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Mr. Smith Says It Really Is All About Me


I read this letter in the LA Times complaining about kids on airplanes, shared with the husband one of those, “Can you believe this?” snorts and conversations that annoying things in the newspaper provoke, and then really fell off my chair when I saw a letter supporting the original writer the next week.
Of the two responses printed the next week, one did appropriately say, “Stay home, buddy,” but I thought for sure the travel section staff printed the original complaining letter just to see how many peeved responses it could provoke. I certainly agree that parents should try to keep their kids under control on flights, but need I remind you that when you’re on an airplane, you’re trapped. As annoying as flying is these days for grownups, imagine what it’s like for a two-year-old who’s used to stretching his legs approximately every 5 seconds. Or a baby who’s teething. Believe me, there are times when babies and young kids simply can’t be kept quiet without resorting to abusive measures. And I know you don’t want that.
Flying is one of those battlefields, like restaurants, where people stake out a pro or con view on kids. Sure, there are rude parents and misbehaving children in lots of places where the non-childed also hang. But there are also lots of rude adults. Which would you rather have next to you, a table of milk spitters or beer guzzlers? It’s a toss-up. And remember, if we’re casting blame–with the adults, a greater degree of free will is involved.
On planes, I’m sure there are as many grown-ups who hog the armrest, who make annoying noises from the back of their throats or noses, who lean their seats way back in front of you or who insist on boring you to tears with their conversation, as there are screaming babies or toddlers running up and down the aisle. For even more of the annoying habits of adults, see this article in the LA Times, where there’s a fine rundown of adults you don’t want to travel with. (The LA Times, by the way, seems to have staked out the “Are kids annoying on planes?” beat.)
What I don’t understand is how the writers opposed to children on planes consider these trips completely optional. Yes, a visit to a restaurant usually is (although if you’re traveling, you do have to eat somehow, and situations with kids can spin out of control in a nanosecond), but, like it or not, planes are like buses these days. Not that many Americans consider public transportation necessary for the public.
I have a personal stake in this not so earth-shattering issue. My parents live on the West Coast of the U.S., my in-laws in Spain. So no matter where we live, we always have a hellish flight schlepping the kids to see the grandparents. I think it’s good for family to see each other, but maybe I’m just selfish.
In fact, the author of the original letter, Mr. Smith, has issued a challenge.

I can think of no unselfish reason for a parent to take a child under 4 years old onto an aircraft.

So let’s see. I assume he’d say right off that taking a child on vacation is a selfish move. Presumably, Mr. Smith’s vacations are always journeys of altruism.
I also assume that he understands that people occasionally move. I suppose he feels that taking your child along rather than leaving him or her to, what, stay behind and rent an apartment on his own, is selfish, selfish, selfish. Perhaps you’re supposed to stick to cars, trains and ships. I wonder if the QE2 has a child fare?
Visiting family, my own selfish case, I assume again you’re supposed to stick to surface transport. In an emergency, when flying is the only fast enough method of travel, perhaps Mr. Smith would be willing to baby-sit the children left behind.
To ease into the fall back-to-school season, here’s a little homework assignment. Think of some non-selfish reasons a human being aged four or under might need to be on an airplane. Here’s a few to get you started.
1. The child’s been chosen as the next Dalai Lama and is traveling to begin training.
2. She’s the in-flight entertainment, singing “Tomorrow” for a group of depressed “Annie” lovers.
3. He’s along to share diapers in case turbulence keeps the “fasten seatbelt” light on too long for everyone to make it to the bathroom.
4. It annoys the heck out of people like Mr. Smith, thus giving some of the rest of us (me at least) a lot of pleasure.
Feel free to talk amongst yourselves. Good luck.

Share  Posted by Deborah Klosky at 9:54 PM | Permalink

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