Monday, April 28, 2008
The slings and arrows of modern business travel
Business travel today, in these post-911 United States, has become something of a humiliating and belittling experience. Small wonder that so many Americans that are regularly subjected to it tend toward aggression, surliness, and a general bleakness of attitude.
When one undertakes a business trip, one must enter the great river of joyless, flowing humanity, that has been browbeaten into disrupting their daily lives, not so that they can go to see and experience something new and exciting, but to go participate in drab and hopeless meetings, to exchange jargon-laced placations with other corporate automatons, to sleep in uninviting hotels, to eat food that has been manufactured rather than cooked.
Even when expenses are "comp'ed," there is a price to be paid. Specifically, business travel draws on the account of one's dignity. The indignities begin before one can even get out of town.
Passing through airport security always requires a degree of public undress: at the very least, one is obliged to remove one's shoes, but it is certainly not unheard of to be required to unfasten one's trousers or remove one's belt, while bystanders witness the application of the metal-detecting wand. Then, of course, airport security may also choose, at their discretion, to rifle through one's belongings, exposing one's personal effects to public view.
I am a sufferer from sleep apnea and my CPAP device, which I have named the "Amazing Snore Machine" never fails to draw the attention of airport security. Without fail they require that I take it out of my suitcase for their visual inspection while the travelers waiting behind me are acquainted with my nocturnal ailments just by default.
The airlines, of course, are looking for creative new methods for raising revenue, seeing as their past mismanagement and lack of foresight has placed them in dire financial peril. There was a time when a domestic flight would include a meal. Today, as I made my way from Portland to Huntsville, Alabama, American Airlines offered little boxes of cold cereal for $5. I've heard also, that soon, fliers sitting in exit rows will be required to pay for the extra leg space. It raises the question of what more the airlines can charge us for: using the armrests? The toilets? The reading lamp?
No doubt there are some who say that the ridiculous security measures were necessitated by 911. But, I don't know. I don't see how being made to get undressed in public makes anyone any safer.
And, as for the airlines milking us for every penny they can get their hands on, it seems like just another example of corporate greed and desperation aimed at squeezing the middle class.
All this being said, I would gladly endure all the indignities in order to go someplace new and experience a new culture or see fantastic sights or experience something different. Travel for pleasure is the spice of life, as the saying goes. But business travel?
Can't we just do a web meeting?