Living in a Vacuum (for one day)

I love to travel but I hate to fly. I have no illusions about safety; we all know that planes are safer than driving. The crashes are much more spectacular, of course, but much less likely to occur. The reality is that I hate airports and I find planes themselves stifling.

Obviously, this attitude says more about me than the airline industry. Planes have done everything they can to increase customer comfort. Airports have become giant malls–I’m waiting for DFW to install a roller coaster like they have at the Mall of America. At some point, I can imagine the airport becoming a destination location. After all, the food is already there, you can shop to your hearts content in the larger airports in America. Add a swimming pool and a few lovable characters and the kids will love the place.

But airports have also become a study in contradiction. All those people to watch, traveling here and yon, stressed out, self-conscious because they are being watched, road weary and travel worn, and, quite honestly, completely boring.

Like so many things in American culture, we have worked so hard to create comfort and safety that we have created comfort and safety. And sameness. Homogeneity. Traveling zombies (if we continue our thread from yesterday) maneuvering through the canned air pumped in and filtered.

And as travelers we aren’t that much fun to watch any more. “What’s that guy’s story?” He’s tired from traveling all day, we might say (and if we get close enough we can probably overhear his cell phone conversation and know his story). “What’s her story?” She’s tired from traveling all day, we might say.

I don’t, by the way, think this is a failure of my imagination (although you might disagree). I think that in our ability to make travel accessible (a good thing) we’ve also made travel simply a part of every day life. I’m headed to Canada today. Twenty years ago, this would be an exciting event. Canada! A foreign land! thousands of miles away!

But I’m no more excited than if I were headed to the grocery store. I leave the house at 9:00, get there at 5:00. It’s a long day, but travel has become so easy that it’s just another day. The only real difference is that I’ll be breathing canned air with thousands of total strangers.

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About John Wegner
John Wegner is a Professor of English where he also serves as the Dean of the Freshman College. He and Lana, his wife, have been married over 25 years. They are the parents of two great sons who (so far) haven't ever needed bail money.

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Things I Read

And Things I Learned

Washington Monthly

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Joanne Jacobs

Thinking and Linking by Joanne Jacobs

Inside Higher Ed

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

FiveThirtyEight

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Balloon Juice

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Scott Adams' Blog

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

The Full Feed from HuffingtonPost.com

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

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