On Air Travel

Dara Lind offers a great perspective here:

Travel crises do a lot to bring this [camaraderie] out, in a we’re-all-in-this-together sort of way. But at the same time, any obstacle or antagonism reinforces each passenger’s belief in the importance of his own narrative. Personal significance, professional significance, plain old urgency: all of these are invoked with an air of ruffled indignation and the conclusion that “This can’t be happening to me.” But arguing one’s way through the security line means putting one’s own narrative ahead of other passengers’, quite literally, and I’m uncomfortable with that.

The competition for personal relevance in the face of shared crisis is not a pretty sight, and the ready availability of the phone as a prop has not helped. When our flight from the west coast was rerouted and delayed last month, we worked to set an example for our own kids and remain out of the scrum. If all our encouragements and admonitions could be boiled down into a single lecture, it would probably read something like this:

Flying across the country is a spectacular privilege; it succeeds only by the sufferance of physics and weather and should never be taken for granted. Even though we have been traveling all day and are now jammed in the back seat of a stationary plane on a runway we never planned on seeing, and even though your mom is conspicuously pregnant with triplets, there is no reason we deserve more than anyone else to escape from Saginaw, Michigan and sleep in our own beds tonight.