Monday, November 22, 2010

"flying is not a right"

yesterday through mostly my own fault (although I think continental airlines ought to own up to its part by closing its doors earlier than advertised, stranding 3 of us) I missed my connecting flight between cleveland and bradford, and so I sat for 4 hours at the terminal, contemplating. well, in between naps. my own experience in passing through security did not involve either a bodyscan or patdown, so I can't speak to the potential humiliation of either; but what I ended up thinking about was the inefficiency and inconvenience of airplane travel.

it seems that requiring people to go through bottlenecks in order to make their way to gates where they can sit for hours in drafty areas where the only entertainment is fox news on the televisions and christmas songs on the public address system is not either the most relaxing nor the most sanguine of ways to have people relax. I watched many, many people get more and more upset and less inclined to let one another be during my own attempts at keeping my blood pressure low enough to drop off (which honestly isn't very hard; it's the rare place I can't fall asleep). I haven't a clue what the answer might be, I am only convinced that the current solution isn't the right one.

on the other hand, as tsa chief john pistole points out, flying is a privilege and not a right. and it is this truth that makes me wonder if, when it comes to airplane travel, we have been too anxious to make it as pleasant an experience as possible. it's expensive and in some cases almost mandatory for something we want to do: but with very few exceptions, it's not the only option available. more importantly, perhaps we ought not to make it a pleasant experience. while I've always lived my life under the motto that the journey is the goal, I've never believed that the journey had to be comfortable. indeed, I've often lived it as quite the opposite.

perhaps we ought to allow the casual flying experience to die the same deaths as the transcontinental train trip and state-to-state greyhound trip. that is, only the people who most need them use them, and the rest of us simply stay at home (or, god help us, drive, bike, or even walk).

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