Flying the friendly skies always feels a bit like playing a game of Russian roulette. There are the real life-and-death worries, like hoping and praying that you and your plane arrive at your destination in one piece. Then there are the worries that only feel like life-and-death, like hoping that you and your plane arrive on time and that your luggage does, too. Then there are the worries that make us contemplate the meaning of life, and whether it’s worth living at all. Of course I’m talking about the fear of losing the ultimate game of traveler’s roulette: finding yourself seated next to a screaming child during a long flight. For the first time in a relatively well-traveled life, I recently lost this game of roulette, big time. In what I would have considered a hysterical story had it happened to someone else, I lost not just once, but twice, in a single flight. After an apologetic father sat down next to me with his toddler, who was screaming as they boarded the plane and showed no signs of letting up, Dad graciously apologized in advance for the inconvenience that we both were resigned to me experiencing for the next couple of hours. When his son specifically began screaming for his mother, who was seated with other children in another row, Dad decided the best thing for all of us was for the parents to do a kid swap. Mom would take the toddler screaming for her, while Dad would take a slightly older and “more well-behaved little lady” (his words). Only half way through the flight the little lady must have reached her daily quota for being “well-behaved.” She decided she wanted Mommy, too, and wasn’t taking “no” for an answer. So she did what any diva in the making would do: she stood on her seat and screamed, “I want Mommy!” at the top of her lungs for a few minutes, followed by other indecipherable high-pitched screams for more than 10 minutes. (I gave up counting after 10.) Her screams then woke up another baby, who, you guessed it, began crying, too. Part of me felt bad for the dad. After all, when most of us get a poor job performance review, at least it’s not in front of a room full of strangers. But here’s a guy whose two kids, in less than two hours, let the entire plane know he was simply not up to the standards of Mom. He essentially got a public dressing down, Simon-Cowell-style, from two people who can barely speak complete sentences. That’s got to be tough. Of course, the other part of me (the part that had gotten just four hours of sleep and had planned to catch up on the plane) didn’t feel sympathy for anyone except the people unlucky enough to cross paths with me after I got off that plane. I was in a great mood. Let me tell you. Apparently my experience with my tiny, vocal in-flight neighbors is not exactly what you’d call uncommon. Days ago Malaysian Airlines sent around a final warning notice to travel agents informing them that they will soon be launching child-free cabins to accommodate adult travelers tired of trying to drift off to a symphony of childhood cries while flying the friendly skies. According to the new policy, children under the age of 12 will not be permitted in the upstairs economy section of the airline’s Airbus A380. While countless business travelers cheered the new policy, when it was first proposed months ago, many insulted and beleaguered parents angrily cried discrimination. (I missed this tidbit of history, but apparently at some point, having the right to foist unruly children upon the public became akin to efforts to garner African Americans the right to vote in terms of major civil rights battles. Who doesn’t see the similarities?) One argument made by some parents, which did strike a chord with me, however, is this: What about misbehaving adults? Why single out kids? This is a fair question. After all, while I’ve lost the traveler’s game of roulette once in recent memory when it comes to children, I cannot count the number of times some misbehaving adult has helped disrupt a trip. Just off the top of my head, I can think of four times in the last month when I was comfortably seated in Amtrak’s designated “quiet” car, which, as its title suggests, is for passengers who want to ride in a quiet car, and yet every single trip, some moron who can read English perfectly chooses to chat on his or her cell phone — this despite the fact that the car is plastered with signs reading “Quiet Car: No cellphone use permitted.” Mr. or Ms. Chatty then becomes indignant when anyone (I or another brave soul) politely points out that, “as the sign above you says, we’re not supposed to use cell phones in this car.” The most galling response I have received so far was last week, when a woman looked at the sign, then back at me, and snapped, “I can read!” to which I replied, “Apparently not, since that’s your second call.” Police actually escorted one woman off a train