Steffanie Rivers

*If you are old enough to have been cognitively aware of your surroundings on September 11, 2001 then you remember what you were doing when you heard about the first plane that flew into the first tower of the World Trade Center. Those who worked in or near the twin towers or the Pentagon where a second and third plane struck probably wish they could forget the experience altogether. Now after ten years and billions of dollars spent on national aviation security – including the creation of the much maligned Transportation Security Administration – the United States arguably is no safer and Americans are more afraid to travel.

As with most things, people are affected differently by the loss of loved ones or the news of tragic events. There have been plenty of sad stories for readers who want to memorialize the event in that way. But for those who prefer to (respectfully) laugh rather than cry, this is for you: In the presence of TSA
screeners most will-be travelers do their best to appear cooperative, but once the security checkpoint is behind them passengers have been known to push the boundaries of acceptable behavior onboard an airplane. Take, for example, parents of infant children who expect flight attendants to stock diapers, toys and other things “baby” onboard the aircraft. And when there are no extra
diapers passengers have to smell baby poo for the duration; if there are extra diapers some mothers have the audacity to use the food tray – which people eat on – as a changing table. And that’s just parents of infant children. If the
issue doesn’t involve a loaded diaper, some children cry at the top of their little baby lungs because of the high altitude air pressure causing their little baby ears to hurt. Sure, most passengers know about the effects of traveling at such a high altitude, but the problem is some parents don’t seem to know and aren’t prepared with a bottle or a pacifier or candy or whatever it takes to get that baby to swallow. And while little Johnnie’s first airplane ride is understandably exciting for him, can you keep him from kicking the back of my seat as if he’s at an amusement park? Please and thank you.

Parents with small children aren’t the only inconveniences of public air transportation. How about the person who should have purchased two seats, because he clearly is taking up the space of two people? If not for his comfort, I’m sure the person seated next to him who is being squeezed out would appreciate it. And what about the passengers who recline their seats into the lap of the person seated behind them or the ones who travel with their pets because they love them as if they are their children and won’t go anywhere without them? Just because some airlines allow pets onboard doesn’t mean there should be pets on board unless they are assisting a disabled person. And what about the people who constantly go back and forth to the bathroom? I guess that’s better than those people who don’t bother to go to the bathroom and just pass gas right where they sit. If it’s not window-seat passengers who can’t hold their water, it’s somebody who can’t follow FAA rules about turning off the cell phone before take-offs and
landings. I know it’s hard to believe that the signal from a small cell phone might interfere with air traffic control, but why chance it? Follow directions and turn off the phone. Or be escorted off the plane. It’s your call.

I’m not sure if it’s the thin air quality or that air travel brings out the worst in people, but some passengers feel entitled to do almost anything on an airplane. Don’t be “that person” who takes up all the overhead bin space, won’t share the arm rest and
looks at the flight attendant as if she is speaking a foreign language when she gets to your seat to ask for your drink order. You saw her coming! So be ready.

 Steffanie Rivers is a freelance journalist. Send your comments, questions and appearance inquiries to Steffanie [email protected]