Friday, January 21, 2011

Travel Beefs

This post has spent a long time percolating in the ol' noggin, pondering whether this was just my usual load of hot air or legitimate issues. Bear with me friends. I know that the internet is usually a place for intelligent discourse and kindness, but, here we are.

Air travel can be a stressful experience in general (especially flying out of Wisconsin in the winter); I try to take a Zen approach so as not to exacerbate a potentially exhausting situation. But, there are certain issues that seem to consistently grind my gears. Trivial in the grand scheme of things, but when these things happen Every. Single. Flight. the cumulative irritation starts to make me sigh so heavily that I'm afraid one day my lungs will collapse and never reinflate.

A rundown of personal vitriol:

1) Don't crowd the gate if you're in a late boarding group. People, most airlines have a nifty little system where they split the tickets into groups, say, First, Priority, 1, 2, 3 and 4. If you're in boarding group 27, relax, take a seat, and get the fuck out of the way. Actually, this could apply to a lot of situations: waiting for a tram, waiting to exit the plane, waiting for baggage, etc. Calm down. It's not going to leave without you.

2) You are not special. If the TSA wants to search you, it's not personal. If the flight has been delayed, chewing out the gate agent isn't going to make it get there any faster. The staff is not there to answer to your every whim, even if you're a frequent flyer (trust me, I've tried).

3) This is a very new beef, perhaps technically a subset of You are not special. Just go through the goddamn body scanners. You're holding everyone up by wasting the time of an agent for a personal search. You're not getting a consequential dose of radiation (0.001're getting about 2.5 mREM on that transcontinental flight, if you want to worry about radiation). And about the other thing. Look. No one wants to look at your naked ass, but it's their job. Seriously. I know this comes as a shock.

4) Don't talk and giggle loudly during a late night flight. We're trying to sleep, a-holes!

5) Be nice to the flight attendants. They are not your personal slaves. Their prime function is passenger safety, and they're underpaid doing it. Don't chew them out because they're out of your personal favorite flavor of Faygo.

I know none of you are the offenders, but I needed to share. Really, the whole list could boil down to 'be nice and considerate'. Words I'm trying very hard to live by.

Edited to add: This is what happens when you BWG (Blog While Grumpy). It's nice to hear I'm not the only one who gets their panties in a twist about this stuff.


  1. It really boils down to common sense but it seems as though traveling brings out the worst in some people.

    Good for you, AC!

  2. I just wanted to pass along I have started using trains for short trips. The general jack-assery involved in amtraking it is much lower than flying. It's also cheaper (for short, geographically, trips).

    On a more anti-social note. We live in a society where it the people we are supposed to admire and envy are selfish and inconsiderate....what do you expect?

  3. Amen!

    I hate gate crowders!!!!

    Though a serious subject, you made me giggle with this post...but not too loudly :-)

  4. YES! Everything you said.

    I also have a serious dislike for the people that do not remove everything from their pockets/remove shoes/remove jacket/etc. before going through a metal detector. You didn't think your oversized belt buckle was going to set it off? You're an idiot.

  5. Whoa Burbey's on here?

    Anyway, I have one nit to pick. Obviously you know WAY more than me about radiation, so I might be wrong on this. But I've heard a counterpoint to the whole "it's less radiation than you get on the plane" thing that makes some sense to me. Let me know if it's full of $h&*.

    Let's compare a couple scenarios. In one, you go outside in the sun for a few hours. In the other, someone "fires" a high-powered LASER (caps for scientific correctness, not yelling) at your skin for less than a second. Though you may actually be exposed to less radiation in the second case, it could actually be more damaging to you, because your cells can't handle/can't recover from the focused, high amplitude of radiation as well as they can with a lower-amplitude, longer-duration exposure. Is that off-base?

  6. No, you're right on target. Dose is only part of the story (true in my research, also true in the human body) and the effects depend on a lot of different factors, including but not limited to: type of radiation and what parts of your body are exposed. Those numbers are from Newsweek and represent 'whole body' exposure numbers, meaning the dose is distributed throughout the entire body. I just checked the TSA website to see what they say, and they're a little higher at 0.0005 mrem (also 'whole body'). [THIS IS MY NON-EXPERT INTERPRETATION ABOUT HOW THE SCANNERS WORK:] Most of the whole body scanners use back-scattered X-rays to form the image, which means they shoot you with an ionizing X-ray which interacts with your skin causing you to 'emit' X-rays. (Some use RF waves, which I've never dealt with before). The X-rays interact with your skin only, so a 'skin-exposure' dose would be a more accurate number, and possibly higher. But also doubtfully significant in light of the type or radiation (X-rays are some of the least harmful types for skin) and the low whole body dose numbers.[END NON-EXPERT INTERPRETATION] For another frame of reference, a lower-back X-ray for medical purposes (which I've unfortunately had a lot of) can range in the hundreds of mrem and CTs in the thousands, which I think a lot of people don't realize and is kind of a big deal if you've had a lot of procedures done. Thanks for giving me an excuse to totally dork it up about radiation. ;)

  7. Really, though, people being afraid of radiation is something that I can completely understand. If you don't know, why not play it safe? What grinds my gears is people who think their private parts are so incredibly taboo that they can't stand the thought of someone looking at a crude rendering of their form. I probably should be more sympathetic, but I just don't get it. Actually, I feel sorry for the TSA having to look at my and other people's saggy asses all day. But I was the kid that stripped off all her clothes and ran around naked all the time, so maybe I'm biased.

  8. AC, you are on my page girl!! I am right there with you...card carrying an'all! Well said!

  9. Here's a reasonable-seeming alternative from an article from yesterday:

    I've heard the millimeter-wave ones are safer than the backscatter X-ray scanners too.

  10. Ironically, I was at MacCarran when I got all bitchy and wrote this.