Recently, some business and personal trips prompted me to fly back and forth across the continent several times. Nothing makes a better case for staying home — forever — than traveling in the 21st century.
On the positive side, I finally understand what famous French smart guy Jean-Paul Sartre meant by the immortal line “Hell is other people.”
Curiously, Sartre wrote this in 1943, long before the 2001 founding of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the advent of “secure” modern air travel. More on the TSA — aka “Thousands Standing Around” — momentarily. First, however, we need to discuss how awful some of you are at basic geometry.
Current travel restrictions dictate that the maximum size for a carry-on suitcase is 9 inches by 14 inches by 22 inches. Imagine a rectangle of such proportions. Because a jetliner’s overhead bin is made to accommodate bags up to that size, one cannot fit a larger bag into this space.
Among the things that won’t fit into an overhead bin: A Louis Vuitton steamer trunk, a German Shepherd, Louis Vuitton himself or a child over the age of, say, 4.
Trust me, this last point is galling, because I have contemplated stuffing many a wailing child into an airplane’s storage compartment.
As modern airlines have discovered they can screw travelers by charging extra for “luxuries” like seats and baggage, many of you seem determined to get your money’s worth by bringing all your worldly possessions on your trip.
Don’t do this. You may notice other passengers laughing at you or giving you dirty looks. You’re not wrong. We do hate you.
Other objects worthy of scorn include: Travelers who fly in their pajamas, people who tote fake “emotional support animals” and the appalling lack of signage at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Anyone who has ever tried to figure out which side of Terminal Four they’ve parked on knows exactly what I’m talking about.
Then there’s the TSA.
I get that there are evil people in the world who want nothing more than to bring down another airliner. Thus, security is paramount.
Even so, federal security personnel would do well to remember a valuable insight: No one remembers what you say. They remember how you made them feel. Between the arbitrary nature of many TSA rules — that Dixie cup of water must be confiscated — and the sneering tone of some of these blue-clad Napoleon complex victims, I’m often left feeling like I would gladly trade a little bit of safety for common sense and common courtesy.
Still, I can’t imagine doing that job. Not after witnessing a grown man, told to completely empty his pockets, wonder aloud why a few dimes and nickels “counted.”
His explanation: “Oh, I didn’t know coins were metal.”
Common airport scenes like this remind me that many of our fellow travelers suck at life. Told to remove from their baggage every electronic device larger than a cellphone, they ask if that includes their cellphone.
Seated in seat 29D, they stow their carry-on 24 rows away, then sprint up the aisle like Usain Bolt even before the plane comes to a full stop upon landing. They ooze over the armrest between seats, leave the airplane restroom like a Superfund site and — yes, I recently saw this — clip their fingernails mid-flight.
In 1903, a scant 116 years ago, Wilbur and Orville Wright risked their lives to fly the first heavier-than-air, controlled airplane. That day, Wilbur reportedly flew 852 feet in 59 seconds.
Today, that same flight would involve a full-body pat-down, a $12 cheese plate and a $50 upcharge for Wilbur’s second suitcase. Such is progress.