Friday, January 11, 2008

Flying the (eh hem) Friendly Skies with Kids

sassy piggy: leavin' on a jet plane...with little people

I've just got to follow up my comments from the above link with a more detailed story of how unfriendly flying can be with little ones (though I've been spared in the last 2 years of not having to have done so). While there are wonderful gadgets to keep your kids busy and hopefully not moaning, whining and ultimately crying (bawling for some), there always seems to be something to set at least one off.

With 4 kids to allow fate to pick on, it's inevitable that one will be set off during a flight. It could be as silly as not having enough headphones for the in-flight movie and someone has to share. But it could be as dramatic as not being able to pop their ears at feeling the pressure for a couple of hours would make anyone cranky.

One moment in our child rearing years comes to mind as the ultimate irony of friendly in-flight service mixing with suffering customers (and you'd think it would be our kids). The first mistake we made was scheduling a return flight from Seattle to Las Vegas (these were our "get us out of vegas" years) on a Friday. Big mistake. Anyone that has any sense knows that once the weekend comes its party time and Vegas is synonymous with party and you gotta fly to get there from Seattle. Well, having lived there and not being interested in the whole party 'til you puke scene we just didn't think about the benevolence of traveling to Sin City on a Friday.

But the setup doesn't end there. Not only was the plane completely packed, but it was tilt full of already drunk on whiskey (or cheap airline booze), international dart tournament entrant Alaskans. Most are fisherman or local trappers that spend the majority of their time and money in the local bar (there is likely only one in their small town) getting drunk til the sun comes up (that would be sometime in the summer as it's dark through the winter) and playing darts (a favorite in bars next to pin the tail on the drunk guy on the floor).

Think we were pretty comfortable with these scruffy guys slurring obscenities around us while we covered our kids ears? We actually asked some guys near us to take a look at the 3 kids traveling with us and to be a little more considerate with their choice of words. For the most part they obliged and toned it down.

That being said, there was one fellow in particular that was vile, foul and nasty, not willing to curb his tongue and outwardly protested at the mere sight of our little angels. Once we were airborne and one of the kids started to cry over the altitude induced pressure, this fine gentleman (cough) get a little boisterous and vocally complained of his discomfort in having to listen to crying. After a short time of listening to his caterwauling above that of our own child, a flight attendant asked the man what was the matter. In front of us (well I guess he was to our rear) he told his pathetic sob story of how he just couldn't stand having to listen to the crying anymore. The attendant kindly sympathized with him and reluctantly confessed that there wasn't much she could do about the crying but that she would bring him a nice spirit to easy his pain and suffering, after all he was a paying customer and he should be treated with the respect he deserves.

Our mouths dropped at all of the irony and insinuations her comments brought and to our surprise we received a "how dare you not control your child aboard our plane," and "you're bad parents" glare as she walked back to obtain the man's alcohol. What was she going to do, toss us out the door? Blacklist us from the vendor ticketing? Put us on the FAA "do not fly list" for having a normal toddler?

And the whole time we kept wondering to ourselves, "couldn't they post a notice on the booking engine that if you don't want to fly with winos into Vegas on a Friday night don't book on this date." We were surrounded by filthy language, drunken attitudes and smelly fisherman but we were the guilty party.

I think we did fly a few more times in and out of Vegas but never again on a Friday. What did I learn (besides when and when not to fly) from this experience? Stories definitely have more than one side to them. With different actors in the scene, each has their own unique view of how events unfold. Our perspective was that of protecting parents, guardians of purity and virtue, role models to the innocent. The attendant was that of the pacifier and judge and in her eyes we were negligent. The drunks were just trying to have a good time and I'm sure that the crying didn't help the pounding of the hangover head (if the hangover had even arrived yet).

So if you're going to travel, consider others along with your own view when making decisions. Sometimes decisions are made for you and you have to live with consequences you can't alter. But you can choose to accept the cards your dealt and make the most of any situation. I'm not sure we were terribly positive in our attitude but in retrospect it sure makes an interesting story.

What nightmare travel stories do you have to tell?
Post a Comment