Thursday, October 20, 2011

On Planes, Buses, and Trains

That is suspicious. I've never seen the tube trains so empty.
They must've taken this photo on 8/7/05.
Welcome, dear readers, to my world.

I'm not joking. I have heard this warning over hundreds of P.A. systems in at least thirteen different languages. At least, I assume that they were saying something about anti-terrorist action, and not in fact commenting about the weird English backpacker in the hat, standing by himself. As you may or may not know, I am something of a world traveller - so much so that once, while bored on a 9+ hour train journey from Berlin to Dusseldorf, I tallied up the number of trains that I had ever taken in my life. Despite having never been a train commuter (I've never lived in a city with such a system), the total currently stands at 104. That's 104 trains, stopping at 67 stations, to be exact.

Planes are another thing! I've been on more flights than I honestly care to remember. Just in the last three years, I've flown internationally eleven times, with six of those journeys being over nine hours - and two of them being 15 1/2 hours (direct). Not counting cities where I've only passed through, I have so far been to 103 cities in 17 countries. That's soon to be 104 cities, when I go to Savannah, GA this Sunday.

As for buses. Honestly, thousands. That is how I used to commute to college every day, and simply how I got out and about day-to-day.

What's my point though? I don't have the most impressive record - especially out of my Facebook friends. Some of them truly put me to shame. No, I am merely a good journalist giving you my credentials on my subject of choice today. And that subject is?
Why you should be suspicious of anything. I guess.
Well, more specifically, the reaction it's had on public transport. It's a bit weird to think about 9/11 really: this thing happened ten years ago, and has dominated the public consciousness almost non-stop for that entire length of time. If a terrorist attack could be likened to a film, this thing is doing nearly as well as Pulp Fiction. And I'll be damned if that movie isn't still as popular as it was when it first came out. I'm not trying to make light of the twin towers... I'll leave that to my colleague, Caowin, when he next wants to offend the masses. What I am saying, is that the U.S. got over Pearl Harbour within about four years - because they had closure.

Just like a relationship.

But this whole terroristy mess really hasn't had any proper closure for us.
Nothing says closure like this does.
Yes, we killed Bin Laden (at last! I'm never going to challenge his progeny to hide and seek), but the rest of the world continues to be scared of his little one-hit wonder group: Al Qaeda. Maybe it's just because we don't have a cool little quote like "I am become death, the destroyer of worlds". Maybe it's because we don't have a genuinely scary superpower to deal with in the wake of this war (coughcoughUSSRcoughcough). Or maybe, it's just that the media is constantly lying with us just to get our attention. Yes, it's the latter. But I'm not here to talk about that. Honestly. I'm not here to tell you how terrible the meat grinding machine that comprises the upper echelons of modern society truly is. It's terrible. I'm not here to tell you all about the countless ways that the Man is bringing us down.

No, I'm here today to vent about how bloody annoying public transport is now, thanks to public safety concerns. Don't get me wrong: I fucking love not falling out of the sky because of that crazy safety concern that we call not letting our planes just fall out of the sky. What I do hate though is... Well, I'll be honest; a lot of things. Maybe it's the bitter, withered, old-man soul that resides within my heart.
The doctors said it was heart disease, but you can never trust the NHS.
No, it's the multi-faceted paranoia that annoys me to the brim of my essence. That insane level of paranoia where I am afraid to leave my bag on my seat when I go to the toilet on a train - not because I'm worried it'll get stolen, but because I'm worried that people will think it's a bomb in that duffel bag, rather than some dirty clothes and a bottle of absinthe. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Yaya, you're being a bit paranoid here, aren't you? - Caowinhim]. I'm talking about the insane level of paranoia that means that I have to hear announcements about abandoned luggage at rail stations in cities that terrorists wouldn't be able to pronounce (Wroclaw, I'm looking at you. It's pronounced Vroswav, by the way). Being able to ask for a ticket to a place is a significant precursor to manually bombing it. As the great comedian Ed Byrne once joked, I too can remember the days when I could see an abandoned package and think 'Ooh, I'm having that!'.

This absurd paranoia even especially extends to technology. You know: like when you're on a plane about to taxi for take-off, and they're telling you to turn off your mobile phones. That's fine. Reasonable, right? I mean, phones do emit wireless signals which could theoretically kill pilots or whatever. Apart from the fact that on two of the flights I mentioned in my introduction, I left my phone on for the whole duration by accident... And I haven't even died in a plane crash once. Now, I have heard that the mobile phone thing is because if you had a large number of them on at once, they could interfere with important computer stuff on the plane. The fact that everybody needs to turn off phones does allow for the fact that some idiots (like me) will simply forget without dooming everyone aboard.


That's fine.


What really gets me is that recently (they didn't do this to me more recently than a year or two ago), they have started demanding that I turn off my mp3 player during take-off and landing. I would understand (begrudgingly) if this was so that I could listen to those 'important' canned safety messages they deliver before every flight - the summary of which is 'We are all going to die if I mess this up, ladies and gentlemen. Enjoy your flight.' - but that isn't the case. Otherwise, they would ask me to take my headphones off, or pause my mp3 player. But no. They're very insistent that we must turn off our mp3 players completely, even if you - like me - own a 6-year-old pre-everything-must-have-wireless style mp3 player. Seriously, mine lacks any way of communicating with any other device, short of being plugged right in. Obviously, the air steward/esse/s don't know that... But have you ever tried explaining this simple fact to them? I have. It ended with the same conclusion that it would've, had I never tried arguing in the first place.

"Wow, Yair! You have a lot of pent-up rage right now! Why haven't you directed it against buses though? That's even in the title of today's article", you're probably thinking about now. Or at least I hope you are... My writing kinda hinges on being able to guess approximately what you're thinking. My answer to this hopeful hypothetical is that I really have very few complaints against buses. Oh, they're about a million times more likely to kill you than an airplane, for many, many reasons, but the worst day-to-day hassle they make you suffer is being a little late occasionally, and jacking up the price exorbitantly (if you're in the Teeside region, at least). The only thing I have to say on them really, is how hilarious I find it that there's apparently been a whole lot of fuss about the installation of CCTV cameras on buses in the U.S.


That's been going on for ages over here! Like seriously, there are cameras everywhere over here.
Saying "Fuck you, civil liberty!" since 1949.
Hahahaha. Cameras on buses. Wow. That's rich.

Anyway, yeah, this has been me pointlessly ranting,

(Don't worry guys: Monday's article will be less hate-driven.)

Y. S. Rice

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