What started out as a fantastic, albeit early (3:30am alarm!) travel day yesterday turned sour in the afternoon. A three and a half hour delay for my connecting flight, with very little information forthcoming, had me worn out. Finally taxiing out I was looking forward to just closing my eyes when…
.. the child seated behind me started kicking my seat. And didn’t stop. His younger sibling started screaming. Then they both started screaming. At first the parents did nothing. Then the father reached across the aisle to stop the kid from kicking me, and his wife scolded him for it. They started fighting. And it got worse from there.
It turns out that despite advances in technology, there’s no such thing as “Screaming Children Immediately Behind You Cancelling Headsets.”
And there’s also no such thing as “Children Kicking Your Seatback Cancelling Headsets,” either.
I’ve often said that I rarely get excised over noisy children. Their ears could hurt, and they don’t know how to express it. They may not know what’s going on, and could be scared, by turbulence. Neither one of those was taking place here, but I almost always temper any frustrations based on the behavior of the parents. Most parents do their best to try to calm their kids, and not to disturb their neighbors. Some seem to just ‘check out’ once on the flight. I know it’s hard, but simply sitting there as though nothing is amiss frustrates me most.
This might have been the worst. Parents arguing instead of minding their children, escalating the situation, the hostile environment only made the kids even more unhappy – and louder.
Perhaps I should feel for the kids in this circumstance, but I’ll be selfish and say that I felt for myself. I wanted to close my eyes, I was tired, I lacked patience. And frankly, I didn’t know what to do so my empathy would have been wasted.
I know a decent amount about travel, I think. I know how to handle most situations, play the odds, make backup plans, get rebooked quickly when needed, find cheap prices.. you name it.
But my etiquette with children, especially other peoples’ children? I’m at a loss. With shrieking behind me, kicking my seat, is there anything I could have done? I didn’t say anything I figured that my adding stress to the parents, who were already fighting wouldn’t have made things better. The flight attendant on the regional jet ignored it, I could have said something to her but then what? Would she have been able to stop it? I had visions of a situation escalating between her and the parents, followed by a diversion. I just wanted to get home.
Of course the flight eventually ended, I didn’t nap but then I would have been tired this morning either way.
What would you have done? Is there anything I could have done? What would you have said?
Bad things happen in travel – weather, mechanicals – sometimes you just have to take it as it comes and deal with it. Should screeching and kicking my seatback just be one of those?