July 10, 2020

More Thoughts While Up in the Air

Rehoboth Ramblings


“How guilty should you feel about flying?” This was the headline on an article in the online New York Times recently. My first reaction to this was “Here I am crammed in coach like a sardine with barely enough room to move and I’m supposed to feel guilty?” Well, like so many headlines you see when reading online articles, this question was pretty much click-bait.

Further down in the article, it said that this survey wasn’t aimed the average person who flies just a few times a year for vacation and/or to see family far away, but was aimed at the 12% of “excessive flyers” who take two-thirds of all flights. I also recall reading a story about some ultra-wealthy woman who sent the pilot of her private plane back to pick up her phone, which she had forgotten. How true this story is I can’t say, but it’s always fun to sneer at the excesses of those with private planes. Also, the Times article went on to say that 53% of Americans never fly at all so that reduces airline emissions for the country as a whole.

This worry about airplane emissions gives those who hate to fly or are afraid to fly a good excuse not to. Instead of admitting that you are afraid of flying, you could say you were concerned about helping the planet. So now we are getting two conflicting messages. One is, in the words of travel guru Rick Steves, “Keep on traveling”. The other voice is saying “Not so fast.” I’m sure the airlines want you to take Rick’s advice. Certainly for all its ups and downs (pardon the pun) airline travel has made life a great deal more fun and interesting for many.

But as an anxious traveler myself, I would never make fun of those who don’t like to fly or even travel. I think that adventurous types just don’t realize how stressful travel can be for some people. Over the years, I’ve known people who were world travelers and I’ve known others who don’t travel at all. I’m somewhere in the middle; for me, London qualifies as adventure travel. I do love to hear about and read about others’ more exotic journeys. I would also encourage all the non-travelers out there to take as many day trips as possible anyway. It’s such a nice break to get away for the day.

For all my pre-trip anxiety, once I’m on a plane and actually going somewhere (preferably on not too long a flight and with decent weather) I’m fine. The thought of getting stuck in an airport or (God forbid) on a plane stuck on the tarmac is what gives me the willies.

When flying, I love to look at the sights below when you can see them. On a recent trip, switching planes in DC, we flew right over Mt. Vernon on the Potomac and then got a good look at the city’s famous buildings too. It is only extremely recently in human history that people have had the opportunity to see such views from above. Might as well take advantage of it.

Speaking of history, it’s said that when Lewis and Clark finally reappeared after their truly amazing journey to the Pacific and back, Thomas Jefferson was so astounded by the vast size of the country that he thought it would take 20 generations to explore it all. Of course, he died before the coming of the railroads, much less air travel, so he could not know that it would be more like a matter of three or four generations.

On a recent business trip, my daughter called from Nashville around dinner time to say she was on her way home, then flew on to Chicago to switch planes at Midway, and got back to Green Airport a little after midnight. So? What is remarkable about this is the fact that we don’t find this remarkable at all. It’s routine.

But imagine giving this itinerary to someone in Jefferson’s time and see how they would react. Or to tell Lewis and Clark or the pioneers heading west on the Oregon Trail a few decades later that one day you would be able to fly across the entire country in six hours or so.

Or as Thanksgiving approaches, think about telling the poor long-suffering Pilgrims that one day people would be flying across the Atlantic Ocean in a matter of hours. It’s something to ponder the next time you’re stuck in an airport somewhere.


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