Friday, March 22, 2013

Lifetime lines and traffic woes


I used to like to fly, not any more.  Flying today is a hectic, frenzied, frenetic and feverish race against time, space and boredom.  Many of you will remember the old days before 911 and before the underwear and shoe bombers, the good old days when terrorists were confined to an occasional plane jacking that usually ended in a tropical island.  It may have been Cuba but at least it was warm when you got off the plane and most did get off and survived to tell the harried story.  

When you combine all the wasted time sitting in TSA lines, removing your shoes and jackets, displaying your most private parts for the world to see you start to wonder if it’s really all worth it?   When you add up the total number of hours wasted and the total cost of those hours the cost analysis of all this security is mind boggling.

One blogger and you have to admit that all bloggers tell the truth, stated that Americans lose annually nearly 7 million years waiting in lines at airports; yes I said seven million, million with an M.  I personally don’t know how he came up with that number but it does illustrate in a dramatic way the excessive degree in which we inconvenience everyone for the safety of a relative few.  

According Wireless internet service provider BT Openzone, British business travelers spend 689,000 hours a month waiting in airports, with most spending an average of two to three hours each month doing so.  When added together that amounts to about one lifetime lost, a life in essence sacrificed to waiting, not being productive, just standing, inching along toward eventual death…so morose…Any volunteers?

There are thousands of examples that illustrate the backward focus we currently have on resource allocation, time management or in simple terms keeping us moving.  We stand in grocery lines, for hours at times at the DMV (motor vehicle) at banks or amusement parks, don’t get me started but the worst by far is the time lost at the airports by mostly very productive people who want to stay busy but are forced to idle their precious time standing and waiting.  

I don’t have a solution to the problem but I know I don’t want to stand in lines anymore; it’s taken all the fun out of traveling.  The same is true with rush hour traffic.  I’ve resorted to taking detours, that take me longer, just to avoid the aggravation of having to sit in my car not moving.  I don’t know about you but when I’m driving I like to move, it’s a pet peeve of mine.

What’s worse than being on a freeway with a 70 mph limit and you’re stopped, staring at the concrete lines and trying to read the discarded messages on the Starbucks coffee cups littering the highways,  totally stopped because someone two miles up had a fender bender and decided to stop and exchange insurance information in the middle of the road.  The lost time for all those behind when added up would be equal to the national debt, well maybe I just made that up but it sure sounds good.

I read on the news the other day where a fatal accident, and please don’t think I I’m not sympathetic to those family members who suffer that great loss, but again from an economic standpoint when they close all lanes of the 5 freeway near Los Angeles so they can investigate makes me wonder why they haven’t developed a better way to balance the needs of the many with the need of the one?

There was a science fiction story I read years ago, I can’t remember the name of the story or the author but it was about an alien society that excelled in improving everything they came in contact with.  They were so in-tune with the needs of the many that if an accident did occur it was immediately removed in order to maintain the expected order.

I guess one of the problems we have is our obsession with what might happen and with past events dictating future actions without really considering the mass effects on society as a whole.  Instead of thinking of how to manage the lines and stoppages perhaps we should start thinking about how to prevent those lines and keep people moving.  The adage of “time is money” is true and in a real sense has crippled our economy or at least continues to stall the opportunities lost from being forced to remove our belts and shoes.

The importance of being safe is essential but when compared to the cost I think it’s time to reconsider the notion of profiling.  Do 80 year old Caucasian women in a wheel chair really pose a threat?  I can see security stopping me but a ten year old with a hello kitty backpack?

I think it’s time to have a national debate regarding this issue of time management as it relates to the group rather than its historical perspective of optimizing the individual.  We cannot forget about that individual but more often than not it’s the individuals who gum up the works.

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