen Heather be understanding about lifestyle choices but this post really hurt me. not everyone that is “child free” does it out of choice. Seems nasty.