for refusing to refrain from using her phone in the quiet car. (For the record, I didn’t call them!) Yet it’s the stories regarding unruly children that generate the most headlines, including a landmark lawsuit that was recently settled when a passenger experienced hearing loss after being seated next to a screaming child for an extended period of time. (Click here to read about that case and other infamous stories of bad behavior in the air.) So are segregated flights, with child-free cabins, the best solution, and potentially the wave of the future for airlines around the world? One flight attendant I spoke to, who identified difficult children on flights as one of her jobs’ greatest stressors, seems to think so. (She asked that I not use her name or identify her airline, because she is not authorized to speak to the media.) Calling Malaysian Airlines’ plans for kid-free flights “a genius idea,” she added, “I cannot think of a better solution than this one.” But maybe I can. What if airlines or trains just fined people for unruly behavior? Before you dismiss the idea as crazy, consider this: Is it really any crazier than airlines charging us extra for checked bags when the service we are paying them for in the first place is to transport us and our belongings? The flight attendant I spoke with seemed to think it was actually a doable idea, in part because she confirmed the existence of something I had heard about years ago: airline reports on passengers who use a specific airline more than once. These “reports” are not background checks per se, but if a passenger gets drunk and belligerent on a flight, for instance, this will be noted, so that on their next trip flight attendants will be warned to pay extra special attention as they serve that person. If this is true, then why can’t airlines and other industries of travel simply implement a financial penalty system for unruly travelers of all ages? Those who consistently display the most disruptive behavior in the air or on the train could be made to pay up accordingly (or their parents could). The way it could work is thus: As part of the terms and conditions we all agree to when we purchase our tickets, a new condition would be added, one that states that we agree to accept an automatic flat fee charged to our credit card — let’s say $100 to start — if the flight staff deem us (or our minor children) an intentionally disruptive presence on the trip. (Intentional meaning, it’s one thing if a kid gets sick. It’s another if they want to play hide and seek on a flight, and Mom and Dad choose to do nothing to stop it.) If a passenger racks up a certain number of penalties, then their future tickets would simply double, and perhaps eventually triple, in price automatically. (My friend Dylan Ratigan compared this to car insurance pricing.) Maybe if they charged such a penalty to the businessman who got so drunk that he defecated on a food service cart in flight ( true story ), or to the parents of children who significantly delay a flight because they refuse to buckle up ( happens more often than you think ), either A) they could stop charging some of us those ridiculous fees for so-called extras that are actually basic service (like checked bags), or B) they would finally deter some people who lack the basic manners to exhibit appropriate behavior in shared public spaces, or who know that their kids lack the ability or maturity to display such behavior but travel with them anyway without thinking twice about the impact their choices have on others. Maybe if we were to hit people where it really hurts, in their pocketbooks, they would think twice, or three times, until finally they got the message that incivility is not a civil right. Keli Goff is the author of The GQ Candidate and a Contributing Editor for Loop21.com , where this post originally appeared.
The Maryland McDonald’s employee who made news for refusing to share her winnings with her lottery pool now says she has “no idea” where the winning ticket is. At first, there were reports that Mirlanda Wilson had hidden the ticket at the McDonald’s where she worked in a place where “no one would find it,” [...]
Many well meaning white people have been tweeting under the #IAmTrayvon hashtag to show their solidarity with those fighting for justice. More specifically, those fighting to see Zimmerman arrested and judged by a jury of his peers. That’s all wonderful and appreciated, sincerely, but as the young lady in this video suggests, white people are [...]
Chicago homeowners are livid that an 80 year old Chicago man was arrested for shooting a man who tried to break into his home.Â ABC News Chicago reports thatÂ 19-year-old Anthony Robinson was breaking into the home of 80-year-old Homer WrightÂ Monday morning when Wright shot the intruder. Robinson was hospitalized for a gunshot wound to the [...]
