We are waiting for our Southwest Airlines flight to be called, B boarding passes in hand. As the flight manager calls for passengers with A passes, a family kerfuffle is unfolding in front of us. A mom and dad stand up to take their place in the A line but the son--an early 20-something--is immersed in his smart phone. The mom tries to prod him along. "Don't you want a window seat?" she asks. "It's time to get on line so you can get one." There is no move to stand up and join his parents. Eyes are on his device, thumbs are flying. The exasperated Mom harrumphs off with a parting shot: "Well, you're old enough to take care of yourself."
I lose track of the little drama. Paterfamilias and I are too immersed in managing our own travel--the roll aboard bags, the extra parcel of gifts for grandchildren, the sack with lunch sandwiches to eat on board. When the B's are called, we board and struggle down the airplane's narrow aisle with all our encumbrances. Spotting two seats together--a middle and an aisle--we pile luggage and winter coats into the overhead and I plop down in the middle seat. There at the window sits the 20-something from the pre-board family kerfuffle. He has managed on his own! And yes, he is still immersed in his device. I sneak a peak--is that Candy Crush on his screen? As I settle my belongings, I accidentally knock my elbow into his arm and apologize. He is impeccably courteous. No problem, he assures me. We have a mini-chat: I ask if he is flying home and he says no, on vacation, and returns the question. I get no surly lip; no leave-me-alone glare.
Oh it is so nice not to be the parents and live through this post-adolescent phase of growing pains:The pushing us away; the preference for the company of anyone or anything but us; the seeming sureness that they know more than we do.
I have this instinct (fortunately repressed) to locate his parents and assure them that when he's on his own, he can not only manage to get a seat he prefers, he can also be polite and pleasant--everything they undoubtedly hope he'll be but fear he's not. Having been there, lived through that, I want to tell them: this too will pass. But not quite yet.
With that, I rely on words often attributed to Mark Twain:
"When I was seventeen, I could scarcely endure my father, the old gentleman was so ignorant; at twenty-five I was astonished at the improvement he had made in the last eight years."