07 February 2008

Observations from the Tedium of Travel

Last year I traveled as little as I have in years. This year, I'll probably be making trips to Indy two to three times a month through the first nine months of this year, something that gives me lots of opportunity to endure sleep deprivation (a time zone 3 hours off from home) and close spaces.

The plane rides are less than amusing when the client finances travel in coach and you are nearly 6' 5". Today, on the leg from Indianapolis to Dallas, I sat between vivid illustrations of the two primary male urges: sex and violence. The guy to my right was watching Saving Private Ryan and the guy to my left was watching a new movie with Jessica Alba that included bouncing breasts and prolonged sex scenes - a bold choice for a man sitting on the aisle with a high-resolution, 17" monitor. I felt positively antiquated sitting between them reading a book published in 1822, but the one consolation for six hours of flying is the uninterrupted reading time. (And besides, neither offered a headphone jack.)

The book also helped me to endure the next leg of the flight, sitting beside a man who must have weighed at least 350 – perhaps more than 400. Stendhal's Cures for Love was at turns amusing and provocative. (And really, there is, of course, no cure for love. It simply has to run its course.) This former defense minister for Napoleon included commentary on the US that stills seems to yield insight. In the midst of his advice on sex and violence, he offered these notions:

"What deserves admiration in America is the form of government and not the society. Elsewhere it is the government that does the harm. They have reversed the parts in Boston, and the government plays the hypocrite in order not to shock society."

"Goethe, or any other German genius, values money at its true worth. One must think of nothing but making money until one has an income of six thousand francs a year and after that think of it no further."

"If for lack of personal security you substitute a healthy fear of lacking money, you will see that the United States of America … bears a strong resemblance to the ancient world."

Rather than plodding along behind Napoleon on foot, we're now traveling at 500 mph. But it seems as though we're still propelled by the same forces - if only with more vivid imagery.


cce said...

I'm amused thinking of you there wedged between sex and violence while perusing you ancient texts. This reminds me of a flight I was on last year on which I was the middle between a 20 year old male, all piercings and tattoos and simmering rage, and a talkative eighty year old gentleman wearing a blazer and tie and returning to his retirement home in Florida. Cultural divide is all that came to mind.

Ron Davison said...

In public places, I am made accutely aware that the fact that my own identity is pretty boring.