Air Travel Turns Adults in to Toddlers

Air Travel Turns Adults in to Toddlers

I wrote this when I was sitting on a four hour flight to San Francisco with no audio or visual entertainment but there was Wi-Fi. I don’t understand that technical conundrum either. The gentleman in front of me asked for headphones and the man across the aisle is watching a movie on his iPad and it made me realize something. As adults travel on planes today, they’re just like small children once we get wheels up.

While I’ve never had the pleasure of negotiating with a 4 year old to find their shoes and today’s super hero t-shirt, their needs and those of adults trapped in a flying tube are eerily similar. Each needs to be occupied in some way not to succumb to their inner hulk and ruin it for the rest of the group.

I see children of today with snacks and liquids as if they’re going to summit Everest. I remember having to justify the economics of 50 cents for a coke or my dad saying, “there’s a water fountain around here somewhere.” Adults on planes have become just as needy. We’ll pay triple the norm in the airport for water that has us suckling like a baby from a weird, sippy nozzle lest we get dehydrated. I know, I know. The planes are “dry.” Humans can go three days without water but god forbid you don’t have a gallon at your beck and call.

We’ve all seen the person waiting to board with a bag of smelly fast food in Group 4 and thought – “Please don’t sit next to me, please don’t sit next to me.” In place of goldfish, you see people spilling granola or some other 100 calorie bullshit snack half in to their mouth and the other half on to their shirts or in to the seats. I once saw a women pull a sandwich wrapped in aluminum FOIL from her bag to eat. What was that TSA conversation like?

TSA, “Mam, please open your bag?....What is this soft package wrapped in metal?” Older lady, “It’s my salami on dry white.” Did she have to unwrap it to show them or do you accept that explanation on face value? Is Mayo a liquid?

Also, these new “meal boxes” of food for purchase confound me. Are the selections made by throwing colored darts in the warehouse? Oreos, gummy bears, Gouda, lentil crackers and red pepper spread! “That’ll be $8.95. We only take credit cards.”

The game siblings play in the car “stop TOUCHING me” begins in earnest when the middle seat person shows up. You silently negotiate who gets the armrest before taking off. Hopefully you find a middle ground like the Maginot Line that no one will cross, lest you go around it. Children and adults alike are required to sit in seats that snug them in and are far from comfortable. Yet, both find a way to fall asleep. Thankfully children don’t need to wear a blow up flotation device around their neck to find comfort. I swear some flights look like I boarded the charter to the whiplash convention.

My friends’ kids love to play the same song over and over again for “entertainment.” While adults on a plane, will play Sudoku or other games on their iPad. I know I’ve forgotten to think as I downloaded my movie will it have nudity. Who wants to get that accusing Larry Flynt look on a plane? Or better yet, the movie is hilarious and you can’t laugh out loud. You’re forced to heave like an epileptic having someone near by wonder if you need medical help all because you can’t laugh out loud. On my flight at the moment, the audio in English isn’t working on channel one but the flight attendant announced it is working on channel ten in Spanish. Right! Let me get my pocket translator out.

And then there’s the “service” on the plane –I seriously don’t know what to call them Flight Attendants, stewards(esses). Everything is so non-gender specific today. They speak in a loving calm voice while providing a spits worth of liquid around a mass of ice that would of sunk the Titanic. Once your eye dropper of liquid is “drunk,” you happily suck the ice and sip greedily as it slowly melts revealing a scant release of a few drops more every few minutes. Sometimes, as if you won the lottery, they’ll leave the WHOLE can while some flights you don’t seem worthy enough for SO much liquid. God forbid you close your eyes because that cleanup crew is earnest and when you least expect it. Much like a runny nose wiped by mom.

As the adults of our specie lands, we eagerly bounce around our two cubic feet of space waiting for those “people” in the lower rows to gather all their stuff so we can deplane. Much like Dad taking his sweet time can draw the ire of a finicky child in the backseat eager to stretch their legs. As you walk the jet way it’s as if we’re being birthed in to a new city, walking in to the light we become disoriented not knowing which way is the exit. You try not to trip over the people deplaning before you who have stopped at the very end. I’m convinced these are the same assholes that stop at the top of an escalator or walk side by side, slowly, on a city sidewalk. These must also be the same people who forget during security that the belt counts as METAL. And yes, we STILL take our shoes off in this line.

Adults, most definitely, when traveling by plane are just like the small children they never want to sit next to. With a wee bit of food and water keeping us satiated, like the child begging for fast food at every opportunity, we have the opportunity to make a poor food choice at our arrival airport. But as the fog lifts and you find your way home or to your hotel/meeting, our sense of adulthood returns until our next adventure by air when we can regress in to our childlike need for the barbaric essentials.

Joe Campagna is the Chicago Food Snob. A former restaurant General Manager, Server and Chef you can find him on twitter @chifoodsnob. You can reach him through email at

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