It is everyone’s worst traveling nightmare, played out at an airport gate.
The little guy’s about 2 years old, and he is miserable, and loudly so. His central grievance centers around wanting to be let down, a demand his weary father is not about to accommodate, and with good reason: if the tyke had, in fact, been let down, it is entirely likely that he will dart around TSA barriers and shut down the airport.
We can hear him from several gates away, earning him points for volume and tenacity.
And so dad’s bribes begin, desperately flying in the face of conventional wisdom forbidding negotiations with terrorists.
“LET ME DOWN!”
“LET ME DOWN!”
Other children to play with?
“LET ME DOWN!”
So the theme is at least consistent.
Venom is emanating from my fellow passengers in waves. One young woman mutters, “Just tell the kid to be quiet,” flying in the face of more conventional wisdom that telling a 2-year-old to “just be quiet” will be as productive as telling a tornado to “just shut it down” and leave Kansas.
The accepted best practice for a toddler who has “hit the wall” is to remove them from the premises. Some days you eat the bear: you take the youngster out of the venue, let them calm down and then come back to finish your dinner. Some days the bear eats you and you eat your dinner out of a doggie bag with an exhausted toddler snoring next to you in the car.
But that’s the price of parenting, and if you pay it up front you stand a good chance of raising a child who knows that you will not cave and that they will be removed and it doesn’t matter if they summon an F-5 right out of Tornado Alley.
So pity the poor parent at the airport, once they’ve cleared TSA’s invasive security. It is the ultimate case of the irresistible force of irrational toddler meeting the unmovable object of nonrefundable plane tickets. I don’t care what kind of mind control you claim to practice on your preschooler; when they’re tired and overwhelmed, no amount of discipline is going to contain them, and the demands of the airlines are tough to sync up with Junior’s nap time.
Pity the poor traveler in this situation; we don’t have any choice, either. We bought our non-refundable fares and plane travel is hard enough without a child screaming in your ear and kicking your seat for four hours. I was invasively secured, too; you don’t see me running down the concourse screaming. Not often, at least.
While I don’t want that 2 year old sitting next to me on the four hour flight, if he were sitting next to me I could render myself immune with my noise canceling headphones. The headphones will not mitigate the effects of the man in front of me, who has reclined his seat back the full distance which has dashed my pitiful dreams of cramming in some work on the flight home, as I cannot cram my laptop on the tray now as the tray has been reduced to two inches of usable space.
Some days the bear is kicking your seat; some days the bear eats your work surface.
I recommend drinks for everyone in my row.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Elizabeth Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.