An Open Letter To The Man On Flight PK792
You are possibly the most revolting person it has ever been my misfortune to meet and I would like to publicly thank you for giving me the opportunity to tell you so.
At first I hadn’t realised what was going on. We’d boarded the aeroplane in Birmingham, settled into our seats and our two boys were, for the moment, sitting quietly anticipating take off. I heard a child crying elsewhere in the cabin but thought nothing of it save to be grateful that for once it wasn’t one of mine.
My curiosity was piqued by the gaggle of flight attendants and ground crew directly on the other side of the aeroplane but it wasn’t until you started shouting that I found out what was going on.
– I CAN’T SIT BEHIND A CRYING CHILD FOR 8 HOURS
Ooh, I thought, you’re one of those strange people who think that a ticket on an aeroplane entitles you to a spa experience. You know, one of those oddities who seem unable to work a pair of headphones or even just to be engaged enough with society to know that children cry but, if they’re not your children, you can just sit back and be grateful that you’re not trying to keep an overactive octopus crammed into an airline seat for 8 hours. This should be fun, I thought.
– I’VE PAID FOR MY TICKET. I DON’T CARE IF THE CHILD IS DISABLED. IT’S HER CHOICE (at this point you were gesticulating wildly at the mother) TO TRAVEL AND IF SHE CAN’T CONTROL THE NOISE HER CHILD MAKES SHE SHOULD BE MADE TO LEAVE THE AEROPLANE. TAKE HER OFF THE AEROPLANE.
-YOU CHOSE TO BRING THIS CHILD ON AEROPLANE, you continued, even though it was perfectly plain to everyone that the poor woman could only speak urdu and was clearly going home to Pakistan – a journey that is nigh-on impossible by road and overly lengthy by sea. I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO SUFFER BECAUSE YOU CHOSE TO TRAVEL WITH A DISABLED CHILD.
Well that was a game-changer. I got angry. I didn’t say anything as, well, I’m British and there were enough people around with all the crew and stewards, but I resolved that if they tried to evict the poor mother and child I would get involved. They didn’t. They moved them both to our side of the aeroplane, away from the noxious fumes of poisonous bile you were emitting.
And that, I thought, was that. I was seething but it seemed to have been worked out. And then you caught my eye (actually I was probably glaring at you – I’m not very good at hiding my feelings at the best of times).
-I COULDN’T HAVE SAT BEHIND THAT FOR 8 HOURS.
you said, thinking perhaps that you had an ally in me. You were wrong.
“I think your behaviour is outrageous. How could you be so insensitive? I think you should be ashamed of yourself,” I said.
I was feeling glad I’d been able to say something but was almost shaking with rage. And then you kindly gave me carte blanche to release the safety lock and open fire.
– EXCUSE ME! EXCUSE ME!
I couldn’t quite believe it but, yes, you were trying to get my attention.
-I JUST WANTED TO SAY THAT I SAW YOUR CHILDREN EARLIER AND WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW HOW WELL-BEHAVED I THOUGHT THEY WERE.
And that was it. At any other time at all in the last 4 years I would have accepted your lovely compliment with welling eyes and a full heart. You may have been invited to be godparent to one of the little angels whose behaviour you’d seen for merely minutes and whose full blown tantrum you’d missed by seconds. If sufficiently moved I may even have shared my jaffa cakes with you. But not now. Oh no. You forfeited all good will when you tried to get a mother and disabled child removed from an aeroplane because he’d cried.
Usually, when I’m angry, the words don’t come out. I stumble and trip and dribble a bit and feel utterly wretched because, let’s face it, when you’re angry you really, really want to be able to vent. I don’t know what guardian angel was sitting on my shoulder, but for the first time in my life, I was an articulate angry person. I can’t quite remember what I said (there was quite a lot of it) but it started with:
“Thank you and I thank God every day that my children are healthy and are not disabled and if they were disabled I should hope that people would be an awful lot more compassionate than you have been.”
It continued in the same vein for a good few minutes. After a little while I realised that I should probably wind up so I returned to the ‘be grateful that you’re healthy’ line (always good to finish on a high).
– I AM GRATEFUL I’M NOT DISABLED, you said.
“And that is probably the only thing we will ever agree on,” I ended.
I do not know anything about you. There may be reasons why you acted as you did, although I can’t for the life of me think of what they are. I do, however, hope that you were thoroughly ashamed of yourself and have resolved to be a changed man. We can but hope.
Incidentally, the child cried for a maximum of 5 minutes for the entire 8 hours.