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Southwest was right to kick unruly child off plane

A couple of weeks ago, Southwest Airlines took some guff because the flight crew kicked a mother with a cranky 2-year-old off a flight out of Amarillo.

A few TV talking heads were aghast; how could anyone be so cruel, they wondered. A few man-in-the-street viewers suggested that there be firings, not only of the flight attendants, but also of the pilots.

But, surprise, surprise. When the Web site asked its readers what they thought, out of the 116,704 who voted within the following couple of days, 76.6 percent agreed with the flight attendants, and only 23.4 percent were on the side of the mom with the screaming kid.

Understand, please, that this child wasn't hollering or crying with pain or fright. The airplane was still on the ground, the cabin pressure the same as the outside.

The child was playfully yelling, "Go, plane, go!" and, "I want daddy!"

Pardon me, but any child old enough to articulate such thoughts is old enough to understand when mummy says, "Close your mouth and don't make another peep until we land." Perhaps adding, "Or I'll pinch your nose off." Or not.

The passion of the people who wrote 123 pages of comments (that's pages of comments, not number of comments) was palpable, many from mothers with up to six children who said if the children couldn't behave on a flight, the family should either drive or stay home.

DadinAZ wrote, "It's about time!!! I travel every week and every flight has clueless parent(s) that can't control their screaming kids. Everyone sitting near the out of control kids has to put (up) with it and it's not right."

"Cheers to SW for standing up for the rest of the passengers who were stuck in the same space with no recourse," wrote Anita-1312261, who said she is a mother who made it a point to fly at night or during the time her daughter took a nap.

Others were on the side of the screaming kids, essentially telling the other passengers give 'em a break.

To be honest, I was rather relieved to learn that misbehaving children are to be found on many airplanes. For ages, I've thought that some evil conspirator with an unruly child has been following me around, because almost every flight I've taken in recent years has had at least one rowdy child who hollered, wailed, talked loudly and/or kicked the back of my seat for up to five hours without ceasing.

Egad. Where do they get the energy? And the vocal stamina? Even heavy metal rockers get hoarse and lose steam after a couple of hours.

Some Web writers called for "adults only" airlines, a suggestion similar to many I received from diners when I wrote about unruly kids in upscale restaurants.

On the other side, some wished a personal tantrum-throwing 2-year-old upon the flight crew in hopes it might instill a little sympathy.

Later reports said that Southwest apologized and compensated the mom and kid to the tune of a refund and a $300 travel voucher.

I only wish the airline had included a voucher for a "Child Obedience" class or two.

TAKE YOUR BINOCULARS: The next time you go to Ruth Eckerd Hall, be sure to take your binoculars.

Not necessarily for the show, but in order to see the large painting in the east lobby, An Evening To Remember, by Tarpon Springs artist Christopher M. Still.

I went to the public celebration and exhibition on Sunday and was simply stunned by the beauty of Still's meticulous painting, not only in this major work, but also in the smaller studies that he did as he spent the last two years creating it. They were exhibited on the stage and in the lobby, most of them already sold, though there were limited edition reproductions available.

As I noted the $25,000 (some more, some less) price tags, I recalled the first Still exhibit I went to more than 20 years ago in Tarpon Springs. I had gone to see the exquisite photos of lighthouses by my Times colleague Scott Keeler and got the unexpected bonus of seeing co-exhibitor Still's paintings. Back then, I could have afforded one of them, but foolishly didn't, instead investing my hard-earned money in the stock market.

Ah, lost opportunities.

Still's most famous works are a series of paintings of Florida's history that hang in the Capitol in Tallahassee. This one is quite different, not only in its modern subject matter, but also in its replication of many living people, both on the stage and in the audience.

Among them are the late Ruth and Jack Eckerd, standing stage right in the shadows behind the grand curtain, wearing the very clothing they wore on opening night 26 years ago (loaned by their family), watching the performers on stage, with 900 distinct people in the audience.

A film Still showed during the opening celebration explains how he traveled around the world for inspiration, how he decided where to put certain people in the audience and how he achieved the luminous aura of the whole creation. I hope this film is shown again and again, because only after viewing it did I fully appreciate all the work and all the nuances of this masterpiece.

Southwest was right to kick unruly child off plane 11/13/09 [Last modified: Friday, November 13, 2009 8:56pm]
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