Sunday, August 06, 2006

Off The Road Again

After an extended and intensive bout of travel to investigate breaking news stories and visit the world’s troubled hot spots, it appears as if the editorial staff of H I will be safely ensconced back in Big Bubba’s Bait Shop and Bar in Pungo, Virginia for a while. It has been a harrowing experience to be in London, Madrid, Salamanca, Dusseldorf, Darmstadt, Ottawa and San Diego. Luckily, emergency rations of gin were available in all these exotic ports of call.

If you really want harrowing, however, the destination is not important. Whether it’s a week in Afghanistan or a weekend in Buffalo when the Miss Teen America pageant is in town, being there is not nearly as harrowing as getting there. H I has had the opportunity to travel with Virgin Atlantic, Iberia, Easy Jet, Air Berlin, US Air and Southwest Airlines in the past two months. The Warsaw Convention may govern the way passengers’ baggage is treated but the Geneva Convention obviously does not govern the way the passengers are treated. Travelling in Europe is marginally more acceptable as you don’t have to take your shoes off for the security inspection and the cabin crews don’t have names like Lance and Misty. Travelling in the US is marginally less acceptable.

The US airline industry has adopted the ‘hub and spoke model’. Unless you are travelling from one city with a population of more than four million to another city with a population of more than four million, you have to stop at a city with a population of less than one million. It is not necessary for this intermediate stop to be in the general direction of travel.

These intermediate stops are useful for testing the effects of micro-waved pizza on human beings and allow the members of the Golden Years Travel Club of Des Moines, Iowa to attach additional city decals to their carry on baggage. They also have the potential of enhancing the nation’s homeland security by eliminating the need to send terrorists to Saudi Arabia for questioning. Any fanatical jihadi would tell all after five hours waiting for a connecting flight in Philadelphia.

The other model the US airline industry has adopted is ‘no frills’ food. Southwest Airlines has apparently gotten this down to a science. On flights lasting more than four hours, passengers are provided with little boxes of ‘snacks’ that have obviously been purchased from the United Nations Refugee Agency. Apparently it is spiritually uplifting for Southwest passengers to share the ‘no frills food experience’ with the residents of Darfur. Veteran Southwest passengers have developed a strategy to deal with this situation. They bring enough soft drinks, sandwiches, pizza slices, fruit, processed cheeses, energy bars, cookies, crisps, and packaged salads to feed the population of their departure city. By the end of the flight, Lance and Misty are dragging massive plastic rubbish bags down the aisle collecting the food wrappers, drinks cans, leftovers, bits of lettuce, crusts of bread, and the odd slice of pepperoni. (This haul of supplies is undoubtedly recycled back to the United Nations Refugee Agency.)

Travel may broaden the mind and enrich the spirit, but if it were not for the commitment to journalism and the salutary effects of gin, H I might stay permanently in Big Bubba’s Bait Shop and Bar in Pungo, Virginia. In any event, columns will resume forthwith.


Blogger Ananke said...

Finally!!! I was beginning to wonder if you were ever coming back. Airline travel in America is truly awful but it still beats taking the bus. ;-)

5:08 PM  
Blogger Wicked H said...

Well, welcome to my general vicinity. We hope you enjoy your stay.

5:17 PM  

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