Today I followed a link at 11d to an NY Times blog column: a humourous account of the unpleasant conditions suffered by plane travelers. Am I the only one who’s curiously disappointed that blogs associated with newspapers aren’t any better than blogs in general? The London Times blogs, for instance, are pretty lame. Shouldn’t journalists have higher standards than the blogosphere at large? But that’s not the point, since this column was, in fact, fairly funny. The point is that the comments on the column were full of people complaining about children.
I totally sympathize with anyone who complains about a child who repeatedly kicks the back of her seat. This is unacceptable behaviour, and a parent who doesn’t put an end to it is a bad parent: all stops should be pulled out at the first sign of seat-kicking. But then there are people complaining about babies crying, or children throwing up. Excuse me? Do they think children cry and puke for their own pleasure? Do they think we took them along on the trip for a lark? “I guess I’ll take the baby to Paris this weekend! She won’t be any trouble!” Do they not understand that the parents of these children are cringing with shame, doing their absolute best, and cursing the journey’s necessity?
There’s also a complaint about children who stand up on their seats and get friendly with the people in the seats behind. What’s that about? I know people like to be left alone, but can’t they see that, while this kind of behaviour invades their physical space, it may be keeping their aural space free from the sounds of weeping and whining?
I do understand that one’s heart might sink when a child climbs into the next row. I remember a woman who eyed my daughter and mouthed an audible “oh no” to her companion when we boarded a flight a couple of months ago. She had the grace to apologize afterwards: “your daughter was great,” she said. But maybe this is not enough. My daughter hasn’t always been great on planes. The heart may sink, but an adult can suck it up, tough it out, and be kind.
These small creatures are our fellow human beings. They can’t be swept away because they’re messier and noisier. And there’s more to it than that. The complainer says: “I paid for my space and it’s all mine.” The mentality is ubiquitous. But it doesn’t work. In a confined space, children become everyone’s responsibility. And the world is a confined space.