Coffee or Tea in Your Agony?
Burton S. Blumert
by Burton S. Blumert
the past 20 years youíve predicted the collapse of real estate values,
the stock markets, and the entire political apparatus," a friend,
beer in hand, complained. "Iím fed up with your gloom-and-doom
view of the world."
I responded meekly, "but you must admit itís all 20 years closer
now than when I first started to tell you."
critical friend misses the point. We are swept along by a whirlwind
of technology that brings change by the minute. It is a revolution
brought to us by young innovators in the great American tradition.
Simultaneously, we endure a loss of quality in the everyday aspects
of life. In spite of assurances from government officials and social
engineers, things are not always better than they used to be.
last time I took an international flight was six or seven years
ago, and when I recently booked an overseas trip it was with some
trepidation. Does the consumer get more for his airfare dollars
today than he did in, say, 1965? No, and the evidence is overwhelming.
every passenger destined for steerage, there is the knowledge that
conditions are better on the other side of the curtain. I did not
have bonus miles nor time and energy to search out a "deal."
If I wanted a better seat Iíd have to buy it. The price of a roundtrip
San Francisco-London business class ticket was $3500. I decided
to suffer in economy, and suffer I did.
years ago a non-stop flight from San Francisco to London took approximately
11 hours. Today it remains 11 hours, but everything else is worse.
"airbus" is austere, devoid of anything soft or comfortable.
In fact, the interior seems designed to be cleaned between flights
with a high-powered water hose.
in í65 an economy airline seat was fashioned for the average American
male provided he was 4'11" and weighed less than 120 pounds. Seat
#32F on my recent Swissair flight to London was configured for the
backside of a marathon runner or a Tour de France cyclist.
passenger space shrinks, one becomes territorial. My left arm-rest
was shared with a gentleman from Cambodia, and for much of the flight
we maneuvered for possession. At one point violence appeared likely,
but western guile proved superior to Eastern mysticism and I prevailed
for more than 50 percent of the time.
the face of it, prices compared with years ago may appear at bargain
levels, but many of todayís passengers are "on the house."
They are recipients of mileage-plus coupons. Upgrades, airline employees,
their friends and family fill the bulk of the seats, often the choice
ones up front. Someone has to pay the bills, and itís the poor bloke
who doesnít have coupons or sufficient advance time who is the victim
and pays through the nose.
airport has been defined as a construction site where they land
planes. Thatís always been true, but itís worse than ever today.
Many overseas travelers will relate that their worst frustration
involves getting in and around the airports. Delays plague almost
every commercial carrier. Add to that the cumbersome and often unnecessary
security measures bugging the traveler, which add hours to a scheduled
the old days they were called stewardesses, all single, husband-hunting
attractive young women clearly on site to please the predominantly
male clientele. Aka flight attendants, today they are more like
matrons in a womenís prison whose sole purpose is to herd the sheeple
I have not forgotten airline food. Not only was what they served
inedible, it was unidentifiable. My Swissair flight was under the
auspices of Delta Airlines. The net result was that the Swiss have
adopted Deltaís menu and efficiency while Delta now exhibits Swiss
charm and graciousness.
hour six I was so degraded that a bag of peanuts seemed essential
to my survival. Spirits rose as one of the prison guards appeared
with a heavy cart filled with bags of peanuts lurching down the
narrow aisle. An eighty-year-old woman headed for the lav had to
dive to avoid being crushed by the deadly object. The rest of us
were relieved. Had she been squashed, we might have been peanutless.
to say, the passengerís mood darkens with each passing hour. I was
unable to shake the notion that the air I was breathing had been
filtered for everything but seven deadly viruses, and that we were
on the radar screen of the missile-launching ships attached to the
Seventh Fleet on maneuvers below.
final hour of the ordeal becomes almost manageable. Survival seems
assured and freedom imminent. For me, it meant I was an hour away
from a steaming cup of strong English coffee, a package of Frothmanís
Biscuits, and the morning Telegraph.
landing was bumpy, and on shaky legs we quickly cleared customs.
In celebration, I rushed to get my coffee, biscuits, and Telegraph,
quickly found a space at a long common table, and life seemed worth
living again. I removed the wrappings from the Frothmanís package,
selected one, and was not disappointed. They were as delicious as
my eye was distracted by the strangest occurrence. Seated across
from me was a middle-aged gent wearing a bowler hat and certainly
a denizen of Lombard Street in the old City.
was taking one of my biscuits. He did it brazenly and deftly. I
tried to dismiss what I had seen.
consuming my second biscuit, I must admit, my focus was no longer
drawn to the Telegraph but on my bowlered neighbor.
seemed absorbed in his newspaper (the Guardian), and managed
to extract the fourth biscuit in the package, his second. In New
York or San Francisco, I might have fled the scene or summoned the
police. But this was London.
proceeded to complete the package of six biscuits, each in turn,
without ever making eye contact. In a flash, he was gone, and I
was left to consider the experience. I shrugged and concluded that
even lunatics can wear bowler hats.
crushed my empty coffee container and folded my newspaper in preparation
to take leave. Covered by a section of the newspaper but now exposed
was my unopened package of Frothmanís biscuits.
knows? If the bowlered bloke has an Internet pal equivalent to LewRockwell.com,
he may be relating his incredible encounter with a crazed American.
short tour of London, Berlin, and Rome resulted in the same culture
shock as always. A driver in Rome summed up a view that we encountered
throughout our brief visit.
Americans are okay, but you donít have any culture."
was wrong. His real complaint was that by comparison America has
no history. We do have a culture, but it has fallen precipitously.
let me tell you about my return flight home...
was owner of Camino Coins, president of the Center for Libertarian
Studies, chairman of the Mises Institute, publisher of LewRockwell.com,
and the author of Bagels,
Barry Bonds, & Rotten Politicians.
© 2000 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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