I am on the road--or in the air--an awful lot this month (eighteen days in five different states in five weeks), which finds me logging on in a variety of airports and hotels.
Some of the more intriguing things I have learned about net access in various airports:
In Philadelphia you can get free internet service on weekends or if you are a college student any day. . . .
In Phoenix you can get free net access anytime, but for some reason the server won't let you log on to AOL. . . .
In Louisville you have to pay for access, but while most such rip-offs require at least $9.95, there you can log on for two hours for just $2.95. . . .
As for hotels, I'm fascinated to learn that--as a rule of thumb--the lower rated the chain the more likely the net access is to be free (and reliable). Move up from the Sleep Inns of the world to the urban conference centers, and you're going to pay and get poor service.
These are details, incidental at best. What really strikes me is this: supposedly our airlines are privately owned transportation companies, at least in theory free to carry the passengers of their choice, They certainly have the freedom to charge me two bucks for a coke, $15 for a checked bag, and $5 for a box with assorted snacks.
But they can't say, "Hey, this is Take Your Chances Air! We'll sell you a cheap ticket, get you there on time, and you can carry anything you damn well please in your baggage. You can keep your damn shoes on the whole time. Oh, by the way, if somebody gets up to try to hijack the plane, it's up to you to handle it, OK? Don't like our plan? Fly with somebody else, pay more, and get naked pictures taken of you by TSA Gestapo agents."
I'd fly TYC Air in a heartbeat, because I know the truth: if I'm going to die on a commercial airline, it's a whole lot more likely to be due to supposedly discharged oxygen cylinders in the hold, pilot error, wind shear, or the antiquated State-run air traffic control system than by Omar and Hassan getting on board with box cutters.
In point of fact, I seriously doubt any hijackers with a freaking gun could get a planeload of American passengers to go crashing into buildings these days without being torn limb from limb.
We have, however, accepted the Nanny State proposition that only the Gummint can keep us safe, and that any indignities they choose to perpetrate on our bodies, our luggage, or our collective dignity are all our patriotic American duty to bend over and comply with.
(See, I'm so ticked I actually ended a sentence with a dangling preposition.)
I have no solution for this problem, because we have now formally incorporated moral cowardice and servile compliance into the definition of American exceptionalism.