Chris and Kelly have slightly different approaches to packing for international travel.
Kelly is an experienced international traveler, which means that she will probably casually throw a few things in a bag as we walk out the door to go to the airport. Somehow everything will just fit fine in her luggage and everything she needs will be there or will be magically brought to her by travel fairies along the way.
I, on the other hand, haven't traveled much outside the country in a while, and that in combination with my general engineering approach to life's challenges means that I've been planning my packing for a while in advance of this trip. Like, weeks and months. Like, I have a room in my house dedicated to the arrangement and assembly of my trip stuff.
Sometimes you see those weather stories on the evening news where they show a few seconds of airline passengers stranded in some airport looking like hell as they try to figure out how to cope with canceled or delayed flights, and usually you just feel a little bad for them and then move on. At the moment I'm feeling some appreciation for the misery that's displayed in those brief clips, having had a bit of a travel adventure myself:
It started with Mark and I barreling through the snow on I-70 toward the Dayton airport, wondering if planes would even be taking off at all today. But, my handy dandy text message updates from Delta.com declared the flight was on time, so we pressed on.
I should have known we were in for a special time when the guy at the ticket check-in counter (which has largely been replaced by self check-in kiosks) was delighted to point out how much cost cutting Delta has done. Me: "Do you have one of those little folders for these boarding passes?" Him: "No, they did away with those some time ago. Heck, all we've got left now are the airplanes! MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" Right.
From the "I hope it doesn't happen but wouldn't be surprised if it did" department, I have some predictions and scenarios to throw out there about stuff that could happen sometime in the rest of 2008. I suppose this is mostly just a mental exercise for me, but maybe it'll spark some interesting comments/responses:
- The price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in the U.S. will hit $6 a gallon sometime this Summer, and perhaps $10/gallon or more by the end of the year. Measures will be taken by the federal and state governments to temporarily alleviate the financial burden on some people, but nothing sustainable. Some people will not be able to get to work at all, while others will have to carpool more, take the bus, ride their bikes, and walk.
- The U.S. will initiate military action against Iran, probably in the form of heavy air-strikes. There will be no clear notion of victory or desired outcome other than to significantly destroy the country's own infrastructure, especially targets related to nuclear facilities. This action might be justified to the American people by...
- An apparent attack on one or more U.S. locations, resulting in significant loss of life or infrastructure.
- The U.S. airline industry will significantly cut back or even cease flight schedules as we've known them, and air travel will (once again) become a privilege reserved for the rich and famous who can afford private flights. Any frequent flier miles you've accumulated will become worth near nothing.
- Most grocery stores will significantly scale back their inventories and restocking schedules, and significantly raise prices on what remains. Obtaining food from non-local sources, even basic staples, will be difficult at best, and most communities will begin to take emergency steps to feed their residents.
Hey, look, I don't like the thought of these things happening any more than the next person, but perhaps there's some value in naming what might be, even if it seems a bit outlandish or gruesome. Maybe if we believe these things are possible, we might feel more prepared to prevent or deal with them if they do happen.
What do you think? Too cynical? Worse? What are some other scenarios?
Hayden L. Sheaffer, the pilot who is being raked over the coals for his role in flying a Cessna 150 into restricted airspace over Washington D.C. earlier this month, which prompted the scrambling of jets and the evacuation of thousands, noted today that he did in fact try to contact the military on the radio channel they instructed him to use, but that he couldn't get through. In today's issues, the New York Times reports that the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that Sheaffer was instructed to use a frequency that was not available at the time. What? Huh? Okay, the guy shouldn't have gotten lost in the first place, but the whole incident was fairly ridiculous, and the thought that they might have been blown out of the sky because they were given instructions they couldn't follow is a pretty scary one. When I was flying Cessnas with minimal avionics (far from restricted airspace, mind you), I don't think would've had much of a "plan B" in that case either.
Over the holiday weekend, Comair had to cancel over 1,000 flights because of software problems. It turns out that, as I read in the F-Secure Weblog, the flight planning software they were using was using a 16-bit counter to keep track of flight staff changes...so after 32768 changes it would simply stop working. Details are available from an article in Cincinnati Post. This is the kind of madness I was expecting for Y2K, not four years later when we're supposed to have learned that lesson by now.