Joe Rickey Hundley is why I’m a nervous airline passenger.
People have all kinds of reasons why they’re afraid of flying. I have one friend – and I’m not making this up – whose fear is that the plane will go down in the water, that he’ll survive the “water landing”, and that sharks will eat his body while he waits to be rescued.
My fear has nothing to do with crashing, or sharks, or 9/11, or anything like that. I’m afraid of guys like Joe Rickey Hundley, who is alleged to have drunkenly slapped a crying 19 month-old child on a Delta flight after yelling “Shut that n****r baby up” at his mother.
Hundley’s guilt or innocence is for the courts to decide, but it certainly wouldn’t be the first time that someone has behaved badly on an airplane. Yet, even back in the days when I flew several times a week, I didn’t even mind boorish travelers so much as live in fear that I would become one of them.
You see, my daughter made her first flight when she was just a baby. We went to the west coast to introduce her to her grandmother, and even through a mild ear infection (which could have been a huge problem), she pulled through like a trouper. And after countless reassurances both during and after the flight that my child was a model passenger, I finally relented and let go of the near-paralyzing fear that my daughter might be the one that would set off a guy like Joe Rickey Hundley.
Now I’m not going to advocate leaving people’s travel plans in the hands of the most idiotic passenger on the plane, but maybe if flights would get turned around for incidents like these more often, they’d become less frequent. Or, perhaps the pilot and flight crew “pretend” to turn the plane around sometimes. If Joe Rickey Hundley actually did what he’s alleged to have done, it sure makes the thought of the pilot having access to a “sleeping gas in the cabin” button more palatable. [Kidding. Sort of.]
Maybe airplanes should have “isolation zones” – relatively soundproof areas where we can relocate passengers who would seek to make the flight “interesting”. That way, both the screaming child who’s uncomfortable with the pressure change, and the drunken moron who might not be able to fight the urge to deliver his own rednecked brand of “rough justice”, could have their own private space to suffer their slings and arrows without disturbing others.
Make no mistake – I’m not lumping the child in with the drunkard. But let’s face it, at 30,000 feet it’s just as difficult to try and find a private place to calm a child as it is to find them a place for “time out” when it feels like their “indoor voice” skills bailed out somewhere over Albuquerque.
Some quick tips to perhaps make things easier before and during the pain of the pressure changes when you land:
Teach your kid how to yawn.
In all my time as an airline passenger (and I used to fly several times a week), yawning was one of the most effective ways I found to minimize the effects of the pressure change. However, limit it to yawning and not full-on sleep.
Do things that encourage swallowing
If your kids are old enough to have mastered mints and gum, go for it. If they’re too young for that, opt for a bottle or pacifier. The more you swallow, the better your ears will be at adjusting the pressure. That’s why sleeping isn’t the best idea ever – when we sleep, we swallow less. (Drinking plenty of water before the flight helps, too.)
If all else fails, there’s the painkiller
Kids’ Tylenol or Advil can help in these situations too – half an hour before takeoffs or landings can work wonders. Of course, check with your family doctor before you administer any kind of medication.
Image – Getty Images (for illustration purposes only).