Last week, Southwest Airlines kicked a mom and her noisy two-year-old off a flight from Texas to California because the boy was screaming "Go, plane! Go!" and "I want Daddy!" repeatedly while the jet waited in line for takeoff.
Since then, the flying public has squared off in the blogosphere into two distinct factions: The child-haters who would prefer to have crying toddlers stored with baggage in the belly of the plane and the breeders who over-indulge their offspring and can't imagine why others aren't blown away by their kids' cute antics.
Just goes to show that those who can, do – and those who can't, spew their thoughts online.
Look beyond the obvious clouds and there is so much more to this debate. I can't help but think that bratty kids are the easiest target for unhappy adults tired of paying over-priced fares and baggage charges to fly in cramped conditions with lousy, expensive food.
This latest tale from the unfriendly skies also illustrates the brazen intolerance of power-crazed airlines, which are making it a habit to violate passenger rights and boot people from their flights for everything from skimpy clothing to looking Muslim.
Who will be banned next? The fat guy without the deodorant in seat 23B who brought his own smelly food and chews with his mouth open? The lady who baby talks to her teacup-sized dog and insists on taking him out of his carrier despite my mentioning that I suffer from severe dander allergies and asthma? The over-perfumed old woman who invades my personal space and won't stop talking about her grandchildren despite the large book propped in front of my face? The college student who sings with his iPod playing so loudly it can be heard 10 rows back?
When it comes to air travel today -- with pilots overshooting their destinations while playing on their laptops and air traffic controllers trapping us on runways for hours as flight attendants refuse to let us use their lousy toilets -- who hasn't wanted to scream "Go plane! Go!" while sitting on the tarmac?
Everybody has been on the flight from hell at least once. Mine happened in a small, 32-passenger puddle jumper from Tallahassee to Miami in severe turbulence, with an infant crying and an abuela loudly reciting The Lord's Prayer the entire time. I've shared jitneys with chickens in Third World countries that were more pleasant.
This is why they invented noise-canceling earbuds. Trap 120 passengers together in a small, confined space for hours and you get a microcosm of society. And we ain't pretty.
It sounds to me like Southwest could have resolved this easily if they had just talked with the mother, who says she was unaware that she was being ejected until the plane returned to the gate for what the pilot described as "a passenger issue." The mom claims she was holding out on feeding the boy until the plane took off because she knew that would calm him down and he'd take a nap. "Please feed him now or we'll be forced to turn around," might have worked as a nice warning if the waitress-in-the-sky had suggested some common sense. Even "here are some complimentary pretzels, please shut him up" would have been appropriate.
Airlines have been dealing with crying babies since the Wright brothers went airborne. I have to believe they have more in their arsenal to rectify this problem than turning a plane around.
There are all kinds of tricks for quieting kids on flights. (Nipple shoved in mouth was always my secret weapon.) Lollipops, Play-Doh, new coloring books, Goldfish, Cheerios, favorite songs whispered in the ear, a portable DVD with headphones, little surprises wrapped as "gifts," Benadryl, cough syrup…If you plan on flying with your kid anytime soon, you'd better pack it all – or bring your parachute.