Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Do you remember that time you got on a commercial flight and forgot to turn your cellphone off, and the plane crashed right after takeoff, killing everyone on board? Yeah, me neither.
Let’s face it: If you fly often enough and you own a cellphone, it’s likely that you’ve left your phone turned on at least once during a flight. I’m pretty sure I have, and to the best of my recollection, I didn’t cause the plane to drop from the sky. It’s possible I might have slept through the crash, but I feel like I probably would remember waking up in a pile of flaming debris.
The truth of the matter is that there really isn’t much chance of your cellphone interfering with a plane’s instruments. I know the airlines are constantly reminding us that there’s nothing more dangerous than someone using an electronic device while a plane is taking off, but I think that in the backs of our minds, we all know that’s a bunch of hooey. Now, it seems, we have some powerful people agreeing with us.
Last week, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski sent a letter to Michael Huerta, the acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, asking the FAA to “enable greater use of tablets, e-readers and other portable devices” during flights.
On the surface, this seems like a reasonable request. Tablet computers are an increasingly important part of people’s lives, and if they pose no threat to anyone’s safety, there’s no reason their use should be regulated. I know some will say that if everyone is using their tablets, they won’t be paying attention to the flight attendants’ important safety announcements, but I’m pretty sure no one pays attention anyway.
The problem, however, is that if the FAA starts allowing unrestricted use of tablets and e-readers, it’s only a matter of time before unlimited cellphone use will be allowed during flights, and that would be – and I say this without the slightest bit of hyperbole – the absolute worst idea in the history of the world.
Flying on a commercial airline is an agonizing ordeal as it is. Can you imagine how much worse it would be if the woman seated next to you was allowed to gab away on her phone for the entire flight? I can definitely imagine it, and I already know how I’m going to respond in such a scenario. I encourage you to do likewise.
The first thing you should do if the man next to you whips out his phone and starts talking is assume he’s talking to you. Reply very loudly to everything he says, and then, when he snaps at you and barks, “Do you mind!?” feel free to tell him exactly how much you do, in fact, mind. I realize this might lead to a lot of in-air fights, but I think if you play your cards right, you can make that work for you.
Here’s what I mean: Let’s say you want to fly from Denver to, say, Terre Haute, Ind., but the airfare is much more expensive than a flight to Newark, N.J. Book the flight to Newark, and then time your fight so that it takes place while you’re over Indiana. The plane will be forced to land in Terre Haute so you can be kicked off, and you will have saved a bundle, provided you don’t end up in prison.
The only conceivable upside to allowing cellphone use on planes is that it will provide a sort of a-hole litmus test. In short, if you use your phone during a flight for anything more than calling someone to say the flight was delayed, you’re an a-hole.
I know some of you will claim I should make an exception for emergencies, but I would like to remind those folks that we’re talking about people on a plane. There’s nothing they can do about an emergency until the plane lands, and if they think they can and spend the flight shouting orders at people on the ground, they’re still a-holes.
OK, fine – maybe certain emergencies can exempt certain people from the a-hole rule, but I think we all know what sort of person will actually use their phone on a plane. It’ll be some self-important jerk who thinks his business takes precedence over everyone else’s right to a pleasant flight.
Feel free to throw that guy’s cellphone in the toilet as soon as you cross the Mississippi River. That should put you right on track for your touchdown in Terre Haute.
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