The lines were unimaginably long. The stress was high. You almost had to pity the young couples embarking on romantic holidays who, after a three-hour wait in a crowded queue, had already grown thoroughly sick of one another. The security was incredibly tight, though I saw a woman successfully negotiate a bag full of food onto the plane while the guy sitting across from me somehow got to his seat with his pulp fiction novel in hand, flagrantly disobeying the new "no books" rule. God bless him, since the "no books" rule left you subjected to nothing but in-flight entertainment for six plus hours. Meanwhile, the woman next to me was applying another forbidden item, lipstick. Apples, books, lipstick, yikes, all these chinks in the armor made me wonder how safe any system could ever be.
The "no books" rule is certainly a bizarre rule, While it's undoubtedly true that it was books like The Bible and The Koran that got us into this mess in the first place, those are generally slow working weapons of mass destruction, taking years to activate.
There was a big pile of confiscated books at the second security line; apparently a lot of people were sneaky enough to get their flight reading through the first frisk down, only to blow it at the second. All those James Patterson novels must have been just too uncomfortable shoved up their rectums. Security's pile of seized tomes would have made a great photo if we'd been allowed our cameras. Most of the titles I didn't recognize, though Tom Friedman's "The World is Flat" poked out from the bottom.
The whole experience made me wonder if it's not time to evolve the concept of travel. In the introduction to "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" C.S. Lewis fantasizes a future of travel where you enter a door in London and walk out the same door in Pakistan, a wonderful thought that seems to link Narnia to the transporter room of the Starship Enterprise. But I think there's a more contemporary and entirely practical way to accomplish this that doesn't involve the rearrangement of our molecules. Well, maybe only a few.
Fed Ex and Pfizer should expand into a co-venture, opening Somnoaction Centers in major hub cities. Entering one of their storefronts in, say, downtown Manhattan, you would answer a series of medical questions. Then, entering a small white room, you would recline on a comfortable white leather couch, drink a small glass of sparkly water, and promptly fall asleep. When you awoke ten hours later, you would be in a similar white room, only now in London, or Paris, or Sydney.
Obviously this has multiple benefits. There is the stress-free nature of the journey, no need to worry about your fellow passengers blowing up your plane because they're unconscious too. Also, no more lines, no more airline food, and no more screaming small babies on board.
There are, of course, some ethical dilemmas. It would involve drugging our youth and all those small babies too young to drug would just have to find some other way to get there. Plus, who handled your body and how they transported you might lead to some increased insecurity ("Hey, where'd that bruise come from?") But would only be only a stop-gap measure until we finished building the massive transoceanic pneumatic tube system.
Or maybe they could just let us have our books back.