When I was a little kid, air travel was awesome. Not that I'd know, because I was about 20 years old before I stepped foot on a commercial airplane. What I mean is that air travel was a luxury. Only rich or important people traveled by airplane. My father would go on business trips on airplanes. Even going to our small community airport to see him off all the time never dulled my enthusiasm for air travel. My aunt was a stewardess for TWA and flew all over the world. She had exciting stories about meeting famous people and spending evenings in casinos in Morocco and dancing in Paris. Culturally, stewardesses were held in high esteem--along the lines of a fashion model. They were usually single, worldly, gorgeous, and sought after as the ultimate woman that men wanted to date. There was something very Hollywood about air travel. Something "That Girl". Something very Mary Tyler Moore. Everything that a kid stuck in Nowheresville, KY, wanted to be when they grew up.
I don't know if air travel changed before I managed to get on one of those big birds or if the reality was just always something so very different than my mental picture of the thing, but what amazed me from the very beginning about air travel was this: it struck me immediately as being nothing more than a Greyhound bus with wings. I won't lie and say there isn't a difference in the clientele on an air flight and a Greyhound bus, but the accommodations aren't all that different. Same crappy upholstered chairs. Same awful smells. Same mediocre level of customer service. Being a stewardess wasn't exactly the glamorous job I envisioned. They were older than I thought they'd be. They were usually crabby. They were basically flying waitresses. That is, until the airlines stopped serving food.
In any event, my bubble of "luxury travel" burst, I began to see air travel for what it was. A convenient time saver. Since then, my decision to travel by air has been influenced by the following criteria:
1) Who is paying for the ticket? My employer or myself?
2) How much will it cost me?
3) How important is it that I get there and back in a timely manner?
4) Is there alterative transportation that can meet my needs more cheaply?
Since 9/11, the glamour of air travel is gone. My opinion of air travel has changed drastically, and not because I am afraid of terrorism. I am not. Perhaps I should be, but I don't feel any safer for all the security measures that have been implemented, nor do I feel that terrorism on my flight from Po-Dunk Town to Po-Dunk Town is of any interest to the world's terrorism cells. For me, the benefits of air travel (convenience, time savings) have been outweighed by the drawbacks (exponentially increasing cost and invasions of privacy). I now have to get to the airport (which is already an hour and a half from my home) two hours before my flight. Takes about a half hour to park your car, wait on a shuttle, and get to the security check-in. I've got a 4-hour time suck before I've stepped foot on an airplane. Add to that the time wasted post trip (half hour to collect luggage, half hour to get from airport to car and then pay for parking and drive the 1.5 hours home), I've got 6.5 hours invested in non-air travel travel time. Suddenly air travel doesn't seem like quite the time-saving convenience it did before.
But air travel comes with an added drawback. Security. I sort of shrugged and accepted it when they started riffling through my luggage. For the common good, I have shut up and walked through the metal detector. I rolled my eyes and complied when they said I couldn't bring anything to drink on the flight, couldn't have shampoo, couldn't have nail clippers, couldn't have a small 1" pen knife for cleaning my nails and digging splinters out of my hands. I accepted all this. An inconvenience since I usually carry most of this stuff day in and day out in my backpack.
But now....NOW....they want to do full body scans of my person that allow airport security personnel to see my naked body, naughty bits and all, as a requirement to fly on an airplane.
Hell to the no, people! It's not that I'm overly prudish. It's not that I'm ashamed of my body. It is that they have no right.
Listen, airport security gurus. I appreciate your desire to keep Americans safe. I understand that this may deter terrorists, although it probably won't catch those who are hell bent on destruction. But I am not willing to let you demand an electronic strip search just to get on your fucking airplane. I've seen the quality of your employees. I don't think they could find their own assholes with a road map and a flashlight. I'm not sure these are the people I want viewing naked pictures of me on the x-ray scanner. It's not even the principle of the thing (although maybe it actually is), you just have no right. I'm not going to let you probe my vagina or anus for bomb materials either. Your stupid airplane flight just ain't worth it.
We have surrendered a lot in our quest for public safety. Kids can no longer bring peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to school. Smokers can only smoke in their own houses and have to listen to children wag their fingers at them in public places. (By the way, parents? Please teach your kids not to do that. It's insufferable. I had a kid admonish me once for taking pictures in my own yard because she was somewhere in the background in the park. Like taking pictures of my yard projects for my blog now makes me some sort of weirdo.) We are a culture that places ultimate emphasis on individual comfort, yet caters to the lowest common denominator. For me, the reality of air travel has always been a disappointment. But in the end, air travel is still a luxury. It is simply not luxurious enough, glamorous enough or convenient enough to overcome what they have done to it. I'd rather take my chances with the indigent, the newly released from prison, and the too poor to consider air travel on the bus or the train. Or I'd rather drive myself.
So I'm driving. And if I can't drive, I probably won't go. So thanks Mr. and Ms. Public Safety Officers for making sure that I use a private vehicle to do what I could use public transportation to do. I feel so much safer now.