"Will you be taking the kids?" my childless friend asked.
"I will," I gulped. A 22-hour flight with little ones didn't sound ideal to me, either.
"Ew. No offense, but this is exactly why they should make planes that are children-free zones."
First of all, no offense taken on the idea of a few planes being set aside for folks who don't care to fly near kids, because — no offense — if my kid starts to cry from fatigue or ear pressure, I don't want to have to worry about someone with your disposition sitting near us anyway.
That said, I do think that perhaps the idea of having kid-free zones ought to be re-examined — you know, considering how we need children around for the survival of the species and all. Perhaps instead of banning children through kid-free zones, we reverse it with kid zones. In this version, we don't banish human spawn from view; we just move them to the side ever so slightly.
A kid-zone plane would be a plane that keeps the back rows open for kid seating. The airline might even hire entertainment, such as a magician pulling oxygen masks out of a top hat. Turbulence the Clown could spray the kids with water from his fake flower. The seats might even come equipped with treadmills so the kids could run off that energy while staying in their seats.
There is not a mom or dad in the world who would not be more than happy to grab a quick catnap while his or her kids joyfully watch "Caillou" on repeat while getting their faces painted. The kid-zone plane is the new "business in the front, party in the back."
In general, I think we could all benefit as a culture from having more kid zones. As parents, we experience the daily look of disdain from others when our child walks loudly or runs or, God forbid, cries in public. It's not fun to feel as if you're constantly having to monitor, constantly having to apologize. And here's something you non-parents may find shocking: It's not particularly fun for us, either, when our kids are not listening.
Trader Joe's has implemented a kids corner, where kids can color while their parents shop. This idea is genius and must spread to kid zones in all other facets of life.
There could be kid zones in banks, where a vaudeville actor could dress up like Mr. Banks from "Mary Poppins" and go around being exasperated by everything the children do. They'd find it hilarious. Also, your local actor would appreciate the work.
Perhaps a kid zone at work. Many companies are implementing day care centers at their locations, but those that aren't could still dedicate a corner of entertainment for those annoying "teacher planning days," when the kids have no school but you most certainly must be at work. It would add nice job security for that cute but oh-so-dumb receptionist, Bryan with a "y," if the kids loved to hang with him on those forced take-your-kids-to-work days.
In my ideal world, all forms of travel would include kid zones, not just planes. Trains and buses would also get in on the act. Travel with boredom-induced cranky kiddos is the worst. And why stop there? Hate the long holiday haul up the highway with your kid kicking the back of your seat? How about that sweet-looking drifter on the side of the road? If we push the agenda, kid-friendly hitchhikers might become a reasonable means of travel again in this country.
Actually, I take that last one back.
This isn't about handing off your children or about neglect; it's about support. The American do-it-all, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps, ain't-askin'-nobody-for-help, with-one-hand-tied-behind-your-back mentality is exhausting. I heard that in France, they give everyone a government-appointed nanny. (Note: I'm choosing not to do any research regarding whether all French parents receive nannies, because I need this dream.) Here, in a country that doesn't pay for child care or even guarantee maternity leave, a little corner in plain view of the parent — with some clean toys and a caring, responsible adult — would be amazing.
"Instead of creating kid-zone planes, have you considered making your trip to Australia a kid-free zone?" my friend asked.
Not for a moment. My kid-zone world is about inclusion — with a teensy bit of clown assistance.
Katiedid Langrock is author of the book "Stop Farting in the Pyramids," available at http://www.creators.com/books/stop-farting-in-the-pyramids. Like Katiedid Langrock on Facebook, at http://www.facebook.com/katiedidhumor. To find out more about her and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.