Monday, March 06, 2017

A View From The Farce Side: Planes, Trains, or Automobiles

Flying, frequent flying, like taking a flight every few weeks as I tend to do for work, is a strange phenomenon for most English people. England is small—fitting into America’s largest state, Alaska, more than 10 times—so flying from one end of the country to the other isn’t commonplace. In America we do it all the time, particularly out west.

Distances in England are much shorter, so a motor vehicle will suffice in most instances. In America, in most any state west of the Mississippi, driving from one state to another would be considered quite the adventure. You’d plan for it, pack plentiful snacks, check your gas before you left, throw in some blankets, ensure that your Sirius subscription was up to date, etc. Driving from Denver to, say, Dallas would require the same kind of forethought and planning that driving from Brighton, on the south coast of England, to Edinburgh on the east coast of Scotland would entail — probably more actually, as the distance would be considerably greater!

In Britain, if you didn’t wish to drive your car to get from point A to point B, then public transport, by and large, continues to represent a reasonable alternative. A comprehensive train network still crisscrosses our little island, and coaches offer another comfortable and affordable alternative, should you wish to take a day trip to a nearby city. And within your own town the proliferation of bus routes provides a convenient option for car-less travelers.

Sadly, that range of public transportation doesn’t seem to exist in America, at least not outside of its major urban metropolises. Here in the west, we certainly suffer more than our eastern state cousins, who remain more in-touch with their European sensibilities, reflected in relatively vibrant public transport offerings.

It’s true that trains still run all over America, as do Greyhound coaches, but when was the last time you knew someone who used either with any frequency?

Ultimately, time is the master of all things. In the business world, it’s largely the nature of our time-bound appointments or desire to shorten travel time to maximize minutes ‘on the ground’ that continues to send us to the airport in droves.

Prior to 9/11, I would routinely marvel at how airports, particularly the more compact ones such as the Colorado Springs, felt more like bus stops back home. I could literally wander up to the departure gate five minutes before boarding time. Those were the halcyon days of airline travel. Sadly, in a post-9/11 world viewed now through threat-alert-colored-glasses, those days are gone forever. It’s strange, then, how as an Englishman not predisposed to them, I miss them.

Image credit: Jerry Huddleston. Creative Commons. 2014.




Mark Turner is formerly of Oxford, England, but has lived in America for over 16 years, the majority of that time in Colorado. Mark enjoys playing soccer (football!), hiking and biking when the weathers good, and when the weathers rotten writing blog entries that he hopes will amuse and entertain. Mark can be followed on Twitter @melchett, or listened to on the Whistle Stop Week (@WSWShow), a news comedy podcast he hosts.

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