Flying over I-40 N. With Lav #1.


I just didn’t know. Or perhaps I didn’t care to know. Or maybe it’s just not possible to know. How could you possibly know?

And then there’s a moment or two, when you cross that line, from passively aware or passively engaged to actually feeling. And perhaps you only feel when the suffering is so high, yours or others, that only just then do you begin to give-a-sh*t.

I’m seated in an exit row on an Airbus A3215, 1 seat back and across from the airplane lavatory: ~40” long x 34” wide x 75″ inches tall. Inches.

A Mother walks down the aisle. She grabs the back of one seat, and then the next, and the next, to keep her balance. The plane tips left and right in soft turbulence. She makes her way down the aisle.

There are two hands gripping the tops of her shoulders. She’s slight, maybe 5’2”, and stooped under the weight of the hands. The hands are owned by a strapping 14-year old who towers over her. Mildly handicapped?

She enters the restroom first, her Son doesn’t let go. She lifts one hand off her shoulder and turns to him. She slides her arms under his arms and begins to tug him in. Won’t fit. Not possible. Two full size humans in 40 x 34 x 75.

There’s silence, five minutes or so, which is interrupted by a toilet flush. She exits, pulling him out with her arms under his. She strains to extract him from the box, her face red, filled with rage.

She extracts him and pauses to catch her breath. Her Son claws after her shoulders to grab on as the plane tips. They head back up the aisle. She settles him in.

She comes hurrying back down the aisle.  And into the Lav.

It’s quiet again, now for 5-7 minutes. Then a toilet flush.

She exits. Her right hand dries her eyes, now red and swollen. She catches my glance, offers a forced smile, turns, and heads back to her seat.

You just don’t know. No chance. Not close.



  1. Relax... says:

    😦 and, Ow. Not a clue, for most of the day(s). Weeks. Months.. not until I hung out with someone with CP did I ever notice where there wasn’t a wheelchair ramp — or a real sidewalk. I seemed to forget it too quickly, so I went into LNA work. And then, a few years later, I seem to forget it too quickly.. Until a friend brings her profoundly retarded, larger brother to Mass. It could go any whichway. And has. May God bless the bathroom cry-ers more than we know how to ask.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You never know! I really like the first paragraph…the story could have gone many ways. 🙂 Safe Flying!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We should count our blessings when we see the troubles some other people have.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Indeed, not a clue…what people live through daily, the losses they carry in their shoulder blades, their successes that somehow are muted by sorrow. But you will remember this, and therein we begin to get an inkling.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. chills reading this. and hugs and understanding to them.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. These sorts of experiences always bring me up short. A friend of mine has two severely handicapped children…two…. Her husband works full-time and she gave up her career to care for their children–full-time. She does it with grace and skill and more strength than I think I could ever summon.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Beautiful reminder not only to be grateful, but to be compassionate with one another. 🙏🏻

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you David for allowing us into the place of deep compassion. All deserve our extended heart reach. I remember when a dear friend said about my mother’s death, “at least she didn’t suffer.” Our Akido Sensei said to her, no one leaves this life without suffering. Stopped short. Yes, my mother was a beautiful, gracious lady, but good god, her mother landed in a sanatarium with diphtheria, when my mother was only 9–and never saw her again (died when my mother was 12)–the step father grew sick and died within a year. And, life goes on…. Sorry if I go on too long–you elicit so much with such vignettes!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have no words! Yes, we have no clue.
    And, the way you wrote this, I read it twice and I keep feeling like the boys hands are on my shoulders, I’m stuffed in the lavatory with him, then alone. It doesn’t read like you, it reads like her ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  10. You. Just. Don’t. Know.
    But you… you notice, you care. You share. And sometimes, that is enough for those who do….

    Liked by 1 person

  11. thanks for putting such a scene into words, and making us realize the importance of empathy

    Liked by 1 person

  12. We swaddle ourselves in our own dramas. It keeps us separate. To open, as you did, reminds us that we are all the same. We need those reminders now.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Your words are so moving David. The waking up to an others suffering and facing our preemptive judgments is a powerful share. Empathy and love. The message for us all. 💛

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Perpetua says:

    On a different plane, I heard that the washrooms have been compromised and made smaller for more seats. $$$$$

    Liked by 1 person

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