When I reached a certain height as a child, my legs extended precisely to the back of the driver’s seat in our family car, much to my father’s distress. Whenever I moved around behind him, my feet hit the back of his seat. For people who were oblivious, in families with more children and/or more chaos, this would’ve gone unnoticed. But both my parents were quite sensitive to movement, vibration, noise, strong odors, and the like, and now that I’m middle-aged and have the same sensitivities, I have a visceral understanding of and a great empathy for my dad. He probably felt as if he were being kidney-punched every time I saw something exciting through the car window. (I think my parents moved me to the seat behind my mother until I grew a few more inches.)
Not-so-instant karma on a recent flight: A young man offered to trade his window seat for an aisle one, and I immediately discovered why: one of the two young boys behind me was a kicker. I wouldn’t be happy with that under any circumstances. But through a combination of bad luck and poor planning that involved re-booked flights, a MegaBus that broke down halfway between two cities, and an idiotically inefficient airport shuttle system, I’d been able to get only three hours of sleep the previous night. I was trying to catch up on the plane – inevitably a losing battle – when Junior and/or his little brother, Junior Junior, began kicking the back of my seat.
I understand that children do these things, and that parents can’t be watching what two kids are doing every minute. However, when the passenger in front of you turns around and tells you that your child is doing something annoying – particularly on a 6 a.m. flight when people are trying to rest – it is your responsibility to take steps to correct the problem, immediately, without making the other passenger feel as if she’s the one in the wrong. Period, end of sentence. The woman looked at me as if I had 12 eyeballs and peacock feathers growing out of the top of my head, as if she couldn’t believe that her little darlings would ever do anything to disturb anyone else. And then she did nothing.
The boys kept kicking, and I started losing what little composure I have at that hour on an overbooked flight. I didn’t want to disturb the two other passengers in my row and I didn’t want to make a beleaguered flight attendant’s morning more unpleasant, so I tried to keep going to the source. The mother probably grew tired of my standing up, turning around, and glaring at her kids, because she finally moved Junior Junior to another seat, presumably with another family member. The kicking finally stopped – good, because I’d reached the point at which I was thinking, “If you do that one more time, I’m gonna stab your #@*%ing little leg with my manicure scissors, you little *&^%!” No wonder they don’t allow box cutters on planes.
Maybe my dad was just having the Universe pay me back after all these years.