‘Stop whining about airline travel’ (5×8 – 4/17/13)

Columnist says you’ve never had it so good, alleged racism and the ‘I didn’t know’ defense, runners not giving up, the science of elevators, and what if the weather is as good as it gets?


Not a big fan of airline travel? What’s the matter with you? Matthew Yglesias at Slate says you’ve never had so good.

Alternatively, think about what an incredible hassle driving would be if we tried to make it (driving) as safe as air travel. You’d need stiff penalties for minor everyday errors, and traffic would have to slow down to a point of near-uselessness.

Meanwhile a few decades after deregulation wrecked the airlines’ business models, they seem to be figuring things out. People complain about airlines unbundling services (that is, making you pay for a snack), but it makes a ton of sense. A frugal person who doesn’t inflict extra weight and fuel costs on the flight with checked bags and brings his own pretzels can fly for cheap. Those with pressing needs to transport luggage or get boozy mid-flight subsidize the cheapskates. Airlines increasingly offer special rows (United’s Economy Plus, Delta’s Economy Comfort, etc.) where an upcharge gets you standard coach service but extra legroom. For the long-legged of the world, it’s a good deal. And particularly in a world where men earn more than women, and tall people earn more than short people, it’s much sounder business practice than spreading the legroom and the costs evenly.

There are, he acknowledges in his Slate article, delays. But that’s your fault, too. “When you can show me that you’re showing up on time 90 percent of the time, then complain,” he writes.

You’ll want to read the comments on this article.

1. People pay a lot to fly somewhere they resent being treated as cargo. It doesn’t help that you have to walk past the adult sized seats you can’t possibly afford to your child sized seat where you will be spending the next 3 to 15 hours.

2. Comfort. Airline defenders claim seats are sized for the average butt. But, The widest part of the human body is not the butt, but the shoulder/arms. Because of this, people feel (rightly) crammed together. It should not cost extra to be given enough room for reasonable comfort.

Other than politics, not much gets people worked up like airline travel.


“The ski team members said they were sorry, and that their actions were not intended to be racist.”

This is the key sentence in MPR reporter Tim Post’s story today about “ghetto day” at Hopkins High School — or “rapper day,” depending on which side you believe. Two African American students were charged with getting too physical with school officials over their alleged inaction in doing anything about it.

The “we didn’t know” excuse, however, is a theme that has run in several incidents in area high schools this school year that have had racial overtones.

“I thought it was just going to be fun with my friends and I guess some people just thought it was a really big deal, and I think it got a little bit out of proportion,” one of the white students said.

More schools: Why vaguely defining bullying can be a problem. (NPR)


Retired Saint Paul firefighter and police officer Bill Langevin witnessed the bombing in Boston on Monday. If that isn’t bad enough, it’s not the first time his running career has taken him to the scene of killing, the Pioneer Press reports.

Langevin is the runner who witnessed the execution-style slaying of Maplewood police officer Sgt. Joe Bergeron in May 2010.

“Tomorrow, I’ll be sending in my deposit for a hotel next year,” he said. “This won’t deter me. I’m not going to be intimidated by the cowards who did this.”

And his wife promised to be among the spectators.

“Anger is now kicking in. Yes, we are going back. Damn it, we are going back. We’re not going to be intimidated,” she said. “We talked about it. I’m scared. I’m just not going to give in.”

There’s new video of the explosions today. This one from just feet away from the first blast.

And this one from a runner…

The Boston Globe today features on a column on the first firefighters on the scene, who recognized the youngest victim of the attack.

In New York last night, the Yankees honored Boston. It was so good… so good… so good.

Related: How terror hijacks the brain. (Time)


A researcher in Australia hung around two tall office towers in town, riding elevators up and down day after day, looking for patterns, Robert Krulwich writes on his NPR blog. “When a bunch of people get into an elevator, she wondered, do they segregate in any predictable way? Do tall ones stand in the back? Do men stand in different places than women? Who looks where? She says she wasn’t expecting or even predicting a particular configuration, but she found one.”

Men looked at reflections to check each other out. Women avoided any eye contact.

This tells us… something. Oh, yes: don’t read the comments on the Internet, even on an NPR blog.

(h/t: Julia Schrenkler)


Six inches of snow for the metro this week. Maybe. We’re beginning to think the unthinkable.

Bonus: You have to give the teachers and stuff at Woodbury Middle School an “A” for pluck, trying to make MCA testing more exciting.


Even the most vigilant friends and family members can’t keep the images and sounds of the Boston bombings from the curious eyes and ears of children. Today’s Question: How do you talk to kids about terrorism?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Safety and security and large public events.

Second hour: Protest music.

Third hour: The impact of global political risks and global economics on the U.S.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Live National Press Club broadcast featuring the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. He’ll be talking about the Obama administration’s views on drug use and abuse, legalization of marijuana and other controversies.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – The Political Junkie.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – For kids in public school, it’s hard to get away from standardized tests for reading and math. And — at some schools — a test for creativity. NPR reports on how to measure creativity, and whether it can be done at all.

  • BJ
  • John O.

    Yglesias is smart enough to know that defending the present state of the U.S. airline industry will generate comments at a fast and furious pace. Anything to get those page views in to show to prospective advertisers. He isn’t the only one at Slate doing this either.

  • KTN

    Oh, I’m going to keep whining about air travel. The reason is pretty obvious too. When we walk into the airport, we are assumed to be terrorists and guilty of something. SOrt of contrary to how our legal system works, but the TSA and their weekend warriors see it differently.

    I was in Turkey recently, and like Pavlov’s dog, I removed my shoes at the airport before going thru initial screening. The guards, and most of the people around me started to laugh and point at my feet. Silly me, I did not need to remove my shoes in this Muslim country, i guess because it’s pointless and useless, and they know there are better more effective ways to prevent a terror attack on a plane.

  • Mary B

    Having excited a full elevator with my skirt tucked into my waistband not once, but twice (MORTIFIED) you think I’d steer clear of elevator stories. But I couldn’t help myself. And by reading the comments as recommended I’m SO going to try the “Protip: if you push and hold the close door button and your floor at same time for about five seconds the car will go directly to your desired floor. The puzzled look on others faces when their floor is skipped is priceless.”

  • Kevin Watterson

    1. Exactly on both points. Air travel has become so commonplace that we’ve lost sight of how it is a true luxury. But it does also make most people feel like crap. I think there’s a huge opportunity out there for an airline to become the one that isn’t hated, especially among what is left of the legacy carriers.

    2. My senior year several students (including me) formed a sort of alternative theme week during homecoming. One of them was “Preppy day” in which we all dressed up like preppies.

    3. I wonder what the behavioural science is behind why people scream in that kind of situation. Fortunately I have never been in one, so I don’t know how I would react.

  • Pat Fair

    Mary B: Did you excite, or exit, a full elevator with your skirt tucked into your waistband? Both statements conjure up images, though significantly different ones, Thanks for making me smile.

  • Heather

    2) I was not at all surprised by the “we didn’t know” defense of the ski team, but I *was* surprised by the lack of compassion shown by the adults in charge to the complaining students. And if you have to get a poster approved, why shouldn’t you also have to get a team spirit theme approved — BEFORE you do something rude? The black student’s reference to blackface made me say, “DING DING DING DING!” out loud in my car. School administrators should know better than to follow through in such an unbalanced way.