Which happened after I was warned by a more experienced mom that flying with a child is never an opportunity to see the humanity of strangers. Her specific advice was, “Flying is a public form of transportation. You and your kid have as much right to be there as anyone else – no matter what hate or shade is thrown at you. “
But I was nearly 40 years old when I had my first kid so I didn’t even understand what shade meant. No less, why would anyone care what I have going on in my seat. I forgot all about this mom’s prophetic words until I collapsed into my tiny airline seat – having just braved the car, the shuttle, check in and security, ALONE with a stroller, car seat, breast pump, carry on bag and a thirty-pound 9 month old all hanging from my body. When the woman seated next to me yelled, “NO! NO WAY! I refuse!”. Which was only the beginning of my “neighbors” tirade.
This weeks news article was literally asking “if we have all become such jerks that the story of a stranger helping a mother with her child on a plane warranted viral news.” Which was based on over 100,000 re-reads of a Facebook post from Rebekka Garvison. Who posted an ode to Nyfesha Miller – a stranger on a plane who actually showed compassion toward a crying child and her mother.
OH YES WE HAVE and Nyfesha deserves all the accolades she gets because I have felt the other extreme. While Jenny (let’s call my seat mate Jenny because it was the most popular name of the year when she and I were born. It will be impossible for Jenny to prove it was she who forgot to leave any room in her carry-on for kindness that day) huffed, growled and literally cursed me, 5 inches from my face on my first mom and baby flight. While I tried to find empathy for her. For the first two hours…
I thought maybe she found out just that day that she can never have children. Or maybe a child she loved died tragically just before getting on this flight. Maybe Jenny even suffered from schizophrenia, I thought, and believed my infant was telling her hurtful messages.
But none of this seemed plausible when Jenny took out her laptop and casually perused old emails from co-workers. Until she then laid back and took a nap. There was no palpable grief or stress of any kind in Jenny. Just hate it turns out. But her sleep allowed my son and I some smiles and I was taking his picture when the final blow came.
Jenny moved her seat up to lean into my face and tell me she was going to sue me for disrupting her sleep on this flight from the sound of my phone camera. And then I had had it with her. I let her know she would have much more to sue me for when I kicked her expletive as soon as we got off this flight. And that in all her self-obsessed anger she had failed to realize she worked at a Television network I was currently starring on.
Oh yes, when Jenny – a working woman, brought out her super important laptop – she showed me her name and the department she worked in and the place she did such business. By luck or divine intervention I knew her boss and let her know Iwould be calling her today – after I beat the crap out of her as soon as we stepped off this plane. Then the airplane actually played the TV show I was on, in flight, and half the plane came over to introduce themselves and take pictures with me. Shockingly, Jenny had no complaints about anyone else taking cell phone photos and I made sure to introduce her to each and every person who approached our seats – so we would all be able to testify about all the events of this flight when i left her bloody at LAX.
Not that it should matter, but my son never made one sound through out a six hour coast-to-coast flight. When we landed our entire section of the plane gave me a round of applause – for my soundless infant. That’s when I realized the entire cabin was worried I might ruin their… quality airplane time… only they weren’t preemptively attacking me for it.
I didn’t let Jenny past me to get off the plane until every passenger had left. She was shaking by this time, as well she should have, because when I passed the baby to my husband all reason, education and manners of my own left me. She RAN out of the airport without retrieving any luggage and I think that was probably the best thing for both of us.
Years later, I wish I had more kindness myself that day. But also important to note is something I heard Pat Benatar say once. “Just because you’re a mother doesn’t mean your a wimp.” Maybe frequent flyers should keep that in mind as well.