Travel Should Be a Civilized Experience.
I am, at this moment, in my room at Hilton’s hotel at Los Angeles International Airport, which even infrequent travelers know as LAX. My room looks out on a couple of the main runways and the non-stop takeoffs and landings are astonishing. Last night the planes were landing at the rate of about one every 90 seconds. I woke up briefly at 1:00 a.m. and it was beginning to taper off. That same level of activity had resumed this morning–again about one every 90 seconds.
Just the sheer number of aircraft is impressive. And they’re from every corner of the world. You have to be at a huge facility like LAX to grasp the scope of this industry. And the scene outside my hotel window is pretty much duplicated at literally dozens of airports around the world.
The thing is, modern aviation is amazing–miraculous, really–as long as you consider it from a distance. But go inside, become a passenger, and you are swallowed up–swept along by this massive, complex maelstrom until you’re spit out at the other end.
In an hour, however, I’ll be heading into downtown Los Angeles for a meeting and, after a very pleasant lunch at the Traxx restaurant in the absolutely wonderful Los Angeles Union Station, I’ll relax in comfort on one of Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner trains for the two-hour ride to just north of San Diego. The Pacific Ocean will be right outside my window for much of the way and I can watch the surfers and beach goers as we pass.
Great speed and computerized efficiency isn’t always the answer. For all the problems, and despite the frustrating short-sighted political neglect, passenger trains are still the only civilized way to travel that’s left to us.