It takes a village

Perhaps it’s because I’m a non-parent, and/or because I’m the child of an immigrant mother so enthralled by her chosen home of Canada that she believed Canadians incapable of all ill, leaving her kids to fend for themselves on buses, subways, and trans-border flights to grandparents in the statistically more perilous 70s, but shouldn’t the narrative of the story about the little girl who walked off a Westjet flight with a helpful seatmate who delivered her to her parents be something more along the lines of “At Christmas time, a little girl makes a new friend on her first flight as an unaccompanied minor”?

I’ve talked to little UMs next to me on flights, helped them open the plastic containers holding their lunch, stopped them from kicking the seat in front of them, asked them where they were going, taken a look to make sure they were matched up with their relatives later. Should I not be doing these things? Under the constant, if not always close, gaze of a flight attendant, striking up conversation with a chatty child seems benign enough.

How did this became a front-page story, carried in several major papers? Did the father call the media? Or was it the good samaritan:

Mr. Cataford told local media that the flight crew ignored the child, so he helped Sara-Maude off the plane, packing up the girl’s toys and helping her into her coat.

Normally the little girl would have stayed on the plane while other passengers deplaned. So is it that the flight crew “ignored” her, or that the man was getting ready to get off the plane and thought she should be getting ready too? Cataford could have led the girl to a flight attendant, or pushed the call button to summon one, but instead he led her off the plane past the crew. That could only have been to prove a point, which makes his motives more suspect than anyone else’s.

Apparently the five-year-old was confused by the flight experience and:

During a stopover in Winnipeg she almost got off the plane, thinking she had arrived. Fortunately, a fellow passenger had asked her where she was going.

Doesn’t this show that society works? Five-year-old starts to follow the crowd, not yet at the jetway door, stranger passing by notices, speaks to child, probably alerts flight attendant.

Is it that these parents, and all of us, have such low expectations of our fellow citizens that we find any gestures of care for young, confused-looking children extraordinary, rather than part of normal human behaviour?

Westjet may have been negligent — I couldn’t say. But based on the story published in newspapers, full of the claims of “good samaritan” Caraford, neither can you.

And in the meantime, the sinister tone in a story about a five-year-old who successfully and safely made her way from A to B seems misplaced.