A week ago I had a run in with a most unpleasant man and his wife on a flight from Manila to Singapore. I’m still in shock because I’ve never had a stranger be so rude to me in my life. The back-story is, I was traveling with my 3 children aged 7, 4, and 2 by myself as I always do when I fly back and forth on shorter haul trips around Asia and Australia. Flying with 3 young children can be challenging but it’s not impossible. I do however tend to rely on the kindness of people around to help me if they see me struggling. I’m not shy about accepting help and usually people are compassionate, accommodating, and somewhat enthralled by the noisy circus that is us.
This flight wasn’t any different from our usual experiences until we were about 2/3 of the journey in. We are a party of 4, but we can’t sit altogether because the plane configuration is usually 3 seats per section. This means Kieran always has to sit on the aisle across from us and I sit in between Kalon (4 years old) and Lila (2 years old). Kieran is 7 and is pretty well behaved on flights these days as long as there is inflight entertainment. However, he is still a child and gets antsy and bored. I think he was inadvertently bothering the woman beside him but she seemed empathetic and even helped him occasionally. A big contrast to the combative couple in front of us. I didn’t notice them for quite some time until I started hearing loud grumbles, snide comments, and lots of loud exasperated sighs alongside some side eyed glares. I continued on with the task of feeding, entertaining, and taking toilet breaks with the 2 younger ones as well as keeping my other eye firmly on Kieran as much as I could. Needless to say I couldn’t focus on all 3 all the time. With about an hour of the flight to go, the woman in front of Lila suddenly threw her hands in the air, snarled loudly, and banged her fists on the side of the plane. She then proceeded to stand up and hurl her full weight into the seat in front of me, making my computer jump and crash down because it was on my tray table. I was stunned. She turned to her husband and started mumbling angrily and he turned back and gave me an eyeball death stare that lasted longer than 30 seconds only a foot away from my face. After the dramatics, passive aggressive posturing, and now outright hostility I had had enough. I exclaimed “They’re just young children”, not to him particularly but just stated it to whoever was in earshot and that was enough to set him off on a fuming (very loud) tirade. Being verbally attacked by someone, particularly in front of my children was a harrowing ordeal and my heart rate still elevates when I think of the altercation.
The man and his reactions were horrid and his wife wasn’t much better. I’m assuming they don’t have children because of the way they acted. But I find that to be no excuse. As a friend said “My philosophy is either we have children or we were a child once” and that quintessentially sums up the moral of this story. Human decency and a little kindness should be the norm. It shouldn’t matter if you don’t have kids. It really should not be too difficult to be humane. I DO REMEMBER what it was like before I had children. I do know how annoying it can be to be seated in front of them when all they do is incessantly kick your chair or play with the tray table. The screeches and cries and laughter may be obnoxious to you, I mean they can irritate the heck out of me and they’re my children. So I get it, believe me. But there is a way to approach the situation, well any situation in general really and that is with a modicum of civility. Have we degraded as a society that much? Do you really think t’s okay to yell at a mother with 3 young children traveling alone, doing her best to look after them, to manage them, who is not intentionally harming anyone? If this man had told me much earlier on (courteously) that my kids were making his and his wife’s journey uncomfortable then my best efforts for the remainder of the flight would have been spent trying to ensure that they didn’t disturb them. Instead he had an aggressive, and superior attitude and there was no way I was going to acquiesce to him and give him the effusive apologies he was looking for. I was tired and he was one of the rudest people I’ve ever met in my life. And yes I let my kids continue to kick the chairs just for the fun of it.