Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Traveling Shoulds

I was reminded last week that travel by flying is one of the most annoying experiences in modern civilization. After braving extensive waits for the MTA subway system at 4am, a LONG delay on the JFK Air Train at 5am, and completely expensive tasteless food at 6am, I still had to face my worst obstacle yet:

The Quintessential Airplane Crying Baby.

Now don't get me wrong, I think the propagation of the human race is an admirable thing. But why, OH WHY, would they bring an infant on the plane, especially one who clearly doesn't want to be there? Given my level of indignant righteousness, I realized this was the perfect time to work on worst "should" of flying: "They should shut that child up."

"How did you learn this was true?"
It's one of those cultural things about not intentionally making loud disturbing noises in an enclosed area with no escape.

"Is this should true for everyone everywhere 24/7?"
No. If a child is in pain or suffering then loud crying is the only way it can communicate that feeling. Many babies ears are hurting on the plane. If a parent always muffles their cries, then that can send the child a destructive message that they SHOULDN'T communicate when they are upset.

"Who is profiting off your should?"
The airlines and the makers of Skyy vodka, both of whom make money from me if I use a drink to deal with my shoulds instead of asking these questions.

"How do you feel when you think this should?"
I feel angry, righteous, and helpless. I feel like I don't want to travel anymore, thereby cutting myself off from a potentially wonderful vacation just because of my should about this child.

"And do you want to be right or happy during this flight?"
I choose to be happy. I already know I'm right, I'd guess everyone would agree with this should. But they won't have the high blood pressure or the ulcers for me that results in insisting that my should is correct. Clearly being right in this case means that I'm not happy.

"Replace it."
I'd prefer this child settle down. I'd prefer it would be quiet. I'd prefer parents did not subject their children to the treachery of flying if they are not ready for it. But either way, I still have a choice to be happy or angry. Sometimes I choose anger, especially if jet lagged. But today I choose to be happy .

And with this questioning I felt better. It didn't solve the problem, but it changed my reaction to the problem. Ultimately, the child did simmer down. And later when I thought back to how I initially reacted to this child I had to wonder: Who was the REAL infant on that flight?


HoneyGirl said...

First, I said, "WOW". Then, after I finished reading, I clapped emphatically (scaring the crap out of my cats, by the way). I commend you for taking yourself outside of yourself and actually creating a new perception of a patterned reaction to a situation. To me, that makes you a truly compassionate person. Thanks for the insight.

Damon L. Jacobs said...

Thank you for the feedback, Honeygirl. My apologies to your cats.