Flight Fracas: A Dad Gets Mad

There are pros and cons to being escorted from an airplane by Federal Authorities. Unfortunately, there's the self-consciousness of being singled out in front of your fellow passengers by the armed officers who board the flight as soon as your plane reaches the gate.

On the other hand, you don't have to endure the inevitable delay while people in front of you retrieve their carry-on bags from the overhead compartments. Nope, when you're "in custody," you're the first one off...no waiting. In my case, the authorities were even kind enough to retrieve my carry-on for me.

In my former life as a member of the media I'd reported countless stories of airline passengers who'd run afoul of heightened safety regulations these days. Usually the offender was either drunk or mentally ill. I was neither. I was an enraged and protective father and husband who placed himself between his family and a rude individual who came perilously close to receiving a fat lip.

I booked our recent trip at the last minute, so there were no three seats together. The best I could do was "Seat 2B" for my son, "3B" for my wife, and "10B" for yours truly. I thought at least my wife will be close to our 4 year-old (who is mature enough to sit alone for two hours) and perhaps someone will be kind enough to switch seats so they could sit together.

We boarded first (because we were traveling with a child) and took our assigned seats. It seemed like I'd no sooner settled in with music and a book than my wife was urgently gesturing for me to come forward to her assistance. I walked ahead seven rows and that's when the trouble began. (Technically it began a few seconds earlier when the rude person I mentioned earlier swore at my son.)

According to my wife, (and confirmed by another passenger within earshot) his exact quote upon learning he was to be seated next to my son was, "He better not give me any shit!"

She was incredulous, but offered to switch seats with him to ease any anxieties he may have had. He refused to switch (because he booked his seat "seven weeks ago") and repeated his profane warning. At this point my boy was intimidated and repeating, "I don't like this man."

I arrived and was brought quickly up to speed. I informed this man that I had a problem with his attitude toward my little boy and perhaps he should take his matter up with me. Now we all know a coward will shrink from any real confrontation. True to his nature this one called the flight attendant and said I was harassing him. I was told to go back to my seat and not wanting to ruin a vacation I obliged.

I was fuming at the fact I'd been stifled. Thankfully, another gentleman diffused the situation by switching seats with my son and the flight boarded and took off without incident.

However, when we reached our "cruising altitude" and the seat belt sign had been turned off, I unbuckled and walked forward to make sure my son and wife were okay. Catching the obstinate man's eye I promised him (against my better judgment) that I would "see (him) on the ground." Again he took the coward's path and informed the flight attendant that I had threatened him. Apparently the flight attendant relayed the message to the pilot who then radioed ahead to the ground. So that is why the Feds where waiting for me when we landed.

The happy ending is that the officer who took my statement (a father himself) empathized with my situation and told me (off the record) that he'd have done the same if not worse. We were allowed to collect our bags and go on our way with a handshake while the guy who wanted so badly to be seen as some sort of victim was detained longer for further questioning. Hopefully that will teach him...but I doubt it.