On the way home from Prague, my reservation got bumped. I was surprised because I made the seat reservation before I left New York. It was a nine hour flight and I preferred an aisle seat. "There is no problem," replied the young Czech Airlines rep. "We can provide an aisle seat for you. But it is the in the last row." Since I wanted an aisle seat, I took it.
The flight was almost full. Every seat was taken and there were about 20 children below the age of 5. I do not mind children; after all I have four of mine own, and often we have traveled with all of them. I also know that certain children react differently to long flights – earaches, stomachaches, fear of heights, etc.
Of all the children on the flight, the one who stood out the most was the unrestrained "Patrick." He was about two years old and his mother decided that he could do a marathon during the flight. He kept running from the front to the back and doing the same in the opposite aisle. For a while it was funny and many people thought it was cute. However, there were lunches and snacks to be served and certain turbulent spots. At those times, Patrick let everyone know that he was not to be restrained to his seat and his mother was not willing to do the restraining. You could see the frustration on the faces of the stewardesses.
As I was observing their pleading with him and with his mother, I remembered inviting one couple to come to our church for Sunday School. The father replied, "You do not want my children to terrorize your Sunday School!" I thought that he was kidding until I met the kids who were not in kindergarten yet, but the mother and the father have no authority over them. When I met them, I prayed for their first teacher to have the wisdom and the authority to give some calmness to these children.
The other thing that I experienced is the fact that many people have their elbows disconnected. Either people wait until the last moment to go to the bathroom, or they relax upon reaching the bathroom, or they do not know how widely their elbows extend. I got elbows in my shoulders (most frequently), a good number in my ear and a few in my face! By the middle of my flight my body was leaning defensively towards my seatmate. The surprise was to see how many people were unaware that they were hitting somebody.
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And then there was my seatmate. He was over six feet tall. He tried to carefully get out of his seat while I was napping, only to toss on the floor the books that I was planning to read on this long flight. This created a good conversation. I was reading Philip Jenkins' The Next Christendom and he was reading Zen Buddhism. I asked him if he was a practicing Buddhist or if he was reading just for fun. His reply was, "I am a Jewish atheist, but I enjoy reading religious materials." We discussed some of the things that he has read and why he was an atheist. On reaching New York, he promised to read the New Testament, a book that so far he had not read. "As a searcher for the truth," I said, "you should read the New Testament to find the truth that is being presented there."
And thus, it was a good trip, seated in the last row.