Thursday, November 25, 2010

If you want to read on Megabus ...

... bring your own light. The fastidious driver on the Buffalo-Philadelphia leg of yesterday's trip disabled the bus's overhead reading lights because, he explained later, the reflections disturbed him.

Obstreperous clicking of the unresponsive switches drew no response, so I cursed the driver long and silently until I remembered the portable battery-operated reading lamp in my bag. With its help, I finished Fantômas and started on Yishai Sarid's Limassol, finishing the latter just as we pulled into Philadelphia's 30th Street Station. More on both books later.

Reading lamps for use only in broad daylight. On this busiest day of travel in the United States, what is the stupidest travel regulation you can think of?

© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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32 Comments:

Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Given the choice between postponing my reading until the end of the journey or ending up in a ditch with my neck broken, I reckon I'd plump for the former! :)

btw, reports of Ireland's neck having been broken, by contrary financial speculator-busdrivers in this case, are slightly exaggerated!

November 25, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Given the choice between postponing my reading until the end of the journey or ending up in a ditch with my neck broken, I reckon I'd plump for the former! :)

If such lights pose a danger, why did the bus have them? And, not that I'm complaining about the wide range of recreational opportunities available on a ten-hour bus ride, but if I ran a bus company, I'd make damn sure both that the vehicles had reading lights and that the lights were positioned in a such a way that they could not interfiere with the driver. (In fact, I think these lights met that standard. The driver was just overly sensitive.)

btw, reports of Ireland's neck having been broken, by contrary financial speculator-busdrivers in this case, are slightly exaggerated!

This is good news. But if news media did not have financial disaster stories, what would they report?

November 25, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

As to why they supplied the lights there could be a variety of reasons, apart from the seeming obvious, but I know I hate driving at night, especially on our poorly lit country roads, but I'm sure there must be many who don't have the same distaste as I have just as there are probably plenty of bus drivers whom the lights wouldn't disturb.

As for my blessed country, I believe St Patrick expressed the wish that it would sink beneath the seas in advance of Armageddon; 5 years, before, I think; perhaps the financial vultures are taking a metaphorical interpretation of his wish.


But we're not done yet!

November 25, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

You've opened the door to the whole TSA patdown/body scan furor, but since I'm not flying anywhere any time soon, I don't actually have a strong position on it, though I am a little tired of how much news coverage it's getting. I mean, proportionally.

November 25, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I fought hard against the urge to refer to that furor in this post.

My thoughts are this:

1) Almost no controversy in America cannot be reduced to trivia by jokes on late-night television.

2) Were the Republicans who now affect to deplore the searches also part of the chorus for crackdowns in the war on terrorism?

November 25, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

TCK, my mother, for one, dislikes night driving. But my mother does not earn her living as a bus driver. Nor, I assume, do you.

If the alternatives are inconveniencing passengers and endangering them, the choice is obvious. But a driver who is forced to make that choice should not be a driver.

I don't know about Ireland, but nothing sells in America like Armageddon.

November 25, 2010  
Blogger Jerry House said...

Actually, Peter, the one thing that outsells Armageddon in America is Armageddon wrapped in bacon.

November 26, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

With extra cheese.

November 26, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Peter, re your comment "Were the Republicans who now affect to deplore the searches also part of the chorus for crackdowns in the war on terrorism?"

As a registered Independent I feel I have the luxury to avoid partisanship; I don't have to look for the R or the D on a ballot and then make up my mind. For a fairly even-handed companion op-ed piece to your comment on the ever-expanding intrusions of the TSA, (taking the bus is a smart move when possible!) please see "The Partisan Mind," by Ross Douthat, New York Times, 28 November 2010 here.

November 30, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

"(taking the bus is a smart move when possible!)"
Just jump on the bus, Gus
(not the driver)
Make a new plan, Stan
No need to be coy, Roy
Just listen to me,......
Pete!
:)

November 30, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

TCK, when I was in high school, a friend and I rewrote "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover" as "Fifty Ways to Make an Omelette." Our version included lines like "Just get a new pan, Stan" and "Don't try to deep fry, Sly / Wash it down with tea."

November 30, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, that's a bracingly good piece. Thanks.

