Monday, March 03, 2008

No Country for Little Children -- Eve

I’m currently lounging in the beachy backyard of a rented house in the Yucatan of Mexico. This is my favorite place in the world. After college I even moved down here to “live off the land” and work with local doctors in a tiny Mayan village for a while. Yucatan is inhabited by the most gracious and generous people I’ve ever met. Smiles and waves spread cheery greetings everywhere I go and, for the most part, I’ve always felt safe here. In fact, I hitchhiked through the jungles back in the day without a single incident.

The other day, to my disgust, I entered the most unexpected and horrific of scenes…the flight arrival, customs, and immigration area of the Cancun Airport; basically a mosh pit of American tourists and spring-breakers. I cannot even articulate how frightening the situation was. The anger and spite and frustration levels definitely surpassed the red zone and hovered in the…I don’t know…whatever’s scarier than the red level. Maroon zone?

Apparently, the airport was understaffed (an understatement, if there ever was one) and a ton of flights arrived at the same time when they were supposed to be staggered. What ensued was beyond mayhem. We’re talking screaming, pushing, fistfights (no lie), and pretty much full-on rioting. I cannot count how many people were punched, how much hair was pulled, or how many kids were trampled during those 3 ½ hot, sweaty, hungry, tired, angry hours.

Normally, I’d expect this type of tantrum-throwing from exhausted toddlers. But the source of all the shouting, shoving, and thumping? Adults! Full grown, middle aged and older, adults! It was crazy watching well-off American travelers whining about the Federales doing their jobs (i.e. checking people in thoroughly in this post-9/11 world), and going ballistic over having to delay their sunbathing for another few hours. Those who felt above the velvet-roped, Disney-esque snaking lines tried to jump and cut and ended up paying dearly for it. I don’t know which was worse, watching those without consciences who refused to wait their turns pass me by, or watching people get pummeled by the haters of the haters of the rules.

I found it so interesting that the kids (babies and toddlers included) and teens in the mosh pit were perfectly calm, polite, and rule-abiding. Although we always talk about how cruel children can be to each other, I think it’s fair to say that heat, fatigue, and unrealistic expectations can bring out the worst in adults. Sometimes, children really can teach us a lot about patience, compassion and understanding. For proof, go watch how the kids ultimately treated each other on Kid Nation. Then compare how adults treat each other on Survivor.

It’s no wonder I write for children!

- Eve


seaheidi said...

What a great post, Eve! I've been through so many custom lines, but never that bad! It's such a pleasure to watch my son and his preschool class. They all treat others with such respect, they share, they listen to each other...I learn something new from him everyday.

Lisa Marnell said...

Eve, I have worked as an occupational therapist for ten years(I write on the side), and there have been times I am disgusted at the behavior of teachers. We preach to kids how to use their words, talk to each other... The teacher's room can be nastiest gossipiest (sure, that's a word) place - I haven't seen any pushing yet! In a way, what I've seen is worse.

Lisa Marnell

Yee-Lum said...

Well, being a kid (sorta) myself, I can't say really say anything, however much I'd like to. =]

But really, first graders. First graders are the most polite people I've ever met. Maybe it's just the first graders I know, but I don't know. What I do know is that at church, all the first graders are the ones who run up to me and say hi every time they see me, who say "Hi Ms. Yee-Lum" (that's what the Sunday school teachers tell them to call us old people) every time I walk in the room, who thank me everytime I do even the smallest thing for them. I've never seen them fight. Really, honest to God.

At my sister's school, they're exactly the same. Polite as can be. It makes us look bad. I think heat and airports just bring out something terrible in everybody.

Eve, your posts are always so thought-provoking. Love it. =]

P.S.: It might possibly just be airports in general. I was in Mexico this winter break and it was pretty much like Eve said. No fistfights, but cuss words galore, shoving, cutting in line (I thought only elementary school kids did that!), yelling at the attendants... My family was tetchy too, but we were more the lethargic, dull-eyed tetchy.

I am long-winded.

Disco Mermaids said...

I agree with you guys that preschoolers through first graders are the most polite and sweet of kids. I taught first grade and loved it for that reason.

And, yes, Lisa, the teachers' room is worse than the gossip-fests that the castaways have on Survivor.

Yee-Lum, you are so right...airports and traveling in general seem to bring out the worst in people!