When my eldest son was still in diapers, I had the brilliant idea to take him on an airplane trip to visit my sister. He was adorable at that age (still is – whoops! I mean handsome), but there is something about being crammed together in a tiny metallic cylinder thousands of miles above ground with no hope of escape for several hours that makes any child appear more monster than cherub.
Even as a parent, I’ve been there a number of times myself. You see harried looking parent coming towards your gate with their baby in tow and all you can think is please be on the next flight. Please!
I did my homework well in advance. I planned our strategy. I would hold off giving him a drink until we were in the process of taking off. That way he would be swallowing his milk while his ears adjusted to the change in pressure. I would book a flight as close to his nap time as possible. His natural body rhythm combined with a full belly would help ensure that he would sleep all the way to our destination. I would also book a flight time that was least likely to be utilized by the business commuter set.
He was too young to be distracted by video games, but on the chance sleep didn’t come easy, I had a few relatively silent toys packed in my carry on for emergency distraction. It didn’t matter that they weren’t any of his favorite toys. If they were the only toys around, surely he would give them a try. Right? All these preparations were designed to decrease the likelihood that other passengers would have to listen to the less attractive use of my son’s vocal chords.
When we arrived at the airport and began check in, the ticket clerk looked at my husband and I, the baby, and over our shoulders as if looking for some missing third party.
“The child is traveling with you?” she asked.
“Yep. It’s his first flight,” the hubby and I responded. Duh.
She stared at us. I began to sweat. I didn’t understand why she was looking at us like we had just landed from Mars.
“He needs a ticket.”
I was positive that kids under two could ride for free if they didn’t need a seat. I’d read it several times on the airline’s website. My son wasn’t even one. “He’s going to ride on my lap.” I responded lamely. What was she not getting?
“All passengers are required to have a ticket. Even lap children. He is a person too.” She ran her fingers over the keyboard and poof out spit a ticket with a $0 balance.
I thought I had anticipated everything, except that I’d neglected little detail, and wound up unintentionally marginalizing my child.
As she handed us the ticket, she repeated, “he’s a person too.” It reminded me of the Dr. Seuss book, Horton Hears a Who, and the story’s call to action:
“Don’t give up! I believe in you all.
A person’s a person, no matter how small!
And you very small persons will not have to die
If you make yourselves heard! So come on, now, and TRY!”
The Scottish referendum on whether or not they would like to stay a member of the United Kingdom is likely over by the time you read this. I have no vested interest in either outcome. But I’ve been utterly fascinated by the process. There may have been attempts to shush them, soothe them, or limit their exposure, but one way or another the Scottish people have made their voices heard. And they’ve done it without violence. They’ve done it without their complaints being hijacked, derailed, or otherwise lost in the noise of lesser issues.
More of my best laid plans fell to the wayside during that particular flight. He made sure I knew the consequences of taking his normal good behavior for granted. My son’s first flight has thus far been his only flight. However those are stories for another day.
Today’s story belongs to Scotland, no matter how they choose to write it. May all our voices carry so clearly.