Done with flying for a while but not out of fear

Published 7:55 am Tuesday, January 5, 2010

In December 2008 my wife and I planned a road trip to Texas to escape the winter, if only briefly. After further review, though, driving 1,100 miles didn’t seem a viable option in either of our vehicles, both old and unreliable for long trips.

So my wife bought a new(er) car from our favorite local used car dealership. We love the car. It’s a hatchback, which means if we ever drove to some place warm enough and were feeling adventurous in a non-camping way we could sleep in the back of the car. So, again, we planned a road trip between Christmas and New Year’s to South Texas.

It’s a long drive, but with the caveat of warm weather dangled at the end of the stick, we found it more than tenable. Besides, it’s a car trip I’ve done a few times already. I attended college in Seguin, Texas, for two years. Interestingly, I am not an Albert Lea native, but the college I attended must’ve had a direct pipeline to Albert Lea, as I met about a half-dozen Albert Leans while attending school in Seguin.

Email newsletter signup

In fact, at least once I made the trip in a caravan of vehicles from Albert Lea to Seguin.

My goal with our trip, besides playing some late-December golf, was to show my wife a portion of my life of which she’s only heard stories. Besides, she’s a sucker for history and local attractions. San Antonio (River Walk, The Alamo) and Austin (the bats under Congress Avenue Bridge, live music on Sixth Street) offer plenty to see, too.

Unfortunately, this year’s trip was cancelled, also, this time by sketchy weather from here to Dallas. Television news and Weather Channel clips showed pile ups in Oklahoma and closed roads in Kansas and Iowa. The only way to Texas was through the air. Getting on an airplane within days of the most recent terrorist attack on a U.S.-bound airplane was not an option. Yet my hesitancy had nothing to do with a fear of being blown up.

I am not afraid of terror threats, even ones all too close to being carried out, such as the Northwest flight into Detroit on Christmas Day. If I were going to be scared of that scenario happening on a plane I was on, fear would never allow me to leave the house. The odds of me dying in a car crash on an 1,100-mile road trip to Texas are much higher than being on an airplane with a terrorist.

Admittedly, the road trip down Interstate 35 was part of what we wanted to experience, but mostly I’m just fed up with the airline world. I loathe the antiquated art form they pass off as screening passengers, specifically taking off my shoes to pass security, especially since the most recent plot was buried in the terrorist’s underwear.

What’s next? Ah, no thank you. I’d rather drive.

In the most recent article of Time Magazine, the cover issue titled “What We Can Learn From Flight 253” listed four lessons the U.S. and its allies can learn about the war on terrorism. The first lesson said the U.S.’s methods for tracking terrorists is still disjointed. There are four terrorism databases. This is not a credit rating score. We should have one terrorism database, not four. I should be able to safely assume there are no companies making money off a terrorism database. (Sadly, I do not assume such, and, in fact, suspect just the opposite). Hence, there is no reason for competing databases. It’s to everyone’s advantage — sans the terrorists — to have one, comprehensive list. Government, please get this done.

Regarding airport security: There is technology to scan the entire body for chemical explosives, not just for metal. I need someone to explain to me why every airport, more than eight years removed from the 9/11 attacks, does not yet have these full-body scanners. Government, please get this done.

While the government hopefully gets busy making us safer, I’d like someone to make airplane companies’ business practices more sane. I have drawn the line at fees for checking luggage. The airline industry is a prime example of a faulty business model. It seems they are too far in debt to remember what good customer service looks and feels like.

One more thing before I close: I ask you please not to blame this on Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano, and don’t bother to make this an attack on the current administration. A Democrat has held that cabinet position one-sixth as long as it’s been held by a Republican. Minnesota Public Radio’s Jessica Mador reported Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who recently visited Afghanistan as part of a bipartisan Congressional delegation, plans to look into full-body scanners when Congress resumes this month.

“I think we have to do everything that we can to make sure that this doesn’t happen again,” Klobuchar said, according to Minnesota Public Radio. “I’m someone that gets screened every single time because I’ve had a hip replacement. It’s not that bad, you can handle it. I just think we should err on the side of making sure that these screenings are thorough.”

Politicians, get this done.

Until then, I’m done flying. Hey, if nothing else, the slow death of flying as a viable means of vacation travel should perk up the auto industry, which, of course, may be the only industry in America more antiquated and out of touch with what Americans want than air travel.

Albert Lea resident Riley Worth is a teacher at Albert Lea High School. He can be reached at