I’ve been flying for a very long time. My first passport was issued when I was 9 months old. I’ve flown in the now non-existent Business Class and I’ve flown in back “with the pigs and the chickens,” as my parents fondly call it (they fly economy, too). Side note: Business Class really is way, way better. Or maybe it seemed that way because I was, like, 3 feet tall?
When I was little, we used to get trips up to the cockpit to meet the pilot and co-pilot. We’d get wings to pin on our shirts and dresses to let the other passengers know that, in case of an emergency, we were adequately prepared to take over. The stewardesses (they were almost always stewardesses, although now they are all flight attendants, and that is better) would play with us and our stuffed animals. We got gift bags full of awesome goodies. Eye mask, slippers, blanket, toys. There was always a really good toy. On Air France we’d get a tiny bottle of wine with our meals (which mysteriously disappeared before we could get our grubby mitts on it).
When I would fly between Texas and New York during college, it was the start of the time I would consistently fly by myself as a grown up. I’ve never had an unfriendly flight attendant; I’ve never had a truly awful experience. Annoying things have cropped up over the course of the past 10 or 12 years of infrequent flying, like baggage fees or delayed flights, but nothing extraordinary.
Last month, however, as I was waiting in Providence to fly to Buffalo (via Philadelphia), the gate attendant made his feelings about people who gate check items very clear. He commented, into the microphone, that if you have items to check at the gate, you need to do it now, and please know that by not checking at the desk, you are holding up the entire flight. The same attendant boarded six levels of priority boarding, then sections one and two, then families with small children. Every other flight I took that weekend (four total), moved up the families considerably in that queue.
I took special notice because tomorrow we will be flying with the twins. In the 4 months since we booked the flights, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about flying with twins or infants general. Invariably, on every blog post on this subject, someone comments that people with children simply shouldn’t fly. Antagonism towards children and people with children is generally pretty low-level or nonexistent. But as soon as public spaces and public transport become involved, that antagonism level rises. The associated arrogance is often breath-taking in scope. Quite aside from air flight being the only reasonable option for transportation in many cases (say, when going to Hawaii), public transportation is a service available to anyone who meets the criteria. Suggesting that others be universally barred is as abhorrent as any other kind of across-the-board profiling.
I don’t expect to receive poor treatment tomorrow. I expect that the newness of the experience will be kind of fun for the twins, and then the dark, cool cabin will lull them either to sleep or to chill out. If they don’t, well, we’ll have books, nooks, kindles, and a bag full of toys and snacks. I expect people to be a little apprehensive to be seated near two infants. I would be, I’m sure. But the other people aren’t my priority. I will focus on making sure the twins don’t experience the ear canal pressure that makes babies cry on the plane (by drinking a bottle on take-off and landing), and keeping them excited and entertained as long as they want to be active, and helping them get comfortable and sleep when they’re ready. Part of parenting is helping your children know how to act in public places. So we will make sure they don’t terrorize the passenger in the seat in front of them, and we’ll keep them contained.
But I don’t intend to let any scowlers get to me. If someone sees the babies and says “oh great – two crying babies all flight – just my luck,” that is a choice he or she makes. They are deciding to have a horribly stressful flight, worrying about the likelihood of the babies wailing. I will plan on having a pleasant shared experience with the babies and Bob.
Of course I’ll report back with the details.