There is no perfect thing to say in the wake of a tragedy, particularly one that involves the loss of a young person. Entire etiquette guides are devoted to telling us what not to say when someone is grieving, with “I know how you feel” being at the top of the list. And yet there is something oddly comforting about such clichÃƒÂ©s, causing many of us cling to them like a life raft during tragedy. Especially when our own grief, shock and anger has render us incapable of forming the words that those most affected by the loss really need to hear. Besides offering the family of Trayvon Martin my sincerest condolences, and letting them know that like much of America they remain in my prayers, I am going to ignore the etiquette guides for a moment to say something else: Regardless of what happens to the case involving their son, his death was not in vain and will ultimately save countless other lives. Months ago I wrote a piece titled, ” Is Racism Worse in the Obama Era?” In it I discussed the psychological impact of subtle racism, a subject covered in the book Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness? In the piece I also briefly touched upon my own experiences with subtle racism. (As I, and plenty of friends have learned, what walking down the street in a hoodie is to black men, walking into the wrong store with the wrong skin color is to black women.) The reaction to the piece was fascinating, with some weighing in with their own experiences. Others, however, were livid that in the age of a black president “people like me” would still find something to complain about and my complaint is about discrimination that you can’t even see or touch, let alone prove. The fundamental question raised by the column was whether or not subtle racism is actually far worse, and more dangerous, for that very reason. As I noted, in my parents’ generation (they both grew up in the segregated South) a store simply hung a sign that said “No Coloreds” allowed. Today a store wouldn’t dream of doing that and yet most black people I know, and most black celebrities have a story (often more than one) about being blatantly denied service at a store due to race. In the case of Oprah Winfrey on two separate occasions at two different stores the stores in question locked the doors and claimed to be closed when she attempted to enter. In the case of Condoleezza Rice , a sales clerk questioned whether she could actually afford the jewelry she was eyeing. To those who have never endured such experiences, they may sound like minor indignities. But the Trayvon Martin case illustrates how easily subtle racism — which usually involves racial profiling — can escalate from indignity to death. One installment of CNN’s “Black in America,” hosted by Soledad O’Brien, actually noted that many black parents are so conscientious of such profiling that those with teenage boys often provide them with a prepared speech for interacting with police officers to avoid them becoming another Robbie Tolan , the unarmed Houston teen shot by an officer who mistakenly believed Tolan had stolen the car he was driving. (He hadn’t.) O’Brien noted that this unofficial profiling speech is so pervasive within the black community it cuts across class lines. From working class black Americans to A-list celebrities, many of them consider the profiling talk just as important, if not more so, than the birds and bees talk. Trayvon Martin is a powerful reminder of why. Only who knew that we would come to a point where the profiling “talk” would have to be revised by parents to not only include police officers, but any man who may see you as a so-called threat because of the color of your skin. (On that note, some critics have blamed Martin’s attire for his death. See my reply and others, here and here .) Which brings me back to the legacy of Trayvon Martin. Much like Emmett Till’s racially charged murder in 1955 at the age of fourteen forced our country to finally confront the brutality of Jim Crow as more than just a “Southern problem” but a national shame, my hope is that Trayvon’s death will spark long overdue outrage and ultimately, a movement against, the subtle racism known as profiling that has risen in Jim Crow’s wake. The fact that so many people of diverse political persuasions have condemned his killing gives me hope. I pray that this, and the lives he may ultimately help save, give his family peace. It is clichÃƒÂ© to say in times of tragedy, “I know some good will come from this,” but in this case I believe it to be true. I have to. We all do. Keli Goff is the author of The GQ Candidate and a Contributing Editor for Loop21.com where this post originally appeared.
The father of a freshman in Florida A&M Universityâ€™s famed marching band emailed the schoolâ€™s president in 2007 after getting a series of panic-stricken phone calls. The son never described exactly what was happening, but he made it clear he feared getting beaten. â€œI feel that my sonâ€™s future could be in jeopardy,â€ Donovan Crosby [...]
