Monday, May 1, 2017

The Worst Idea Ever

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 3, 2017] ©2017
For reasons unclear to me, airlines keep revisiting the idea of allowing passengers to make Wi-Fi calls on their cell phones during flight.
Meanwhile, according to the International Air Transport Association, cases of air rage increased 16.4 percent from 2014 to 10,854 (from 9,316).  In 1994, only 1,132 such cases were noted. And you want to add phone calls?  Has someone been breathing too many jet fuel fumes?
Let me predict that if Wi-Fi calls were permitted on airplanes, the air rage incidents would increase 10,000 percent.
Possible violence?  No, guaranteed.  Especially by me.  Olof should start saving for my bail right now. I’m not even particularly tolerant about cell phone abuse even on the ground. 
Anyone who has ever lunched with me or been a dinner guest at my home knows if they answer their phone at my table, it had better be because the donor for their liver transplant finally came through. Don’t get me wrong. Cell phones are wonderful inventions when used appropriately. But I have friends who insist that people “expect to be able to reach them at any time.” 
“Oh, no!” I reply in horror. “Are you one of those people who answer their phone at the symphony?”
They insist they would never be so rude as to do that.
“So your dentist is willing to stop while he’s in the middle of a filling to let you chat?”
Oh, no, of course not. Not during a medical or dental appointment.
OK, I say, so consider me the symphony and the medical/dental establishment all rolled into one.
And they’ll reply, “But it’s  different.  You’re a friend.”
Inga:  “Not anymore!”
I always tell them I’m going to get them one of those newfangled phones that has voice mail.  It’s amazing! It answers the call and takes a message for you!  You can even call back later when you’re not at lunch!
But the same people who abuse cell phones on the ground will be guaranteed to abuse them in the air.

For some people, the ring of a cell phone has the curious effect of transporting them to another dimension where they become the Anointed One in a private universe of dispensable deaf mutes. Everyone around them ceases to exist.
It’s bad enough at airports to be squashed into waiting areas listening to people conducting business. Or worse, not conducting business.  Just droning on to everyone they know. They have nothing to say, which does not prevent them from saying it.  The only saving grace is that you know that once the plane takes off, they’ll have to turn it off for the next three thousand miles.
But what if they didn’t?
Carriers would apparently be required to inform passengers when they make their reservations that cell phone calls are permitted on that flight so they “can make other plans.” Seriously?  Like most business travelers have any choice on what flights they’re on? Or you’re supposed to pay double and fly a route with two stopovers to avoid a non-stop that allows cell phone calls?  If that happens, technology will have officially trumped humanity.
United (no surprise) is apparently one airline considering in-air calls. That’s OK with us since we’ve long since cut up their credit card. And that was BEFORE they started “reaccommodating” (their word) paying passengers by physically dragging them off their planes.  Hard to imagine they used to be our preferred airline.
But there could be some definite entertainment value in all this.  I predict there will be a YouTube channel solely devoted to in-air cell phone brawls videotaped by gleeful fellow passengers.
Personally, the only way I can see this in-air phone thing working is that people who want to use a cell phone on the flight have to indicate it in advance and be assigned to a special cell phone row just as there used to be smoking rows.  As we all know, people who talk on cell phones tend to talk much louder than their regular “inside” voices so they can be heard over the din around them. Cell phone users expect a quiet, compliant audience on either side of them – because, of course, it’s all about them - but I love imagining the scenario where a whole row of cell phone users are speaking louder and louder to be able to be overheard over the conversations of the people right next to them.  I foresee lots of glaring, lots of demands to the other folks to talk more softly. Escalating hostility. Complaints to the flight attendants. Hopefully, he or she would then have the capability to push a button that would eject the whole row out at 35,000 feet. This fantasy keeps me going.
So airlines: please do not consider this. It is a really really bad idea. But if you do, get ready to install a first aid kit in every row.