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Stay Off That Plane

Tue, 04/20/2010 - 12:13pm
by David Mantey, Editor, Product Design & Development

To fly or not to fly is suddenly the question, and though I do enjoy the Shakespearean spin on the tragedy, let’s not get too loose with the definition of tragedy.

If anything, the airport crisis plays out more like a dark comedy than a tragic event. Labeling a week stranded in an airport a tragedy is like calling Piano Man the greatest song ever made. Sure, there’s an argument to be made, but it just isn’t true.

As a nation, we’re gripped by inconvenience. It helps that every news service is shooting video from international airports that looks like it came out of some upscale refugee camp. Can we take an honest look at the difference between an inconvenience with coverage rivaling the Haitian earthquake and a legitimate crisis? As crises go, we were due. Little else would provide such interesting photojournalism other than actual fire and brimstone.

I’ve read too many comment threads, iReports and forums with “thoughts and prayers” going out to those sleeping on cots in climate-controlled airports as they wait for the fog/ash to lift.

I read about $5,000 cab rides across Spain, three British warships chartered as ferries and an ongoing argument for mass transit high-speed rail to be installed under the oceans.

Calm down, dramatists. Take a seat on the tile and find someone willing to swap novels to keep you entertained – or you could just reread your copy of Bringing Down the House for the fifth time this week. It’s a quick read, but it lends itself to a more tangible drama than you’re currently blowing out of proportion.

Now I’m ready for it. Hit me with your tales of trials and tribulations. If possible, I’d prefer it in Alexander’s style as he told the great epic of the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

As a person who has spent many nights on airport floors and fought Big Air with futility, I understand your inconvenience. Blankets are sparse; the chairs are intentionally uncomfortable; and the looped closed-circuit television drives you clinically mad. Who knows, maybe you’re all a part of some reprogramming exercise? Are they piping Beethoven in over the speakers?

According to the AP’s Seth Borenstein, “To fly or not? There's no right answer about when it's safe to fly through a cloud of volcanic ash. But it'll be all too obvious if there's a wrong answer, experts say.

I’m not sure how you feel, but I would tend to listen to the experts on that one. I could park it for a few extra days to make sure that I’m not on the flight marginalized as the “lesson learned.”

The ash is primarily made up of sand and a glass-like abrasive material – would you even drive your car through that? It would burn me inside because I was missing Grandma’s turkey, but I’m pretty certain that I’d skip the holidays altogether if I had to plow through materials more common in glass-blowing with the ol’ Dodge Neon. If I took a chance on the road, total engine failure wouldn’t result in me plummeting from the sky. Worst-case scenario? I’m stuck in rural Wisconsin in the soot-covered setting of Dante’s Peak 2: Volcano Harder.

Canceled flights make everyone unhappy, especially the airlines that have lost billions since Eyjafjallajokull (fact to impress: EY-ya-fyat-lah-YOH-kuht) began puking into the sky. If they could, airline reps would be stuffing passengers into cargo bays and shipping them home — unless this is some mass conspiracy by the companies who preside over inter-airport goods and services.

The business-traveling public should brace for impact. Once the cloud clears, we’ll be charged $100 for the privilege to enter the TSA security line. We’ll pay $1,500 a bag and another $50 per milliliter of vodka that we’d like splashed into our tonic on a transatlantic flight.

According to my rudimentary risk analysis, wait for the all clear. Falling from the sky is painful. To fly or not to fly may be the question, but right now, it’s nobler for the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of this outrageous fortune than to take arms against a sea of troubles.   

Would you rather spend two weeks in an airport or risk flying in uncertain conditions? Answer the ultimate “would you rather” question by e-mailing me at david.mantey@advantagemedia.com.

* I hope you're listening Joshua and Zach; you will find a better time for your European adventures.

 

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