Christopher G. Moore, a crime writer I have occasionally mentioned in this space, has said that ever-greater intrusions in the name of security have made air travel the contemporary equivalent of prison transport, and that was before the current flap. And I think it was the Spanish crime writer Manuel Vázquez Montalbán who referred to "the theology of security" -- an apt description for our current state of mind.

November 30, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Peter, I concur with most of what CG Moore wrote in a comment to another post re the rule of law, etc. in Western civilization.

I suppose we could grouse over the TSA from now until, well, Doomsday, but I do know that since 9/11 I have visited 8 European countries and none of them have had the level of noticeably invasive strongarm tactics of the TSA. Including Germany and Italy, 2 countries that know something about terrorism on their own soil. Nor the level of sheer incompetence--the TSA'ers wandering around doing ______ exactly? And those @#$%@# plastic boxes being schlepped back and forth by a human being! Every other country that I've visited that uses these (including the little airport in Palermo) has an automated box return mechanism in place. If any gov't program were, as the TSA so obviously is, designed simply to provide jobs to get more people on the gov't payroll, it must be the TSA.

The "theology" of security is spot on! The Italians call it teatro, a word I find I'm using increasingly frequently in various contexts these days.

November 30, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Oh, Oh! I'm having a flashback. Peter, re your "when I was in high school, a friend and I rewrote 'Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover'" reminds me that while I was living in England during this song's first release, I was among those who won a radio contest for my contribution to the myriad ways: "Leave, Steve."

November 30, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

I'm with you, Elizabeth, but it's funny how the 'sides' don't align quite along party lines this time. My liberal friends are annoyed by the amount of attention this whole TSA stuff has gotten over the last couple of weeks. They seem to equate it with the Tea Party movement agenda. But I find airports to be very demoralizing. The populace seems to have been thoroughly cowed.

November 30, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, one little-noted fact is that President Bush originally opposed creation of the TSA, preferring instead to have the private sector do the job. You know, the government said we needed security but did not want to pay for it. He lost hat fight, and I have been generally surprised by how good a job the TSA do under circumstances that cannot be entirely pleasant. But as the theology of security demanded ever-more intrusive measures for reasons not always apparent, the system was bound to start showing strains.

I have noticed that airport inspectors in Amsterdam placed more emphasis on asking questions of travelers than on X-raying them, prodding them and making them take off their clothes. And an Israeli security expert said recently that that has been Israel's approach: to ask questions and focus on suspicious reactions. But that would require brains rather than machines. Of course, Amsterdam's Schiphol was also one of the first airports to install full-body scanners.

November 30, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

while I was living in England during this song's first release, I was among those who won a radio contest for my contribution to the myriad ways: "Leave, Steve."

Take a hike, Mike. Just hop on the ferry, Jerry. Just grab the vaporetto, Gepeto. Don't bother paying next month's rent, Kent.

Damn, after 35 years, I've still got it!

December 01, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Peter, "asking questions of travelers" and "focusing on suspicious reactions" is out of the question here in the US for the reason it would employ profiling. Travelers to and from the US must subjugate themselves to the pushing and prodding of TSA so that we can pretend that we are pure of heart and that everyone is equally guilty until they don't prove themselves terrorists.

Yes, I recall that Bush was initially pro-private security contracts. I would prefer this, too, as it would cost far less and private co employees, unlike gov't employees, have to consider their actions, be accountable to those that hired them, etc. I've read that some airports are actually cutting TSA and going to private security firms. And then read that some FL congressman, whose palm is being greased by one of these very firms, is pushing for it, thus blackening the eye of anyone else suggesting that private firms (shades of Blackwater!) are the way to go.

Air travel is unbelievably demoralizing, Seana, and only prescription tranquilizers get me through an air travel experience these days! Even the flight attendants look even more haggard and demoralized than ever before.

December 01, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Peter, yes, you wag, you've still got it but the contest is over... I think mine won for its brevity.

December 01, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

My liberal friends are annoyed by the amount of attention this whole TSA stuff has gotten over the last couple of weeks. They seem to equate it with the Tea Party movement agenda. But I find airports to be very demoralizing. The populace seems to have been thoroughly cowed.

Seana, doesn't that fit the argument in the Times piece to which Elisabeth linked? Liberals (or rather, Democrats) think the flap is no big deal, and it is beyond doubt that tea-party types are blowing it out of proporation.