Every parentâ€™s worst nightmare is having to bury one of their own children.Â Losing a son or daughter is undeniably one of the toughest things a person has to go through â€” especially if that son or daughter is very young.Â But imagine for a second if this death is sudden; if itâ€™s the result of violence; and if you still donâ€™t know what really happened.Â To all of the mothers and fathers out there, try to comprehend the pain and agony of watching the killer of your child roam the streets as if nothing happened, and try to understand what it would feel like if the authorities were helping the murderer and not you.Â What would you think if your teenager (who never hurt a soul, never committed a crime and was a good student) was drug tested after being shot to death while the shooter was not?Â How would you feel if the child that you raised with love, protected through the years and taught to be an upstanding young man was killed on his way home from buying skittles and an iced tea?Â Put everything aside, and just for a moment, imagine what it would be like if Trayvon Martin was your son. RELATED: How Occupy Wall Street Co-Opted The Million Hoodie March Trayvonâ€™s Parents Address NYC Marchers When Black Folks Donâ€™t Get The Trayvon Issue, Weâ€™ve Got A Problem â€˜Million Hoody Marchâ€™ Organizer Says Trayvonâ€™s Murder â€˜Very Personalâ€™ For all our Trayvon Martin coverage, click here . It has been almost a month since that tragic evening when Trayvonâ€™s life was cut short.Â And yet, when people still hear of this case and the ridiculous gun laws that allowed George Zimmerman, the accused shooter, to claim self-defense, they are both shocked and outraged â€” and rightfully so.Â Earlier this week, we saw masses gather in New York for a â€œmillion hoodiesâ€ march to signify the absurdity of the fact that Trayvon may have been perceived as a so-called troublemaker simply because of the way he was dressed.Â And on Thursday, we at National Action Network joined leaders, clergy and citizens from around the country at the Fort Mellon Park in Sanford, Fla. to show our united support for Trayvonâ€™s family in their fight for justice.Â We demand that Zimmerman be immediately arrested, that a proper investigation take place, that the Sanford police department be held accountable for their shoddy handling of this case and that the â€œstand your groundâ€ defense laws be re-examined in Florida and elsewhere. Thanks to the continued dedication and strength of Trayvonâ€™s parents, their sonâ€™s story has been heard around the world.Â And they have vowed to keep pushing forward and keep this painful incident in the news until they achieve success.Â Weâ€™ve watched people from all walks of life, all races and all backgrounds come out and support Trayvonâ€™s family because they understand the depth and pain of injustice weâ€™ve seen here.Â Losing their child was terrible and unbearable enough, but to add insult to injury, the Sanford police department and authorities in Florida have allowed the accused murderer to roam freely, in possession of the same weapon that cut this young boyâ€™s life short. Next week, my own son turns 13.Â I often worry about what kind ofÂ world he will live in and what kind of man he will grow up to be. Will he be able to get a good education, will he continue to stay away from bad influences, will he work towards a successful career, will he one day raise a strong family of his own, and will he find health and happiness?Â Never in a million years did I think I would be worried about the next time he walks to the store to buy a snack. Trayvon Martinâ€™s family is working to prevent another family from having to go through the horrors of what theyâ€™ve experienced.Â So anyone who may not understand why they refuse to give up, just imagine if Trayvon were your son. RELATED: How Occupy Wall Street Co-Opted The Million Hoodie March Trayvonâ€™s Parents Address NYC Marchers When Black Folks Donâ€™t Get The Trayvon Issue, Weâ€™ve Got A Problem â€˜Million Hoody Marchâ€™ Organizer Says Trayvonâ€™s Murder â€˜Very Personalâ€™ For all our Trayvon Martin coverage, click here .
In a CNN interview, George Zimmerman’s friend Frank Taffe went to bat for him. Taffe said that Zimmerman is not a racist, but is in fact, an admirable man. Taffe went on to say that if Trayvon Martin had just responded appropriately to Zimmerman’s questions, there wouldn’t have been a problem. Taffe also said the [...]
Playing the race card in politics in nothing new. In fact, it is widely known that republicans use a Southern Strategy to inflame whites over racial issues as a way of garnering votes. In the 2012 republication nomination process, both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have made comments which malign African Americans as slovenly welfare [...]
Adolfo Davis had been 14 years old for just two months when he made the mistake that changed his life. In October 1990, he was living on Chicagoâ€™s South Side with a grandmother who could barely care for him. His father was gone. His mother was a drug addict. He was teased because he often [...]