I had a cross-country flight last week, Charlotte to Phoenix. Window seat, which was good; next to last row of the plane, which was potentially not as good. Normally I don't mind, as that section tends to be a little less crowded, and engine noise is white noise to me because I can't sleep on planes anyway. On the other hand, if there's a tight connection to make (like there was this time) or someone made the wrong choice at the airport food court before boarding (which there thankfully wasn't this time), then it can be a long and fragrant trip indeed. 
What there was this time, however, were a couple of small kids. Behind me was a mother and a wee one. The flight attendant asked the woman sharing their row if she'd take an upgrade to a first class window seat, which would allow the dad-unit to sit with his family.  She, however, refused, stating that she'd reserved an aisle seat and, by God, she was staying in her aisle seat. This was her right; there's nothing forcing you to take an upgrade, and maybe she had a very good reason for preferring an aisle seat. On the other hand, the small child did not agree with her logic, and this made said child unhappy. Very unhappy.
There was also another small child two rows up. This one was apparently with the whole family, but was not fond of either air travel, apple juice, or some combination of the two. So mid-flight, his apple juice ended up on his parents, on the ceiling, and on me. Somehow, he managed to angle it right to completely avoid the folks in the row in front of me, which impressed me to no end; most toddlers don't get bank shots until they're at least 4. But this one, definitely an apple juice prodigy.
Meanwhile, kid behind me was definitely missing dad. This meant upset, and it meant loud. It also meant bored, which meant squirming around in and around his seat.
And under the seat in front of him. Mine.
Which meant that at one point I felt something brush my foot. I looked down, and I saw small child-sized body parts that were not mine. For an instant I thought I was in a J-horror film, before sanity took over and I realized it was just the magnificently lunged chair kicker from the seat behind me. After a minute, he got bored and slid back up, and things went back to loud, which was to say normal.

And I thought about it for a while, and I realized a few things. One, I do not blame small children for making noise, fidgeting or otherwise doing things small children do while they are on planes. They are small children, after all, and they are trapped in a single seat for what must be an eternity with a whole bunch of strangers, none of whom want to play. They can't move around, they can't really play, half the time they can't see Mommy or Daddy, and they're no doubt bored senseless. A little squirming and noise is about par for the course. 
Two, unless things are particularly egregious, I don't blame the parents if a kid starts fussing. Airfares being what they are, nobody's saying to their spouse, "Hey, honey, let's pack up the toddler and go ruin someone else's plane trip for shits and grins." They're not bringing kids on board for the express purpose of having them fuss. Air travel is annoying enough by itself; adding a small child or two to the mix has to make it a helluva lot harder. So no, I don't think that the parents in row 14 are deliberately goading their kid to caterwaul for the sheer sadism of it; I'm thinking they probably wish they could get a nap, too.
And three, bearing all this in mind, having small kids on the plane can potentially make for a less enjoyable travel experience. I prefer my flights to not produce unexpected intersections with apple juice. I prefer not to look down and see parts of people who are not me under my chair. I prefer not to hear "BLAWWW!" every five minutes or so to hearing it. None of this makes me a bad person, or anti-child, or whatever. Travel with additional complications is generally less fun than travel without; that's all.  What I can do without, however, are the missing middle fanatics who instantly assume that because I don't like getting randomly juiced, I hate all children. I can also use fewer of their equivalents on the other side, who, at the slightest unapproved peep from a small child mid-flight instantly start decrying the parents as ignorant slatterns who never should have been allowed to breed, or to come out in public once they had spawned because they had done so simply to inconvenience the rest of us.
To both groups, I say a gentle "get over yourselves". Sometimes stuff simply...is, without the need for a moral stance or outrage or a big production number attached. Sometimes you can appreciate that a situation's less pleasant than it might be without it being malicious or soul-threatening, and without thinking that it's all about you. Sometimes you can accept that not everything a stranger's kid does is wonderful and darling to everyone, and that's just fine, too. Sometimes a bag of airline pretzels is just a bag of airline pretzels. You get the idea.
And in the meantime, if I fly US Air again, I'm definitely requesting the "no random body parts underneath me" section. 

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Published on June 07, 2012 20:54 • 57 views

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