26 Jan 2010

Dear passengers on EI121

So you've all booked a flight from Dublin to Orlando and luckily, you've chosen to go at the same time as me and my family. Some of you will, like us, be heading off for a bit of a holiday and hoping for sun, heat, roller coasters and perhaps some time at the home of the world's most famous rodent. It's likely that some of you will be travelling for work and others may be visiting family or returning home. Whatever the reason, I hope it's all good for you.

I'm sure you understand that this route attracts many families with young children who are incredibly excited to be going on holiday to Disney World, and for whom the long flight can be quite a trial. I suggest that if you don't wish to be disturbed by their chatter and the hopefully infrequent but inevitable tears and tantrums, that you pack ear plugs or invest in some noise cancelling headphones or even upgrade to business class. I hope your flight will be as pleasant as possible but young children and older people with disabilities exist and must be at least tolerated and hopefully even respected.

It's likely that I will board before you. Most airlines allow these small accommodations to reduce the stress on people like my son, caused by lots of waiting about. So when you're walking down the aisle and see the skinny boy who might just be kicking up a fuss about something, you can feel relief that you're not sitting next to him if you want but please, don't stop to tell me so like one heartless git did last time we flew. If you do find yourself sitting in our vicinity, well sorry. I promise you that all of the people in my party will be doing our very best to distract, entertain and if needed, reassure my disabled son. Know too that the child himself will be doing his best to cope with what to him can be a difficult situation.

You may think that people like him shouldn't fly if it's so difficult for him. I disagree. Flying is not an activity reserved only for adults and non-disabled people. We're all at liberty to travel so long as we abide by the legal requirements. It's important that we try to be as respectful and polite as possible to those around us but if my son shouts at times, that doesn't mean he can't fly.

Last year there were a few stories about parents and autistic children being removed from planes before take off. I read and was disgusted by some of the vitriolic commentary about these incidents. There were those who advocated bashing the kids against seat backs and throwing them out in mid-air. Apart from these extremists, there were many who just whinged about how their right to peace and quiet was disturbed by children and "mothers" (rarely fathers) who expected to be treated as saintly just because they'd given birth. I don't think that's the case. I'm sorry to say that when you're in a public space you have no right to peace and quiet, especially not when you're trapped in a moving can in the air. You have a right to travel in security and safety and as much comfort as is possible. But people of all kinds exist and they have to get about too.

So instead of judging, rolling your eyes and tutting (like one couple did last time) or staring (again, we had this last time) or getting pissed off at me for putting my son's seat back when he finally fell asleep (as the man behind him did last time- he actually pushed the seat back up! I let him, I was too worn out by then to protest) I have a radical idea- why don't you try a smile, and ask, "is there anything I can do to help?"
That would be truly heroic.

Know also it could be worse. I flew to Portugal with my sister last August. There were a few children in front of us, one of whom cried a little as we landed. That was fine: children sometimes cry and the parents were doing their best to comfort the little one. Behind us though were a group of people travelling together who yapped loudly the whole time, their braying voices forcing all around them to hear all about their exploits, and it was Too Much Information! Worse yet, someone kept farting and I was tempted to pull out the oxygen mask to have some clean air to breath. I was so relived to step off that plane.

Enjoy your flight!

Sharon xx


ChavScumMum said...

Aw petal!

The trials of a boastful, upwardly mobile, jet-setting middle-class mummy.

I'll leave you to your own personal hell while I struggle to town of the 74 with my 3, hoping to pick up some short-dated ciabatta as a special treat.

But there will be tears in my eyes as I recall your Pain.

Allie said...

Erm, okaaaay. Well, I just hope you have a good trip, Sharon and family :-)

mumkeepingsane said...

Since we're on the same continent we're electing to drive to see the rodent. :) Enjoy your travels and try not to let ignorant people ruin your trip. If you get a chance when you get back, any tips would be appreciated since we'll be flying (for the first time) this summer.

Unknown said...

2nd time we flew, I had a t-shirt printed in capitals which said "my son is autistic, he's coping as well as he can, don't bother being offended or I will give you reason to be so". (And I had my stern face on, which can look pretty damn grumpy) I know it was a bit OTT, but I got so fed up the 1st time we flew, with all the shit that came our way. Seemed to work though, and no-one even dared to even look at us funny!

If they can't sympathise what our families go through, just to try and do something our kids can enjoy, screw them. They should count themselves flaming lucky that they don't have to do what we have to do.

Have a good time anyway.

Sharon McDaid said...

@CSM, if you've anything to say about the actual post go ahead. Digs about what you imagine I'm like are irrelevant.

@Allie, thanks. My sister is coming with us and we're really good friends and the children adore her so that will make it extra special.

@mumkeepingsane, when are you going? I'd drive if we could! I will be better prepared this time and know what he needs and how to deal with any rude folk. I'll share what works when we return.

Sharon McDaid said...

@Nic, I like your style! I was thinking of getting Duncan's to help me design some tshirts. He's fussy about what he wears but he would tolerate a message design of his making. I might get something for myself too like you say.

Nick McGivney said...

I love Nic's style. Had the t-shirt thought as I read this, only mine would be much pithier. I admire your utter patience with the chromosomally perfect cargo around you. Mine would not reach to such admirable lengths as the end of the runway, let alone Florida. I once used to allow for ignorance. I also once believed that older meant wiser, more understanding and more tolerant. It does in its fuck. Some gobshites have travelled forty, sixty, seventy, eighty years in a bubble-wrap of poisonous self regard. Outwardly perfect, all the lucky breaks, none of the well-nigh impossible hurdles that so many others have to face, and rather than this granting them a window from out their complacency, it makes them want to slam the shutters and avoid the fact that the world wasn't made as a cushion for their delicate arses. Oops. BP up again.

Will I see you in Galway then? We could maybe hit Ossie's Gym and go a few rounds on the punchbags. :)

Sharon McDaid said...

Nick, I love it when you talk grumpy.

I will make sure I'm at Galway. I just did my nominations yesterday.

Club 166 said...

Have a great time!

Eat lots of cabbage and beans before the flight. No one will notice any behavioral issues.