Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Naked Came the Danger

Anne Morrow Lindbergh once said that “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” I think she would be disappointed to see how the daring adventure of air travel that her husband pioneered has petered out to… well, er, meh. There is little to say on behalf of flying these days except that it can get you from point A to point B faster—at least if A and B are on opposite sides of the country or the ocean. How did a mode of travel associated with the far-flung adventures of Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart become so mundane and neurotic?

Well, admittedly, the world has changed a bit since The Spirit of St. Louis crossed the Atlantic. It has gotten both more treacherous and more boring. First, the boring part: The most annoying events in airports used to be Hare Krishna followers asking for hand outs. No more. Now it's all about waiting. Waiting in lines for baggage checks. Waiting in line for security procedures. Waiting in line for boarding. If you're lucky, you've got a child in a stroller or friend in a wheelchair. They always get first dibs when passengers file on board.

And the treacherous part? Threatening objects like shampoo, nail files and mouthwash can be confiscated at will from your carry-on bag, condemning you to greasy hair, jagged nails and foul breath at your final destination. And the latest humiliation for weary travelers? Being compelled to stand in a scanner so some TSA pervert can look at you naked for fear you may be holding something dangerous between your legs. Gentlemen, make whatever comments you wish at this point.

Once you finally get on the plane and squeeze into your airline seatdamp and filled with crumbs from a child on the previous flightyou ignore a monotone pep talk on how to use oxygen masks or flotation devices should something unspeakably horrible occur. Right. Let’s be honest. If cabin pressure were lost or the plane began an unscheduled downward event, no amount of preparation would keep most passengers from screaming and beating their seat mates senseless with their dismembered armrests. Face it; most airplanes in distress do not land neatly in the Hudson River.

Yes. Flying is dangerous—not just because a several-ton vehicle is hurtling unnaturally at 500 miles an hour 30,000 or so feet above the Earth. A recent article cited aircraft bathrooms as one of the most disease-ridden places you could possibly find yourself. The passenger compartment serves as a dating service for you and recycling airborne pathogens. And strange people try to set their shoes or crotches on fire because they hate you and me. Or perhaps it is an act of suicide because they just found out that their tea or coffee is being made from recycled water out of the plane’s lavatory filtration tank.

When the plane finally hits the runway for a landing, your kidneys dance like bobble heads and the brakes screech like your captive soul. Your silver limo queues behind a line of aircraft that will take a good 20 minutes or more to find their final resting places. Eventually, you stagger off the plane with the gait of a numb-footed zombie. Then comes the final insult: you wait by the luggage carousel so you can watch dozens of suitcases that are NOT YOURS bang onto the conveyor belt and taunt you.

No more adventure. No standing akimbo with scarves blowing in the wind. Airplanes have been reduced to rancid sardine cans with wings. If you need to travel long distances, the wild blue yonder offers time-saving inconvenience. For shorter treks, you are better off taking a train or slapping on a backpack and skipping giddily down the road with your thumb in the air.


  1. Well I'm sure the entire passenger list on my Delta flight breathed a huge sigh of relief after my "Taste of St. Augustine" Orange BBQ sauce was confiscated.I was looking foward to that grilled chicken....Dammit!

  2. You're a dangerous woman, Joy. At our age, that's a good thing.