So just because I love jetlag so much, I decided to go back to the States five days after I had just returned to Europe. Chicago last week, New York this week. But more about NYC another time, maybe.
Today I want to talk about children (again).
There is nothing on earth that brings the sociopath out in everyone than screeching, red-faced midgets on a transatlantic overnight flight.
I thought that my JFK-ZRH flight would be a good opportunity to get at least a few hours of shut-eye. Oh how wrong I was. Within the five rows around me there were seven kids ranging in age from about six months to 3 years.
Children in front of me, children to the right of me, children behind me. There were no kids to the left of me because there was only a window, and beyond that, an airplane wing. And if you ask me, I would have put them all there rather than in the cabin with the rest of us.
Yes, attached to these children were also parents, all of whom seemed incapable and overwhelmed with the stress of parenting.
It’s bad enough when one child screams incessantly in a closed space with a captive audience of 200. But on this flight, they all screamed. Throughout the night. In a coordinated attempt to drive all the rest of us to commit extremely violent crimes.
Jethro Tull on the inflight entertainment system, at top volume, could not drown out these pint-sized terrorists.
My martyrdom (and that of my child-free co-passengers) lasted seven hours, thanks to a strong tailwind that got us to our destination faster than usual, plus 45 minutes of taxiing at both ends.
What can be done? I have three solutions:
- Completely child-free flights. Malaysia Airlines has the right idea, having banned infants from its First Class cabins and implementing a child-free upper deck on its new A380 aircraft from July 1. This is an idea whose time is way overdue. Folks like me who have to go from the gate to the office after an overnight flight will not stand for this kind of noise pollution much longer.
- An “objectionable noise surcharge,” kind of like the fuel surcharge all of us have gotten used to paying. The younger the child, the higher the tax. This would automatically disqualify families traveling with multiple infants because they would likely no longer be able to afford it.
- A sound-proof cabin at the back of the plane. Like a playpen, or a time-out box. Or just seal off the last five or six rows from the rest of the cabin with sound-proof glass. They used to put smokers at the back of the plane, and now we can just put kids there. Screaming (like smoking) is harmful to the environment and the health of all those individuals not currently engaged in it.
OK, time for all you parents with young kids to come at me with a machete. But you know darn well that I am right. You have to deal with your own screaming kids all the time. You can’t escape them. (And don’t you wish you could?)
But ask yourselves this: Why must babies travel to other continents before they even know who they are? Why do you people drag them across oceans and time zones when they won’t remember any of it when they grow up? Why do you expose them to foreign germs and the misery of jetlag before their first day of school?
A suggestion that could keep all of us happy, the child-rich and the child-free: Show your kids your own country or region or continent when they are really small. There is so much to see in Europe, or North America, or Asia, alone. Then, when they turn six, or seven, or eight, when they are old enough to appreciate what you are offering them – that’s when you begin to show them the world.