Friday, July 13, 2007

Monster stalks the unfriendly skies

Somewhere in the bowels of the U.S. Department for Homeland Security, a mad scientist is laughing maniacally as his creation rises from its slab. Its boots clump-clump across the floor and it roars its displeasure at the lightning bolt called September 11 that breathed life into its dead body. Small children flee from its withering glare. Women scream and men tremble with fear. The monster sees, and is satisfied.

Dr. Frankenstein is alive and well, and his monster is terrorizing airline passengers everywhere. Only the monster that the Frankensteins in government created isn't wearing its signature black t-shirt and suit coat: she's wearing a flight attendant's uniform.

Since Congress passed new laws making it a crime to interfere with a flight crew, stories just keep cropping up about grouchy flight attendants who have decided that annoying passengers are a threat to national security. More and more, the targets of the flight attendants seem to be children. A three year old and her family were kicked off an AirTran flight in South Florida earlier this year. Last year, a woman was removed from her flight for breast-feeding her infant. In 2003, a Northwest Airlines flight attendant finally pleaded guilty to assault after spiking the drink of an unruly 19-month-old with a prescription depressant.

Last week, an Express Jet Airlines flight attendant kicked Kate Penland and her 19-month-old son Garren off a plane in Houston, telling the pilot that the mother threatened her. The mother and other passengers say there was no threat; the flight attendant was simply annoyed because the child kept talking while she did her pre-flight safety instructions. After Penland refused to use "baby Benadryl" to quiet the child, the flight attendant invented the threat and had the pilot return to the gate to eject the mother and her son.

Sara Nelson, a spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants, was interviewed about the situation on CNN Friday morning, but apparently failed to grasp the concept that this was a child. Nelson rambled on about the government's failure to provide security training to flight attendants, who she described as our "first line of defense" against terrorism.

Personally, I think Nelson is being unfair to the U.S. government. Our nation's flight attendants are doing a bang-up job at defending us, and we should be proud of their successes. Thanks to the billions of tax dollars spent and the coordinated efforts of brave stewardi like those mentioned above, we have absolutely nothing to fear from babies.

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