Oliver: Maybe maturity was lost with luggage

When children act like children, it’s to be expected. Or at least it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Children, after all, are learning their way around the social graces of a supposedly genteel society. A slip-up here or there is understandable.

When adults act like children, well, that’s a different story.

Or what is becoming an all-too-familiar story.

Take, for instance, a couple of incidents that occurred over the past week or so on airline flights.

The first one involved a United Airlines flight that was scheduled to go from Newark, New Jersey, to Denver.

United Flight 1462 was diverted to O’Hare when a skirmish broke out.

What caused the kerfuffle? A reclining seat. Or, to be exact, a seat that could not be reclined.

Anyone who has ever taken an airline flight knows that space is at a premium, even more so these days as the airlines try to squeeze in as many seats as possible.

When the person in the seat in front leans back, the only place to go is into the lap of the person behind.

A full reclining position can be brutal on one’s knees, particularly for those among us who are tall. 

Enter one man’s solution: the Knee Defender, a pair of plastic devices that attach to the seat tray to prevent the person in front from reclining the seat. It retails for about $22 and comes with instructions to be polite when using it.

On the United flight in question, that part seems to have been skipped.

According to published reports, a 48-year-old man used the Knee Defender to give himself some room and the 48-year-old woman in front of him didn’t like it.

When he was asked to remove the device, he refused and so she threw water in his face.

Both were escorted off the flight, but not after causing hours of delays for everyone else on the plane. Surprisingly, neither was charged.

How adult of them both.

Then, just a few days later, an American Airlines flight traveling from Miami to Paris was diverted to Boston’s Logan International Airport after a man became irate after a woman in front of him reclined her seat onto his knees.

According to published reports, the man had to be subdued by a federal air marshal. This time, the man was taken off the plane and charged with interfering with a flight crew.

Here’s the thing: We’re all under a lot of stress these days.

We’re often forced to deal with a loss of control and personal space. 

We’re often asked to exhibit a lot more self-control and patience. (Try driving from point A to point B anywhere in McHenry County during construction season to see what I mean.)

Frustration is bound to happen. We’ve all been there.

However, most of us are adults and we have to remember to act like it.

Otherwise, we all might lose even more privileges and be sent to our rooms.

Then again, maybe a timeout might help.

• Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at

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