My Faults My Own

One's ponens is another's tollens.

Modest Proposals

edit: Long after the fact, this is probably the post that makes me cringe the most. I was young and callous and foolish then; please don't judge too harshly.

Rarely in my life do I get as violently angry as when forced to coexist with a crying child. (Context: some shortsighted sap brought his child onto this airplane, and now the small one feels a need to prove to the entire cabin that yes, his lungs are still operational.) I provide three modest proposals for addressing this inconvenience, on behalf of everyone involved. (That is, in the general case. The enjoyment of this plane ride may already be a lost cause.)


(1)

A thousand-dollar fine for the parent of any baby who begins crying on a flight.

Unreasonable? Not at all. I, for one, would pay $10 for this noise to stop right now; I'd probably pay more for it never to have happened in the first place. But let's take the conservative estimate of $10/person (judging by the pained looks around me, it appears that most people share my sentiment.) Assuming that the noise only pierces five rows forward and backward (conservatively), no fewer than ninety-eight passengers are losing $10 of utility on this flight because this man insisted on holding his offspring in a dark metal tube for fourteen hours. In total, this single child is creating $980 of badness in the world; would it be unreasonable to ask the man to offset the disutility?

But wait, perhaps that seems unfair? Well, I'd contend that it's unfair that one family inflict so much unpleasantness on a hundred neighbors. A single crying child on a flight is not unreasonable -- or at least, not unexpected -- but imagine that every passenger caused $10 of disutility for each person in a 15-foot radius. How bad would a flight have to be before you would pay $1000 to get off of it? That's how bad this flight would be if everyone acted as this man did. The great disparity in causing-suffering here begs for a disparity in remedying-suffering.


(2)

Separate infant-passage flights.

Basic understanding of the peak-end rule indicates that the second crying child is nowhere near as memorable as the first, and so the marginal badness is much, much less. And so, putting all of this week's potentially-crying infants on a single flight would free the rest of us from that particular pain, and add only negligible marginal disutility to the passengers of that flight. Now, of course there's an inconvenience on the passengers forced onto certain limited flights, but flying at all is a massive inconvenience for everyone, taking care of a child is a massive inconvenience for them, and the marginal inconvenience can't be that much greater than the great quantity of suffering averted.

(The softer version of this policy, of course, is separate infant-class seating at the rear of the aircraft. With luck, the piercing sound won't pierce very far forward, and the badness can be limited in location and scope.)


(3)

Baby-crying insurance.

I, for one, would purchase a policy that refunded me in snacks and beer (the latter is legal; this is an international China-bound flight) in the circumstance that a child begins crying. In fact, I'd probably pay $10 for less than an on-expectation $10 payout, just so that I could have a rush of dopamine to offset this sudden anger. Offsetting the badness of the peak-moment with goodness is, it seems, a more than worthwhile endeavor. And the peace of mind -- knowing that there would be someone there to apologize for crying-baby circumstances outside of anyone's control -- is, I think, worth the overhead of paying sometimes for no payout.

In any case, I think the idea of flight attendants breaking out drinks all around when the baby starts crying is a hilarious image, ceteris paribus. I have a soft spot for hilarious solutions to mundane problems.

And here, I bet you thought I was going to get around to suggesting cannibalism. Ha! That would be the obvious joke.

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