On Flying

Flying is a pain in the ass.  I remember the days when flying was a tolerable part of any trip, a mere nuisance that allowed you time to plan what you were going to do at your destination, daydream about your vacation, or down time to read, play games or sleep.

Nowadays?  Flying is about mental toughness and perseverance, on par with any long day at work or trying workout.  A confluence of factors have made getting ready to fly akin to getting ready for battle.  The seats are tighter and more cramped. Airlines have basically colluded to drive costs up, and have started charging for simple things like checked baggage and even (it is rumored) toilet use.  People are generally crankier and fatter, which, combined with the reduced leg room and tightening seat width, produces even crankier, seemingly fatter people.  Security is at an all-time ridiculousness.  You can take a full 3oz. toothpaste tube on to the plane, but not a 5oz. toothpaste tube with 1oz. of toothpaste in it.  Some slip through with knives, while others are detained for belt buckles in the shape of firearms.   It’s enough to make you want to cry. Of course if you do that, you might get arrested for your crazy behavior and dragged into the back room with “homeland security”.

Take the red eye I just got off of this morning.  LAX – JAX via ATL.  The flight from LAX to ATL was a nightmare, a red-eye flight on an old 747 next to 2 huge fat guys, one who wouldn’t stop sneezing, and the other who wouldn’t stop moving.  I had the aisle seat, so I only had to sit next to the guy who wouldn’t stop moving but he was putting off so much friggin’ heat that I literally sweat the entire flight.  4 hours of sweat and fidgets.  While trying to sleep, in a tiny seat, in business clothes.  For 4 hours.  And after leaving my fidgety furnace of a friend on that plane, I was thankfully put on a plane to JAX with a middle seat open next to me.  Perfect opportunity to sleep, right?  Nope.  There were approximately 35 families and what must have been 2000 babies on board, all angry about their ears popping.  I assume they were angry, because they were angrily wailing away all flight, such that their combined wailing created some kind of lethal harmonic that turned my brain to mush.  When I finally disembarked, I picked up my rental car, and went straight into an 10 hour day of work.  Whoopee!

How did we get here?  How did flying go from a mode of transportation to a mode of torture? Why are we made to pay for every idiot terrorist who fails to do what he sets out to do, while countermeasures that would actually make us safer (screening outside the airport, perhaps?) isn’t put into place?  All I can say is that I miss the ease of travel in Japan.  I understand it’s a completely inapt comparison, one that is not applicable to the US … except when you realize that it is totally doable regionally.  To get from LA to San Francisco, I have to take 2 buses and a train.  And that just gets me to San Jose.  Why?  The land between Northern and Southern CA is mostly farm land.  You’re telling me that you couldn’t find a thin strip of land to build a rail on?  You’re telling me that the cost wouldn’t be recouped quickly by the fares of the thousands of passengers that make that trip on a daily, weekly, bi monthly, monthly basis?  BART seems to work pretty well for San Francisco.  Why not extend the idea to the rest of the state?

How does this help my LAX to JAX situation?  Well, if there are enough regional tracks, it’s not a stretch to be able to string those together.  Would it be more convenient to take the train?  Hell no.  But it would likely be more economical to do so, meaning that families travelling to Disney World, and giant, fidgety fat-asses who listen to their music really loud on red-eye flights might be more inclined to take the train, leaving business passengers to their flights.  And their sleep.  Goddamn, I’m cranky right now.

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