Grumpy KidI encounter a fearful sight as I walk down the aisle to my rightful spot on the metal death tube (airplane) this morning: There’s a person in my seat. I am taken aback and let out a sigh. This is a problem for so many reasons.

First of all, 24J is a perfect seat, made just for me. It’s a mid-plane window-seat, which provides a perfect view of the wing and if you are a terrible flyer you know that you gotta watch that bastard or it’ll fly off the plane. Moreover, window seats allow you to avoid almost everyone else on the entire plane except for the person who brings you drinks, the guy next to you and the cement-kneed martial artist behind you. Second, I don’t like confrontation. I’m usually either wrong and irrationally aggressive or right and too timid to push the point. Third, the occupier of my perfect seat is a child.

To be honest, when a child is involved in a potential confrontation, I always resort to level-headed discussion. The only hypotheses I can provide for this is that I sense in children a kindred maturity level and both a vigorous interest in sugary cereals and love of cartoon animals. So, when I call attention to the issue and the boy’s father requests that they be able to sit together, I nod and say, “Sure, no problem.” They both thank me and I sit across the aisle in 24G.

As a card-carrying member of the Future Grumpy Curmudgeon’s Society (FUGURMS, $35/year, cardigan on induction), kids are high on my list of antagonists. But today as I organize my seat for optimal reading light and elbow room advantage, I am happy that I could help assist some trans-Atlantic bonding. Perhaps there will be special mention of me at the next father-son picnic as a bonding enabler. Just a thought.

24G is a mere shadow of its lettered-comrade: the aisle seat of a five-seat row, a broken entertainment center and at least four other people to potentially deal with. More problems arrive in my seat mates – two children. The one next to me says please and thank you to the steward, then takes out a book entitled ‘Travel Journal’ and starts writing. There is hope yet. After writing for a while he takes out a sketch book and begins tracing a cartoon marmot. Cartoon animal – This is a kid I can relate to! I feel hope for the future of humankind and get into my book.

As I read and resist the silky voice of free airplane drinks, I notice that the father-son bonding from across the aisle is not exactly riveting. In fact, I listen more closely and in one hour they share a total of one conversation consisting of seven words (including one contraction):

Dad: “Good video game?”

Son: “It’s fine.”

Dad: “Cool.”

Lazy Dad then puts on earphones and begins reading. What the hell? I gave up 24J for this? I was enraged. What kind of effort to bond was that? I dub the man Lazy Dad. The marmot drawing boy is playing a video game as well. I watch the screen as what seems to be a caveman eats pancakes and then, with proper nutrition, fights a Woolly mammoth with a spear. He wins. The kid turns to me with a look that asks: Well, could you beat a Woolly mammoth, old man? 

Me: “Hey, good game?”

Kid: “OK. I guess.”

Me: “Cool.”

I look across at Lazy Dad who smiles and raises an eyebrow.

Touché, Lazy Dad. Touché.

Comments are closed.