Wednesday, August 20, 2008

To the lady in 17A

Dear lady in seat 17A on the Continental Airlines flight from Newark to Tucson:

I know how it must have looked to you as my family made our awkward way down the aisle, the last passengers to board the plane. A husband laden down with carry-on bags, followed by an almost-3-year-old, prodded along by me, holding a newborn. It probably looked even more ridiculous than I felt. And you must have been able to see, written on our faces, the sure signs of travel fatigue, coupled with the stress of moving a household across the country, complicated by sleep deprivation since the arrival of a baby two weeks earlier.

You had an empty seat beside you, probably one of the only ones on the entire plane. The other woman in your row, after hearing that my family was all seated separately, generously offered to move so that we could at least have two seats together.

What could have possibly possessed you to immediately negate your row-mate's offer, look directly at me, and say "Please, no!"? I only wish I could have properly heard what you said next. It was something like, "No, I really need my ______." I spent the rest of the flight trying to figure out what it was you needed so badly that you couldn't facilitate everybody else's efforts to seat a toddler with her mother. Was it space? Rest? Privacy? I guess I'll never know.

But just so you know, a party of three who did have three seats together, farther back in the plane, gave up their places as soon as they heard what had happened to us.

I know not everybody has kids, or loves kids, or likes kids, or understands why other people ever choose to even have kids. But you know what? At one time or another in our lives, we are all that stressed-out mom boarding an airplane with a toddler and a newborn, with no place to sit. It's just that some people's particular stressful moments take a different form. When yours comes, I hope someone is more considerate of you than you were of me. At the very least, I hope that someone doesn't make you cry, like you made me. It's not the hardest thing to make a recent postpartum mom cry, but to make me cry in public was certainly a minor accomplishment.

Better luck to us both next time, and I hope you got the _____ you needed so badly.

Hoping to recover my faith in the goodness of humanity someday,

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Sarah Rose Evans said...

That's unbelievable. I'm so sorry. As if moving weren't stressful enough.

Liz Johnson said...

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?! I am so impressed that you didn't deck her. I'm dead serious. And nobody would've blamed you. In fact, I bet the Air Marshall would've held her down while you kept punching.

I'm so impressed with your response (tears). I think a variety of profanities would've escaped my lips before I could edit them out.

I'm also impressed with your blog post and kind wishes for her. I still have that violent bubbling in my stomach that makes me want to kick her in the head.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Perhaps it was my fault you didn't get your proper seat--you know--what goes around, comes around. I got on the plane in PHL last Tuesday, exhausted from 2 weeks sleeping in a tent during the rainiest summer anyone in Middlebury could remember, & danged if there wasn't a little girl in my window seat. Was so looking forward to leaning against the window to catch a few zzzzs on the flight home. When I saw her my mind played the memory of all the times I've quietly given up my (reserved way ahead of time) airline seat, particularly last summer when flying home from Jordan. How I had planned to watch the scenery until daylight faded, and then how I planned to sleep in that coveted spot. But the woman planted in my seat that day begged to stay so she could sit by her (teenage) daughter. OK fine, I understand.

So last week, a four-year-old was in my seat & the mom wanted me to take the aisle seat. I didn't see it as a big deal for her to have the middle & aisle seats (after all it was dark--nothing to see out the window), & said I'd like my seat, which she agreed to. Her daughter was noisy & bouncy which was fine. But when she went to sleep her feet were in my lap & she kicked. Often. I got probably 5 minutes of sleep! The aisle seat would have been better after all.

Honestly, if there had been any up- front reason for her to have the window seat, I wouldn't have hesitated to give it up. I can't imagine someone denying you your seat in the circumstances you describe.

Shannan said...

This has happened to me as well!! We are frequent travelers ourselves and a few times they have divided me and the boys up - each boy ages 3 and 6 to fend for themselves. This has happened three times to me!! One time the people moved - the other two times was like the lady in 17A. I wished the people well and laughed that they had to entertain my child the whole flight. My kids are great fliers so they actually did great - just talked the ear off of the person, but hey, they asked for it!

JackJen said...

I'm with Liz.

Marianne said...

Oh, yeah! I think I'd have to agree with Liz & Jen! ARGH! That is so frustrating. Obviously the worst thing was she was up kind, but another thing that bothers me is that it negated the wonderful the other woman in that row tried to offered. I guess I just feel really sorry for people that have such a warped view of life that they can't see anything from another's point of view. I'm sorry Bridget!

Anonymous said...

That's really rotten. I'm really sorry to hear about that. I can't imagine why someone would refuse to help a family with small children. I actually remember one instance when I was flying with my family, and, due to an airline mix-up, everyone was in randomly assigned seats, resulting in all the families being split up. All the passengers worked together, swapping seats until all the families with small children were seated together. Too bad not everyone is so cooperative.


Bridget said...

I wish I would/could have responded in a more assertive way. But I was feeling so emotionally weak that I basically just burst into tears - unfortunately beyond her line of sight, though.

Kristen said...

I think the next best thing to the string of profanity followed by a giant whack to the side of the head would have been to CRY RIGHT IN FRONT OF HER. That might have made the bug of guilt start biting at her neck.

Rosie said...

are you kidding? Unwilling to let a 3 year old sit with mom... expecting a 3 year old to sit BY HERSELF, BY STRANGERS?!? If she was so desperate for her _______ and was so unable to get it near your kids, she could have requested a seat switch from the flight attendants. I cannot believe someone, a grown adult, was so completely and totally selfish. I agree with Liz... I probably would have cried while I was cursing her and wishing all the worst I can thinkg of upon her.

Oh, and PS, isn't the Newark airport awful? Maybe it just me though... completely not friendly to making very close international connections.


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