Family Practice: An ant’s lifeWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
As parents, we are constantly bombarded with guesses as to which escalating dire situation will prove to be the most destructive to our children’s future. Will it be rampant drug abuse? A killer virus or bacteria? Not enough employment? Not enough natural resources? Too much violence? Or, perhaps, too much undue stress from constant doom-and-gloom predictions?
My own best guess is that our children will, indeed, face any or all of the above. As far as I can tell, human beings have always had and likely will always have such challenge and adversity before them. Still, my biggest fear is not the emergence of a perfect storm or two. My biggest fear is that the next generation simply won’t have it in them to handle such extraordinary situations.
Last month’s preseason northeastern U.S. snowstorm produced one situation in particular that is still reverberating in my mind. The passengers and crew of JetBlue Flight 504 sat in their plane for nearly eight hours on a tarmac in Hartford, Conn., during the storm.
Although I know it wasn’t the first time such an event has occurred, the idea that such instances continue to happen completely boggles my mind.
I have read the pilot’s transcript, the news stories and even the agonizingly politicized, from-one-pole-to-the-other spectrum of comments left by my fellow readers. Never having been in that exact situation, I am willing to consider that there could be some logical reason why sitting on a plane without food, drink or bathroom facilities while within sight of an airport terminal for a third of a day somehow makes sense. Yet, while wading through the pool of opinions as to who is most at fault, from the airline to the airport to no one at all, I couldn’t help but keep coming back to the same nagging question: Why didn’t everyone just get off of the plane?
I am especially having trouble reconciling the more than 100 adults aboard Flight 504 with 5-year-old Ohioan Ameleah Kegley, who recently attempted to drive her family’s car on a search-and-rescue mission when she arrived home from school to find her mom MIA. I am obviously not in favor of putting 5-year-old drivers on the road, but at least Ameleah took it upon herself to problem solve and attempt a solution. What happens between 5 and 35 that allows us to stop taking matters into our own hands and instead start believing that there is an imaginary rope tied around them?
The Flight 504 incident and others of its kind remind me of the opening scene of Disney’s “A Bug’s Life.” A line of ants carrying food is suddenly stymied by a fallen leaf in its path and needs to wait for official redirection in order to move on. Are we those ants? Are we really incapable of forging a new path, even when it becomes obvious that those who are supposed to forge it for us are failing miserably? Are we teaching our children to be so helpless?
I am the kind of law-abiding citizen who makes a complete stop at all of the stop signs in my neighborhood, whether anyone is looking or not. Yet, I am also the kind of person who can’t stand the sight of humanity bound and gagged by red tape or any other self-imposed absurdities. Even those of us who make it our top priority to follow the rules need to also make it our utmost responsibility to bend the rules when those rules no longer make sense, changing them altogether if need be. There comes a time when you just have to get off of the plane (and that time isn’t eight hours later).
Still, I don’t want my children to think that the only place to employ a can-do attitude is as a passenger, ant or underdog. It is as important, if not more important, to adopt a taking-care-of-business stance when you are the airline, the airport, the air traffic controller or the pilot. We cannot continue to pretend that our designation as a company or organization somehow precludes us from being able to get a job done when the whole point of collective effort is to do a job more efficiently and more effectively. A hands-tied, not-my-job, I-wish-I-could-help-but-I-can’t nation simply cannot stand.
Columnist Shannon Szyperski and her husband Michael are raising three children in Sylvania. Email her at email@example.com.