I should not say this since I love to travel so much, but this may be the biggest push yet to think small: turn your back on airlines, shut off your TVs, detach yourself from the media, stop consuming because the economy needs it. Say no to the theology of security, to prison transport, to screaming matches disguised as television news. Stay home. Visit a friend. Read a good book. Or write one.

December 01, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Peter, yes, you wag, you've still got it but the contest is over... I think mine won for its brevity.

Go, Jo.

I win.

December 01, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Yes, it does align with what Elizabeth and that article are saying, it's just that I myself am out of alignment with my friends and peers.

I don't really believe that we should stay home, of course. I don't actually have any answers, but I am not happy with people becoming progressively more submissive when they are totally innocent of ill intent.

V word=degreg, which as a combination of degree and dreg, ie, what is offered by many online colleges...

December 01, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, I don't remember having a strong opinion on whether the then-new airport security measures were justified or necessary, but I did not much like that Bush spoke so earnestly of the need for the measures -- and, if I recall right, for specific measures -- but did not think it was the government's job to pay for them. It smacked too much of unfunded mandates -- one level of government jumping on the fiscal-responsibility bandwagon by dropping the ball in the lap of the next level of government down. State and local governments don't tend to like this kind of thing.

In re profiling, I wonder what sorts of questions the Israeli inspectors ask. (I've been to Israel, but years ago -- before "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover" was released, even.) The sorts of questions I've been asked when I knew I was being prodded were repetitions or near-repetitions of questions I'd been asked already. The inspectors apparently wanted to be sure my answers were consistent.

December 01, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

I think that airports are becoming a lot like hospitals. We are deferential and obedient, because we want to make sure we get out of them again intact.

Although, I've noticed that in hospitals, the complainers aren't usually carted away.

December 01, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, submissive is one thing the American people are -- submissive to the theology of security.

I don't think we should stay home, either. I mean, I'm not saying anything Voltaire or some of the less-addled thinkers in the 1960s didn't say. Think small, and keep our sanity, and if that means turning our backs on the experience that the government has made of air travel, so be it, at least until our actions force prices so low that we just have to come back.

December 01, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, we're used to taking our clothes off and being X-rayed at hospitals, and now we can enjoy the pleasure at airports. But I don't think they'll give me a tranquilizing shot if I start screaming at an airport.

December 01, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

"Go, Jo. I win."

God! You're so competitive, Peter! OK, you can win. I'll be magnanimous.

Seana, re "the populace seems to have been thoroughly cowed" is absolutely true. And the really scary thing is that so many people (based on quotes I've read in newspapers) really and truly believe that all this scanning nonsense is making them "safe". At the risk of sounding like a kooky conspiracy theorist, it seems like gov't just keeps shoving these tactics down our throats to see how much we will tolerate the indignity, the incompetence, the waste, etc.

"I don't think they'll give me a tranquilizing shot if I start screaming at an airport." No, they won't. That's why it's important to gobble some Xanax (Jack Taylor's downer of choice in the latest installment) before you go, as in "don't leave home without it."

December 01, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

I don't think of it as the government running the show so much as just a machine that continues running on its own crazy logic.

December 01, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

One cannot prove a negative, so one can't argue that the current measures have kept air travel safe based on the absence of onboard attacks. But people will argue that anyhow.

I'm not sure I believe that the escalating security measures are anything as clear-cut as an experiment in air travellers' patience. It's probably some noxious mixture of government arrogance, excessive faith in industry, American submissivness, globalization and, I don't know, the alignment of the stars.

That's why it's important to gobble some Xanax (Jack Taylor's downer of choice in the latest installment) before you go, as in "don't leave home without it."

You see? You may not like all the Jack Taylor books, but you can learn something from them. I'm not likely to need a downer at airports, just an anti-tedium pill.

December 01, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I don't think of it as the government running the show so much as just a machine that continues running on its own crazy logic.

Right on, sister!

December 01, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

"A machine that continues running on its own crazy logic". Yes, a machine run amok but still a machine... that the federal gov't ( = our tax dollars) is responsible for.

"Anti-tedium pill"? That would be uppers, and Taylor takes those, too.

December 01, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You know, I ought to explore the history of the term military-industrial complex and what Eisenhower meant by it.

December 01, 2010  

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