I’m sure anyone who has flown on an airplane in the last few decades will recognize this display:
When lit, it reminds airline passengers that smoking is prohibited, and that they should fasten their seat belts – all good practices in the name of general passenger safety and harmonious flying. In the brand new airline I invented during my last international journey, a third symbol would be displayed:
This sign, when lit, would inform passengers that somewhere on the aircraft, a child has finally and against all odds fallen asleep. People would begin speaking in whispers, softly closing overhead compartments, and no one would even consider cracking open a can of coke.
That’s because, like smokers and unseated passengers during turbulence, a tired toddler trapped on an airplane is a danger to himself and others. Keeping a sleeping baby asleep should be a top airline priority. It’s in the interest of the greater good. First, for the good of that child. “I love air travel!” said no one ever. Crammed in a tiny, hot, metal box filled with strangers, strange noises, and mediocre food is the necessary evil that we tolerate in order to safely and efficiently travel long distances at great speeds. I’ve seen grown men barely keeping it together – it’s no wonder small children are frequently moved to tears and tantrums by the experience. Let’s all spare that sleeping child the frustrations and vagaries of air travel by keeping the potato chip bag crinkling to a minimum.
If that’s not enough, think of the parents. They have already at the very least packed a toddler and all of their belongings into a car, transported them to the airport, and entertained said toddler in an airport waiting area, during which the child’s primary goals were eating things off the floor and finding out what treasures were hidden in the garbage. For a few short minutes, those parents will be able to think calm, peaceful thoughts about unicorns and alcohol and blessed, blessed silence. Maybe one of them, free from rescuing tiny shoes from underneath the seat, will steal a few minutes of sleep themselves. So please try and cough more quietly.
And finally, every other person on that airplane will have a better, happier, more joy-filled flight experience if the sleeping children stay asleep. It’s for your sake, fellow fliers, that rattling, clinking drink and meal carts will be suspended during nap time. Don’t even think about the duty free cart – you can buy stairs for your dog or a hat shaped like a walrus on your own time, after the children wake up. And Captain, get all your fancy flying words out now, because the second we reach cruising altitude and these kids fall asleep, using that intercom system is completely out of the question. I would rather make an emergency landing on an iceberg inhabited by a clan of angry polar bears than risk waking up these children so you can tell me the temperature at my destination. I know what season we’re in.
But seriously, the next time a flight attendant yells “TEA OR COFFEE?” across my sleeping infant, they better hope my seat belt is securely fastened.