I’m sitting at Gate B43 of Newark Liberty International Airport, and I’ve just been informed that my flight has been delayed. Again. I’ll be lucky to catch my connection in Atlanta and make it to San Diego by nightfall. In situations like these, I’m reminded of a brilliant stand-up bit performed by Louis C.K., the lovable peligroso and star of Lucky Louie, TV’s funniest canned-after-season-one show.
The comic was on an airplane, and laments about the complaining he hears from a fellow patron regarding broken down WiFi, and a 40-minute taxiing affair on the runway. (YouTube link). C.K. gives us all a piece of brilliant advice here: Put it in perspective.
Before the advent of big old jet airliners, you would be lucky to get a spot on a Greyhound and concede the next 3 days to making it from New York to San Francisco. And here’s a man complaining about a 40 minute delay, failing to see the beauty of air travel. Cross country travel is possible in the scope of a few hours. A trip that once took months in a covered wagon (along with disease and other hardship) is now doable in the amount of time it would take to watch 5 episodes of So You Think You Can Dance. The standard cross country trip circa 1846 went a little something like this: Mary gets pregnant, Judah dies of dysentary, Ezekial succumbs to a snake bite, and you are stuck eating squirrels and rabbits for the week. Now you can drink a Woodford Reserve and coke while watching The Hangover and texting fellow flyers. Rather than ask how jaded we are, let us frame it as how lucky and brilliant we are. Using science, mathematics, engineering, and precise logistics and control, we can manipulate 500-ton flying machines, with the ability to mobilize over 1,000 people. We can fly a 747 over 8,800 miles without stopping for gas.
I don’t think the time will come when I watch a plane take flight, and fail to marvel at its ability to lift up hundreds of people, 7 miles into the air, and land on an extended driveway in another part of the world. What was once science-ficiton and resulted in the ridicule of geniuses is now humdrum, everyday travel. You can get from London to Sydney in 21 hours. Austrlaia was once dubbed the Antipodes, referring to a place that is the polar oppositie point to an origin (the British Isles), and a current project, LAPCAT is trying to trim the flight down to 2 hours.
Next time you get hung up on checked baggage fees and shitty peanuts, take a deep breath, and realize exactly what’s happening. Enjoy this sunset taken from seat 14A.