Jewish World Review April 3, 2001 / 10 Nissan, 5761
Welcome home -- especially if you didn't go
THIS summer may turn out to be one of great
turbulence in the airline industry; the action by
Comair pilots last week is likely only the
Four major airlines are facing possible strikes:
United, American, Delta and Northwest. Those
four airlines carry two-thirds of the nation's passengers.
And on top of the strike threats, there have been predictions that air travel is
growing at such an unmanageable pace that -- even in the absence of labor
actions against the airlines -- the system, already bogged down and frustrating
to passengers facing long delays on a regular basis, will become considerably
Government agencies and consumer groups are working to come up with
plans to deal with all of this. But the real answer is a deceptively simple one,
and each person has the power to implement it:
That's right -- think twice before going anywhere. Back in the days of
President Eisenhower, every time his secretary of state would embark on a
journey to foreign shores, political protesters would show up at the airport
waving signs that said:
"Is This Trip Necessary?"
Not a bad slogan for the rest of us. Travel has become so easy (although,
paradoxically, it isn't truly easy at all -- it's easy to get a flight to just about
anywhere, but the experience of the trip itself. ....)
Anyway -- we have become indoctrinated to think that travel is so easy that
we are almost required to go somewhere. Non-stop motion is expected of
us; staying put seems un-American.
But why? Of all the business trips you have been on in the last 10 years, how
many -- when you look back -- were genuinely productive? How many of
them could just as easily have been handled by telephone, fax or e-mail?
Of all the alleged pleasure trips you have taken -- especially the hurried ones
that lasted only a few days -- how many have been worth the aggravation?
Or -- to rephrase it -- why do you think the first words out of your mouth
upon your return are a grateful, relieved: "It is so good to be home"?
Why do you think that air travel has become a joyless, cattle-in-a-funnel
ordeal? Because the airlines have done such a brilliant job making the public
believe that constant travel is the way life should be lived. If people chose to
stay home, the airports -- by definition -- would be much less crowded. If
people played a little more hard-to-get with the airline industry, then the
industry would not be able to take its travelers for granted. The airlines know
that you're going to travel whether they treat you decently or not. Traveling
has become like breathing or eating -- people feel they need to do it.
They don't. Every time I'm on the road, and I glance into conference rooms at
the hotels where I'm staying, I look at the men and women who have flown in
for business meetings, sitting around long tables, and ask myself if they, or
their bosses, in their hearts believe that it was worth all the expense and
motion. The constant business travelers are sometimes referred to in the travel
industry as "road warriors." That's another trick to make them keep moving
-- trying to persuade them to consider themselves as modern gladiators. The
warriors look weary; the warriors look dejected. They look like they don't
want to conquer anything; they look like they just want to go home.
In selling vacation trips, many travel agents say that "all airport-hotel transfers"
are included in the package price. "Transfers" -- that means herding the
vacationers between air terminal and hotel lobby. The very word is telling:
You're being moved like data or duffel bags. You're not on vacation; you're
in the pipeline.
If you really want to exhaust yourself, do this calculation:
Try to add up the hours you have spent in your lifetime packing and
unpacking your suitcases.
This is not to say that all, or even most, travel is ill-advised; some, of course,
is wonderful. But it's your money, and -- probably more important -- it's your
time. One travel option you should always keep in mind -- especially in these
days of maddening airport experiences -- is: Don't go.
Stay home. Exhale.
Ask yourself, every time: Is this trip necessary?
Of course, what do I know? I'm writing this from the
JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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