Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and Me

I remember, as a kid, reading a science fiction story about a future in which working adults are forced to buy, use, wear out, and replace enormous amounts of material goods, their lives an exhausting cycle of consumption imposed on them by the government in order to keep the nation’s economic engine going.  Older people, at least those who are considered successful and prosperous, live in log cabins in the woods.  They lead simple lives, free of the requirement to consume.

How true it turned out to be.  These days, Donna and I dream of downsizing to one car.  I’m retired and she works only three days a week outside the home, so do we really still need two?  I have two bicycles, and a motorcycle come to that.  Isn’t that plenty?

We just had our skimpiest gift exchange ever, and yet it was one of our best Christmases.  We have pretty much everything we need and no longer feel any pressure to buy stuff.  Since we’re older, our idea of a good time is curling up with a good book.  Life is simpler now, less consumption-driven, certainly cheaper than it used to be.  We don’t envy our younger, hard-working, success-striving friends; on the contrary, they envy us . . . so we like to think, anyway.

That’s how it was with my father once he got older, and thus it is becoming with me.  I always resisted becoming my father, because, well, that is what sons do . . . but it’s happening anyway, so I may as well embrace it.

Now to the point of this post: giving up air travel.

By now everyone knows the TSA is implementing additional passenger restrictions in reaction to the latest incident of attempted terrorism.  Flying’s been a miserable experience since 9/11; it’s about to become more so.  At what point does one say, “Fuck it, if I can’t get there by car I ain’t going”?  Because I think I’m there.

My father gave up flying when the TSA started making everyone take their shoes off.  Whenever we flew to Missouri to visit him, he’d make jokes at our expense about bare-footed sheep being herded through gates and fences.  We kids would bite our tongues — after all, he’d have been a much lonelier man if the rest of us hadn’t been willing to jump through TSA hoops in order to come see him — but at the same time we envied him.

And now here I am, ready to follow my father’s lead.  Do I have the courage to do it?  Am I really prepared to write off trips to the East Coast, to Hawaii, to Canada, to Europe?  Am I prepared to restrict the radius of my travel to an automotive scale?

Well, let’s see . . . our children live in Las Vegas, an easy day trip by car.   The places we talk about visiting, when we talk about traveling at all, are in neighboring states.  We drove to Winter Park in Colorado earlier this year and had a great time on the road.  Most of Donna’s relatives are in California, and if I have to go see my surviving relatives in Missouri again, that too is doable by car.

The main reason I hesitate is that I’m a hasher, and there are hashing events around the world I’d love to attend.  And then there’s my dear friend Dave in Honolulu, about to enter hospice with no-longer-treatable cancer.  I want to see him again before he’s gone.

I tell myself that there are great hashing events here in the southwestern USA.  I ask myself if flying to Honolulu to see Dave is more about me than it is about Dave, who at this point in his life has more important things to think about.  I tell myself these trips are not necessary.  Still, giving up flying is not going to be easy.

But really, it must be done, if for no other reason than to convince the airlines and the TSA that enough if enough.  There is a misery threshold beyond which serious numbers of potential passengers will not step, shod or unshod.

I think I’m going to take the pledge.  No more flying.

Now to convince Donna. . . .

© 2009, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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