I was just looking for a little more space. And yeah, a quick exit would have been nice, too.
“Ma’am, you can’t sit in the emergency exit row with a child,” the flight attendant informed me. With my arms full of wriggling infant, coats and snacks, I headed back toward a cramped window seat. I wasn’t sure which felt worse: being called “ma’am,” or being denied the luxury of the exit row for the next dozen years.
As I settled myself and Talon in for the short flight from Portland to Missoula, I glared at the back of the business-suited dude who slipped into the emergency row after me, glued to his iPhone and clueless about what was going on around him. I would definitively be more effective at opening the door and pulling the ripcord on that inflatable slide than he would.
It doesn’t really make sense, when you think about it. Aren’t mothers of small children exactly who you would want opening doors in case of disaster? I guarantee that mothers of helpless infants will have the exits ready for immediate departure in record time. Instinct kicks in, and we will kick down doors, take out predators, and protect our offspring at all costs. The other passengers on the plane would greatly benefit from this mama-bear instinct, meaning they should actually pay mothers to sit in the emergency exit row.
You with me?
To be fair, my snit on the airplane was a bit more existential than simply wanting more legroom. As I breathed through the claustrophobia of sitting with a hot baby in a tight corner, I was also breathing through the claustrophobia of feeling like I wouldn’t have any quick exits to anywhere—emergency or otherwise—for the next several years.
No more spur-of-the-moment road trips or impromptu jaunts to Mexico. No last-minute bike rides, ski trips, or parties. Goodbye to simply walking out the front door when life gets overwhelming. The full weight of motherhood settled around my shoulders, leaving me slightly angry, extra sweaty, and mostly petrified.
But then Talon giggled, and the urge to flee subsided like mist under the sun (at least until he started screaming inexplicably during the last ten minutes of the flight).
The point? It’s normal to feel trapped in an airline seat. And to want to flee when confronted by a massive life change. Most of the time, though, my visions of quick escapes include taking my baby with me to beaches, mountains, or even parties.
It’d just be a lot more fun to bring him along on those escapes if they paid us to sit in the emergency exit row.