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April 25, 2012
I’ve been traveling lately, which means spending time in busy airports and on crowded planes. While on these trips, I happened to witness several episodes of wildly inconsiderate behavior. Here’s one incident:
A grandmother boarded the packed airplane with her little granddaughter, a girl about 4 years old. As they took their seats across the aisle from me, the little girl chatted excitedly about the flight. It was clearly her first time flying and she was asking questions about her seat belt, the take off, the length of the trip. As the plane became airborne, she continued talking with her grandmother in a pleasant, quiet tone. I wasn’t trying to listen but inadvertently, I heard snatches of the conversation. I was impressed with the supportive nature of the exchange between the caring adult and the bright, inquisitive child.
We weren’t long into the flight (a 1½-hour shuttle between two major cities on the east coast) when a 30-something, professionally dressed woman seated directly in front of these two twisted her head over her seat and fiercely shushed them. “SHHHHHH!,” she hissed. “Can’t you be QUIET?!”
“What did that lady say?,” the child asked, leaning into her grandmother, worried. The rest of the flight, the two spoke to one another in whispers.
After the plane landed and passengers were standing to deplane, the woman angrily confronted the grandmother about the little girl: “She talked the entire flight! What is WRONG with her?!” She yanked her suitcase from the overhead bin and stormed off the plane.
The grandmother was clearly stunned. And so was I. Who knows what was going on in this woman’s life to prompt such rudeness.
Why do I bring this incident up in a blog about special dietary issues? Because kindness matters.
There are thousands of children with special dietary needs who are traveling with their families on airplanes (as well as trains, buses and cars). This little girl was not screaming, crying, demanding. She was behaving in a developmentally appropriate, age-appropriate way. She was, in fact, happy and delightful.
But what if she had had food allergies and there had been an announcement for passengers to forgo nuts or peanuts on her behalf? What if she had been on the autistic spectrum and needed extra help and understanding from fellow travelers?
Once out at the gate, I approached the grandmother to congratulate her on her happy, precocious grandchild. We locked eyes in understanding. “It’s such ignorance,” she said about our rude fellow passenger, shaking her head.
So often the world is not a safe place for our kids. Can’t it at least be a kind place?