Friday, April 15, 2011

Part 3: Travel Travails

My first live debate was this past weekend, and for more reasons than one, it will be my last. I’ve noted that I accepted it only so that my beloved Mrs H could visit an elderly uncle nearby (who, as it happens, was doing better than we expected).

But there’s more to it than that: I’m just plain fed up with travelling. And that says a lot since I haven’t done that much of it.

What’s getting to me? In part, it’s being cramped into an airplane seat (or car) for hours on end. I’m a restless person who hates sitting in one place for hours at a time and doesn’t like having my movements restricted. A plane is the ultimate “sit down and shut up” experience, so it's completely contrary to what I like to do. Two hours at most and I’m done, ready to open the emergency exit for some fresh air.
Then there’s the rudeness of other travelers. Our flight out to Reno had a stop in Dallas, and at that point two young parents got on across the aisle from us with two screaming brats who screeched and screamed from nearly takeoff to landing. And of course, the parents did nothing about it (unless you count giving in to what the kids wanted, and going "shh," as “doing something”). All through takeoff, the father kept one of the kids occupied by reading – loudly – to one of the brats from a kids’ book on potty training. It was one of those multimedia books, too, so the reading was accompanied by sound effects such as a toilet flushing. Just the thing for a quiet flight (where I was already hampered by less than 4 hours’ sleep in the last 48 hours).

During the flight, these nimnuls also had the nerve to ask an elderly gentleman to move up to the next row so they could spread out – one parent, one brat in each row. Not that it helped: First one brat, then the other, would start screaming or whining over something or other, or try to climb over the seats so they could be spoiled by each parent in turn. This happened for about 70% of the flight. The other 30% of the time, one or both were mercifully asleep.

At one point, one of the brats started slamming the window cover up and down repeatedly. The father’s response? Applauding. “Yay, you made a loud noise and disturbed people”? Is that the message?

At the engagement, the pastor made a joke asking if I had ridden Southwest. I told him that I’d have rather had a plane with a crack in the ceiling than the pair of bellowing hellions I ended up with across the aisle. At least then I’d be getting some fresh air.

I think we should have it so that any time someone has screaming kids, the parents should have to pay everyone sitting nearby a fee that amounts to a quarter of their fare. Maybe that would enforce some discipline.

More? I’m also getting tired of wackiness at destinations. Yes, there’s plenty here at home, but that’s exactly why I don’t need more. Nevada was beautiful in many portions: Mrs H and I took the time to take a drive out into the desert, and we don’t mind that kind of travel outside the cities where there’s also very little wackiness. But when it comes to Nevada cities? Insanity prevails with the casinos there. You find slot machines every place you go – in the airport, at convenience stores, in restaurants – I half expected to find them in the john.

While there, Mrs H’s cousin asked if we’d like to watch him gamble at one of the machines; I told him to just take a $20 bill out and burn it – it’d take less time and have the same effect.

Gambling admittedly is one of my great irritants wherever it happens. Even here in Florida, it’s dismaying to have to wait in line behind idiots in threadbare clothes purchasing $100 worth of lottery tickets. But in Nevada it’s an extreme thing, and it’s a vicious cycle perpetuated by the best advertising using the latest technology. Some casinos feature flashing signs outside depicting the latest winner and the amounts they won (“Congratulations, Ann: Won $5,000”) – what a disgusting lure THAT is. Hey, guys: How about instead, you feature pictures of the biggest losers, along with their deprived families? “Congratulations, Jack: Lost $18,000. Congratulations, Martha, Jack’s wife: 32 stitches after Jack took it out on her.” Why not some truth in advertising?

There are other factors too. For long trips, it’s just too hard for me to cope with the rapid time zone change. I don’t perform as well, and that’s not fair to those I serve.

It’s expensive to put Cocoa in boarding. That by itself can eat up and exceed any speaking fees. Besides – I miss the little guy when he's not around.

The schedule for a working trip is too hectic, and frequently involves getting to the airport at the wee hours in the morning and getting back far too late at night. It's either that or spend more on lodging because we used more timely flights.

Airlines have a lot of nerve charging for baggage now.

Mrs H works in a critical position and has a hard time getting off work.
And now – as if the camel’s back were not broken enough already! – yesterday’s attempt to arrange the trip to the ISCA conference in Raleigh took several hours because all the right flight times out of Orlando were hundreds of dollars more than the wrong ones, leaving us to have to fly out of Tampa (!) instead – and then it was also nearly impossible to get a car rental because spring breakers had hogged them all up.

It’s just not worth the hassle any more.
So after ISCA, I’ll need to decide how much I plan to restrict myself on travel. I’m thinking I’m best off focusing on serving in FL and the near Southeast, especially since my local ministry partner and I want to work harder on our boot camps for youth.

I want to thank the folks who have invited me to speak over the years – you’ve all been wonderful, and this is all no reflection on you. But chances are good I won’t be seeing you again. Or anyone else more than 400 miles away either.


  1. I agree gambling is an insane bet. Don't Muslims agree? For instance I never return Publisher's Clearing House entry envelopes because I figure the odds of winning are the same whether I play or not. (*old joke*) I also think it's ironic that in S.C. we have an "education" lottery that raises money to teach kids that the odds of winning the lottery are so distant they shouldn't bet on it.

    Second, I empathize with your trials and tribulations when it comes to traveling. I try to do as little as possible myself. I also figure that you were trying to pack an awful lot into one trip, both business and family matters. So I empathize with what you went through. (That being said, I bet if you were a devout Calvinist you could have more easily convinced yourself that the experience was "a divine lesson in perseverance from an all directing God." *smile*)

  2. @Edski: I have no idea where Muslims stand on it. FL has the same premise for their lottery as SC.

    Why would I have to be a Calvinist? Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer make the same kind of crappy argument.