We're heading into the Summer Travel Season, and travel this year likely will be even more ridiculous than usual. Gasoline will be more expensive, traffic will be heavier, roads will be messier. Tempers will flare and danger will lurk at every intersection. And that's just driving across town to pick up those spare suitcases from Mom.
In this country, we are given two choices for summer travel, driving or flying. The train is kind of a non-starter, which is a shame. I'm a train buff, and nowadays there seem to be two types of travelers on passenger trains: People like me, and people who thought they were train buffs but, having realized it isn't really like the movies, aren't so sure anymore.
Driving, of course, follows the great American tradition of loading the kids, the luggage and a cooler full of sandwiches into the Nine-Passenger Guzzler Deluxe and driving like a bat out of hell to Wyoming, Montana and any or all Dakotas. You take a few snapshots of the family in front of a Don't Feed The Bears sign and pile back into the car for the batout-of-hell drive home.
For many Americans, this is the way we remember the family vacations of our youth. It is also why we prefer to fly.
Not that flying is much of an improvement. Cramming yourself into an aluminum tube with the other cattle is a rotten way to get from Point A to Point B. Especially when your luggage goes to Point F.
Actually, I have tended to avoid air travel in recent years for two reasons: First, I really wasn't going anyplace I enough annoyance in my life.
I read recently that planes are fuller than they've been since World War II, when they were transporting troops. Not only that, but as passenger levels have reached all-time highs, airline workers are getting fewer. Let's do the math. More Passengers (up 100 million from 2002) times Fewer Workers (down 70,000 from 2002) plus Smaller Airplanes Filled To Capacity divided by Lines Stretching From The Security Checkpoint in Terminal A To The Magazine Stand In Terminal D, equals We'd Get There Faster If We Drove.
What's needed is a sensible airline. I thought it was going to be JetBlue, but after that airline's winter storm panic attack a few months ago, the one that led to 1,000 canceled flights, people sleeping in airports and peasants marching on the castle with torches and pitchforks, I've changed my mind.
My dream is to create Mike's Airline, Where The Skies Are Friendly As Long As You Mind Your P's And Q's.
And here are the rules:
1. No carry-on items bigger than a shoebox. We don't care who you are. We don't care what priceless collectible you are bringing home from your trip to Ocean City. We don't care what happened to your luggage last year. If it takes more space than a pair of Keds, you're not bringing it into the cabin. Period.
2. Sit down and behave like you have a brain in your head. Don't make us come back there. We'll bring the drinks around when it's safe and not a moment before. This is our airplane, not yours. And quit griping about the movie. This isn't the Kerasotes Airborne Multiplex.
3. We've all had to run from one gate to another to catch a connecting flight. You're not special. Complaining to the flight attendant will not make the plane go faster. Calm down. Eat your peanuts.
4. If you haven't bathed, you're not flying on our plane. If you are drenched in cologne, you're not flying on our plane. If you talk over the engines, you're not flying on our plane.
5. We're not trying to be difficult. We ARE trying to get you to see that this trip isn't all about you. It's about 300 people crammed into an airplane that actually maxes out at about 223. The only way this will work is if someone restores a little common sense to air travel. Since you apparently won't do it, and since the other airlines clearly won't, we will.
Follow the rules and Mike's Airline will treat you like a human being. Who knows? You might find this to be a refreshing change.
Too bad it's just a dream.
Redmond is an author, columnist and speaker, and a consultant on business writing and workplace issues. His column appears monthly. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.