by Len Indianer
Daytona Beach, Fla.
June 7, 2011
THE OTHER ANSWER TO GLOBAL TERRORISM
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- It's getting harder to fly these days. The TSA is groping its passengers, airlines are trying to gouge travelers with new charges, seats are getting smaller, and people are getting angrier. I used to travel quite a bit and while it was difficult 10 years ago, it has gotten a lot harder these days.
I flew out to Portland, Ore., this past week to visit family and see a part of the country I don't get to see that often. I always love coming out to Oregon. It's a different mindset out here. People are more dedicated to the environment, they have a public transportation system you only find in Europe, and there are more independent coffee shops than you can shake an organic non-fat stick at.
Oregon is the only state in the country where drivers are not allowed to pump their own gas. Rather, the gas station attendants have to do it for you. It's also one of the only states that allows medically assisted suicide for the terminally ill.
In other words, they don't trust you to pump your own gas, but they do trust you to kill yourself.
But flying isn't that difficult for most people. Pack lightly so you can get your stuff into a rolling carry-on bag and a backpack, wear slip-on shoes, and show up at the airport about an hour before your flight leaves. Don't carry metal, and all you have to do is make a decision between being groped by a large burly security agent, or have enough radiation shot through you to explode the candy bar in your pocket.
Even when they do all this, people are getting tired of being charged $25 to $50 just to transport a suitcase. They're tired of the cramped seats that don't fit, and the seat backs that jam into their knees. They're tired of being the only country in the world that makes passengers take off their shoes and their belt, the only country in the world that makes passengers choose between going through an x-ray machine that may or may not bombard you with deadly radiation and being felt up in such a way that all you can do is lie back and think of England.
Things have gotten so bad on airplanes that people are lashing out at the airlines, the flight crew, the TSA, and even each other. They're so frustrated and angry with the whole flying experience that people are experiencing what some psychologists are calling "air rage." It's just like road rage, but in their air. (Get it? Psychologists are so clever.)
Even on my way out to Oregon, people were getting angry with each other on the other end of the country. Passengers on a flight leaving Dulles Airport in Washington, headed for Ghana, had ringside seats to a fistfight between two other passengers when one leaned his seat back into the personal space of the other.
It's understandable. The seats are already so close to my knees that whenever someone leans back, their head is in my lap. I always ask them politely to lean up, since I don't want to spend the next several hours staring at the back of their head. So far I've never had anyone not do it, but I don't know what I would do if they didn't.
I do know I wouldn't slap anyone in the head for it. And I certainly wouldn't do anything that would cause a couple of Air Force F-16 fighter jets to be scrambled to respond to my actions.
But that's what happened on this flight. The pilot had to dump most of the plane's fuel in the ocean, because it would have been too heavy to land, and returned to Dulles so the two passengers could be taken into custody.
However, nothing happened to the two airborne pugilists. They weren't taken into custody, because the Dulles police didn't think the fight was serious enough to even press charges.
So while it may have meant some big serious trouble if your dad turned the car around and went home if you and your sibling were royal turds, the police won't do anything if it's a couple passengers getting into a slap fight because one can't respect the space of the other.
Of course, your dad never charged you a baggage fee to bring all your crap along either, so there are sometimes tradeoffs in these situations.