The problem: A woman and her 3-year-old daughter were my seatmates on an airline flight from Denver to Minneapolis. The mom picked cranberry juice for her daughter, who didn’t drink all of it. The flight attendant came to collect trash, holding the trash bag over my lap as the mom dropped in the cranberry juice. But some of the juice leaked out onto my lap and was absorbed into my pants. I tried calling out for napkins, but the flight attendant didn’t hear me. I turned to my seatmate and exclaimed, “You spilled on me!” She handed me her used napkin and said, “I’m sorry,” then didn’t say another word the entire flight. I was wet, sticky and mad.

Low road: When Mom is frantically try to get her little one to the bathroom, tell her, “I’m sorry, too, but I can’t move because my pant leg is stuck to the seat.” 

High road: I’m sorry this happened, especially since your options were limited by aisle-hogging drink carts and the absence of a blow dryer. But somebody had it worse. Flying is plain aggravating for most of us. But Mom’s stress level? Sky high. Getting a child through security, with her backpack and stroller, juice cup and favorite stuffed animal, then standing in a long line to board before locking said child into a tiny seat for hours. … I wouldn’t be surprised if she added a touch of Tylenol to that cranberry juice. It’s a pity the flight attendant didn’t notice the spill and quickly help you clean it up. While this was an accident, Mom could have softened the blow by offering to pay for cleaning, an offer I hope you would have graciously rejected. But she was embarrassed and you were mad, leading to an awkward and seemingly endless flight. The best route was to distract yourself with a book or a movie, or by the bigger picture, like the miracle of flight — and stain remover.

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