The Friendly Skies? Take 'em, Their Yours
For 14 years, from 1994 to 2008, I flew somewhere every ten days, if not more frequently. Between the five legal boards I served on that met quarterly or every four months, there were 17 trips (34 flights) a year to board meetings in cities around the country. Add to that the task forces I served on which met every other month in cities around the country, the six or eight criminal defense lectures I gave every year to out of state organizations, the blogger events I went to, in Amsterdam, NY, DC, Las Vegas and San Francisco. Even covering the Scooter Libby trial meant 3 weeks of going back and forth between Denver and D.C.
Add to that my out of town cases: In 2007, I added another 12 trips to the other 18, just going to Omaha and Telluride, where the courts were.
By the end of 2007, I was fried. The 2007-8 Iowa caucuses in late December, early January were the final straw. [More...]
Iowa was a great time with really good friends and fun people. But the cold was pure punishment. On the flight home, I began mulling things over and ended up making a little wager. I bet myself that I couldn’t go a year without flying.
I dropped off every legal board. 15 trips gone. I stopped lecturing. Five to Six trips gone. I stopped going to blogger events. I stopped taking out of town cases. And with 1 exception, I did it. When 2009 came around, I decided to see if I could do it again. I ended up taking two flights that year. In 2010, I was determined to hit perfection: Zero flights. And so far I’ve done it. I intend to repeat it in 2011.
The airport wastes a day of our time each way. Then there’s the money: It’s $50 to park at the airport, $50 in wasted money walking down the concourse, buying magazines, bottled water and lousy snacks; $50 for the incessant tips, from the taxi driver who takes you to the hotel to the guy who opens your taxi door when you alight and takes your luggage 10 yards from the curb to the reception desk, to the bellman who takes you to your room. And the ridiculous cost of room service or getting your clothes pressed or cleaned.
The packing time grew absurd. Who wants to decide on Thursday what what you will feel like wearing three days later?. The time spent figuring out what you might want to read and what books to bring. The shoes, the cosmetics. Even worse was the equipment: the laptop, the video recorder, the ipod and the phone, each one with a different charger and cord. Once you arrived, you had to unpack it all and set everything up. The hotel wireless is always slower. And then you have to pack it all up again for the return flight. And put it all away when you got home.
There was also the anxiety over whether you’d be on time for the flight, whether you’d get any overhead space, whether you’d get delayed and miss a connecting flight. And when you erred on the other side and got there too early, there was the boredom. And when you do finally get unpacked at home and and finish the laundry, you’re behind in all your home town projects and lose the next day playing catch-up.
Face it: Flying sucks. Traveling sucks. And the airline restrictions, while they may be the major stumbling block, aren’t the only ones.
Maybe it’s easy for me to say since I’ve been so many places: From China, Hong Kong, and Thailand, to Italy, France, Spain, Amsterdam, England, and Switzerland, most more than once. To Brazil and the Amazon, Tahiti and Bora Bora. I’ve been all over Canada, the Caribbean, Bermuda, Mexico, and every island of Hawaii – at least a dozen times. I’ve been to Las Vegas, New Orleans, San Francisco, Miami and New York -- probably 50 times.
No more. Now when I read the stories about harried air travelers and pat downs and searches, I just click my heels three times and say to no one in particular, “There’s no place like home.” Home has the desktop, the laptop, the big TV’s, the DVR, blueray, the guitar, the kindle and the iPad. It has a full closet of clothes, rather than just the clothes that will fit in an airline-approved size suitcase, and all the right food and libations right there in the kitchen. Life at home is a a zen- like experience. It’s peaceful and stressless.
Bottom line: There is no place else I want to go badly enough to suffer through the airport hassles, and before committing to fly anywhere, I think about all these problems and end up saying, “No.” Sooner or later I suppose I’ll have to go somewhere but I’m going to try to figure out how to go by private plane and avoid all the harried, coughing travelers with crying babies and those who after 20 years still can’t figure out what’s expected of them at the security lines, so they hold it up interminably. The friendly skies? Take ‘em, they’re all yours.
For me, from here out, it’s Denver and when I need to get away, Aspen, a beautiful, peaceful, 3 hour drive from home. What it all means: I’m happy to be in my own little cocoon where I get to make all the choices that affect me on my timetable and where the TSA has no jurisdiction to come a’knocking.
Life's too short to deal with the mess we have made of air travel in our misguided belief that treating passengers like cattle will somehow stop terrorism. Sorry, not in this lifetime. We're just making a mockery of ourselves. I can hear al Qaeda, across the world, laughing while sitting comfy on the floors of their rustic mountain hideouts, which they've turned into their own personal brand of a cocoon.
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