We were 3 hours into a 10 hour flight and everything seemed to be going well. We had been assisted at the airport, boarded the plane first and settled in our surprisingly spacious seats due to the last minute upgrade by the very helpful lady at the airport who had managed to find us seats together. The first lot of drinks had been brought round and then the meals. The lights were dimmed and window blinds pulled down, as everyone around us finished their food and people started to drift off to sleep or enjoy their inflight entertainment on the peaceful flight.
My son, 13, autistic and not a fan of flying due to hating crowds and all the sensory input, was sat, wearing his ear defenders, in the aisle seat watching his film and eating his dessert. I didn’t realise but he hadn’t finished his meal as he is a very slow eater and needs reminding to take every mouthful, however his dessert was ice cream and would melt if he left it so he was eating it before going back to his chicken.
The cabin crew worked their way quietly up the aisle so as not to disturb sleeping passengers, expertly and quickly clearing tables as they went. In one swift movement my sons dinner was whisked from the table in front of him, into the bin and up the aisle of the plane.
“F***ING B***H” “F**K” “I WANT MY “F***ING DINNER” My son exploded! His shouts were presumably heard by the first class passengers at the front, probably those in the toilet cubicles at the back of the plane and possibly even those on the ground below! Meltdown started. My son could not understand why on earth someone would take his dinner when he hadn’t finished it, when he was planning on eating it next. He wanted his chicken and at that moment so did I.
As I expertly caught objects about to be launched up the plane with one hand, and stopped my son from kicking the seat in front with the other, I quietly pleaded with him to calm down, which I know would never work. He was having a meltdown, he couldn’t help it. It wasn’t just the dinner situation, it was getting up early, staying in an unknown hotel the night before, having to go through security, be searched, wait for the plane and many other things that culminated in his dinner being the thing that tipped him over the edge.
I was all too aware that the old man in the middle of the plane, two rows in front had woken up. The poor man in the seat in front of my son was obviously aware that he was suddenly being kicked and almost had my cup of tea launched over his head. The couple next to us over the isle were now focussed in my son’s direction and not on their films and I, with all my strength, was trying to restrain my son in his seat to minimise the damage. In the midst of all this my sons coke ended up all over the place and I quickly threw my blanket on the mess, leaving it soaked.
My partner, whilst this was going on, had helpfully slipped off to the back of the plane and came back with a lovely flight attendant, who waited while we explained to my son he could have a new dinner and then placed a whole new dinner in front of him (including more ice cream in case his had now melted). She took my coke soaked blanket for me and my son started to calm down, apologising profusely as he always does when he doesn’t manage to control his reactions.
I was all too aware that we had disturbed all of the people around us, that none of them really knew what was going on. When they boarded the plane that day they could probably tell by the fact my 13 year old was wearing bright blue ear defenders, a sunflower lanyard and sucking his thumb with a taggie blanket, that something was different but they couldn’t have known he would have a melt down mid flight.
The man in front of my son patiently turned back on his film, the old man turned and gave me a reassuring smile and the man opposite handed me his blanket to replace mine. That simple act of kindness from a stranger brought tears to my eyes. It was more than a blanket. It was acceptance and understanding. It was a small and seemingly insignificant act that most people would not of noticed but at that moment, it meant so much to me. If by some miracle that man ever reads this post, I want him to know how much that meant to me and thank him from the bottom of my heart. I’d also like to thank United Airlines for their non judgemental service and help to us on that whole flight, and every other flight we have taken with them. I cannot fault their service.
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