Posted by: Taylor Hoff | December 23, 2010

Air Travel Is Stupid

So as I write this I’m sailing about 20,000 feet over South Dakota, enroute to California. I started this flight with about the worst flight attendant I’ve had the displeasure of meeting, and it made me wonder… What do we even need them for? Anybody can do this job, it’s pathetic. Can you operate a coffee maker, teach someone how to use a seatbelt, and be a dick? Congratulations, you too can be a flight attendant.

As I was entering the jetway, there was a gaggle of them hanging out, talking to police officers, because a passenger (who was a military vet) had verbally abused another passenger who cut him in line for the bathroom. They sternly bitched at the vet, then radioed ahead for police to sort things out. If that vet had become unruly, I bet they would have gone and hid in the cockpit with the pilots. They are worthless, they can’t even be used for proper security. So anyways, I get on the plane, sit in my exit row seat, and act amused as this attendant asked me my age. I’m damn near twenty, and she wants to know if I’m under 15, and thus cannot be allowed to sit in the exit row, for fear that in an evacuation I would be bodily unable to operate the emergency exit door. (Which I could have done when I was 15, let alone 12.) Again, I get interrupted as she tells me to turn off my iPod. Here is where I get pissed. Anybody with a basic understanding of physics or technology can understand that an iPod doesn’t have a transmitter. Even so, let’s say it was, oh, I don’t know, the onboard wifi access point (which was on and accessible during the entire process of taxi-takeoff-landing), it would do jack s**t all. Why? Because unlike whatever 1950’s manual these idiots are told to parrot, onboard avionics are shielded from interference in what’s known as a Faraday Cage, which absorbs radio waves by being smaller than the wavelength of the transmission. (Think chain link fence, but with smaller holes.) There is so much interference in the air that if the avionics were in any way unshielded, they would go ballistic because of nearby radio stations, but an iPod would STILL do nothing to them. But none of this matters to the flight attendant. She’ll stare at you and try to watch like a hawk to make sure your stuff is off before stalking off to bother someone else, which turns the plane into the equivalent of a 4th grade classroom, where people pull their electronics out as soon as her back is turned. I text people as the plane is taking off, just on the principle that it violates the arbitrary and draconian rules that these idiots are instructed to enforce. What kind of world do we live in, where people are so mind numbingly stupid that they carry out instructions without even thinking about the underlying reasons behind them? I talked to a Boeing engineer about this very issue a year or so ago, and he told me that the reason the rule is there isn’t to secure the plane from avionics-killing rays, but to prevent various gadgets from becoming veritable missiles in the event of a crash. So why don’t they tell us that? Why do the dog and pony show about turning off your devices and then walking away when it’s still sitting in the passenger’s lap? That disconnect is what’s an issue. I’d be much more inclined to follow a rule that made sense, than one that didn’t for different but correct reasons.

Know what else facetiously grinds my gears? Unencrypted wifi access onboard the plane. As I type, my computer is passively copying every bit of data being transferred to the router onboard this plane, and anybody who enters a password or sends an email that isn’t going through a secure socket (https) or tunnel (VPN) is having their data displayed to me, in plaintext. Who designed this system and thought it was a good idea to let this be the way things work? What could possibly be good about this setup? Obviously I’m going to delete it as soon as I’m bored of playing with the data, but come on. If I had even an iota of malicious intent this would be a goldmine. IT pros, if you work for a major airline company, please tell them to turn on WPA2 and provide everybody with a password. I don’t care if it’s the same password that’s displayed on the back of the seats, just get this stuff encrypted. Please.

Airline travel is stupid, and it makes me feel about as annoyed as Bruce Willis when he meets that obnoxious celebrity guy played by Chris Rock in the 5th Element.

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