Alright, it’s maybe not the worst situation in the world, but we just got back from two weeks in Hawaii on holiday and I experienced a distressing situation on the five hour flight back from the Big Island to San Francisco (where we overnighted): an abusive parent and her child in my row of the plane.
As is common with airlines, we booked months in advance but couldn’t get our five seats together, so we had three seats in one row, one seat immediately ahead of it, and one seat two rows ahead of that. Not so good when we’re traveling with the kids, needless to say, but since K-‘s now two, we have to buy her a seat too.
We decided that we’d arrange it so that Linda and all three kids were squished into the three-seat row (with the baby on her lap to hopefully sleep) and I’d be in the row immediately ahead.
But when we were all trying to settle into our seats, I was joined by a heavyset native Hawaiian woman and her five year old (I’m guessing) daughter. Her daughter promptly stood on the chair to look over and meet our kids and the Mom…
The girl’s Mom smacked her in the back and told her brusquely to get off the chair and “siddown”.
All of a sudden five hours of sitting in the same row as these two people seemed unimaginably long and I moved up to the seat two rows further ahead for takeoff and the inevitable bouncing up to cruising altitude, at which point I came back and quietly explained to Linda what had happened.
The situation was quite difficult but the woman was certainly happy to take over all three seats with the sudden bounty that we’d given her by ceding our paid seat for the duration of the flight (without a thank you, as you might guess).
On the other hand, I certainly wasn’t going to have any of my kids sitting next to her and while the daughter seemed quite delightful (and not a bit cowed by her stressed out and abusive mother) I just felt like in the tiny little tin can of a plane, staying apart was far more sensible than getting involved.
Fortunately and through some amazing serendipity, I ended up sitting next to two young boys (11 and 9) whose father was in a pair of window seats, having bought two seats so he could spread out his work while on the flight.
With extraordinary generosity, he gave up his two seats for Linda and K-, letting the two of them cuddle and read books for an hour or two, until we got uncomfortable and gave the seat back to him.
It was a perfect break in the tedium of the five hour flight and even though the first and last hours were spent with four in a three-seat row (well, I spent a lot of time walking around in the plane with K-, so it might not quite have been hours of laptime after all) we survived and made it to SFO in good spirits, and after a quick bite in the airport restaurant, got to our hotel and had a great night sleep before the last, much shorter (and better situated!) leg of our trip.
But I’m still a bit troubled: what could I have done in that situation? I hate seeing abusive parents and the mom hit her daughter a couple of times during the flight and especially when everyone was impatiently jostling to get off the plane when we’d landed. When she first hit the girl, she looked defiantly at both Linda and I (at least, I thought so), as if to say “what are you going to do about it, haole?”
So I did nothing.
What would you have done in that situation and how have you handled that sort of thing when trapped on a plane, bus or other narrow confines?
Oh, and, yes, Hawaii was wonderful. We stayed in a rented condo close to the Hilton Waikoloa Beach Resort on the Kona side of the Big Island. Two weeks of playing at the beach, walking on the petroglyph trails, teaching the kids Yahtzee and backgammon, and generally getting very rested, hurray!