An airline flight is in my immediate future.
I’m already getting nervous.
Not about flying. About who might be on the plane with me. I hope I don’t wind up across the aisle from Cindy Torok.
Ms. Torok created a stir recently when Frontier Airlines refused to allow her to fly with her emotional support animal.
More on Torok’s critter later. First, a few words about emotional support animals. I’m all for allowing service animals to board planes and I’d even give up my seat for one if a blind or disabled person or wounded warrior needed the highly trained animal to maneuver life’s daily obstacles.
But who invented the whole concept of emotional support animals? We used to just call them pets and if we needed to go somewhere, they stayed with friends or spent a few days in a kennel.
Now people can’t leave home without them? Not to be insensitive but if someone is too emotionally fragile to fly without their favorite animal, maybe they should call Greyhound and ride the dog to their destination.
Emotional support animals may have their place – but it’s not roaming the aisles at 30,000 feet, especially if we’re in the same cabin.
Most airlines do not allow service animals to occupy seats “designed for passengers.” That means the critters either sit on their owners’ heads or in their laps or wallow in the aisle waiting to trip up flight attendants trying to pass out snacks.
The practice has led to problems, especially when people were allowed to board aircraft with emotional support animals that included small horses and even a peacock. Rabbits are common emotional support animals. Dogs and cats, too. But carriers have to draw the line somewhere.
Which brings us back to Cindy Torok. Both Torok and Frontier agreed that Ms. Torok had contacted Frontier ahead of time to inform them she would be flying with an emotional support animal. She neglected to inform them that her critter was on Frontier's no-fly list.
It’s not a seeing eye dog. It’s a squirrel. Jonathan Freed, director of corporate communications at Frontier Airlines, said, "Rodents, including squirrels, are not allowed on Frontier flights."
When Frontier refused to let the rodent fly, Ms. Torok flew into a rage. She notified the press. As soon as a camera-wielding crowd of news hawks gathered, Torok said that after being told to ditch the beast or leave the plane, she said, “You're not taking my squirrel. I refuse. You will not take my baby from me.”
I was concerned when Ms. Torok referred to the rodent as “my baby.” It got worse. After slamming Frontier, Torok said, "I was treated very poorly. I was called a liar by one of the stewardesses. I'm going for blood.”
Show me someone who says “I’m going for blood” because their favorite rodent can’t fly with them and I’ll show you somebody who doesn't need to be set loose in an airplane cabin.
If government is going to allow emotional support animals to fly, why can’t government create a new class of flights designed to accommodate any animal on earth? Then hire Noah to fly the plane.
I’m all for offering fearful flyers a free Gideon Bible and an extra serving of pretzels to get them through the journey, but why can’t my needs be considered, too?
If one of the passengers on my upcoming flight is a rodent-toting basket case I’ll be hoping another passenger has brought along an emotional support anaconda.
Alex McRae is the author of “There Ain’t No Gentle Cycle on the Washing Machine of Love.” He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org