It can't be far away.
I don't remember which sci-fi book it was (I read a lot of Asimov, Heinlein, and Niven as a kid), but one author had their characters walking around in disposable paper clothing. Sounded uncomfortable to me at the time.
First it was nail clippers. Now it's shampoo. Aftershave. Mascara. Toothpaste. You just can't carry anything on the plane any more. When I travel with my family, that's not a hardship; we simply drop everything into our checked luggage and wait for it at the far end. Of course, in the past 18 months I've flown about 20 round-tips and had my luggage lost no fewer than seven times.
So that's not always a reliable solution.
But what about my two-day business trips to Chicago, Denver, Orlando? My business overnights to Seattle? There's no reason for me to check luggage and waste an extra 45 minutes at the far end just to pick up my aftershave and toothpaste. And yet, if I buy them at the far end, I'll spend just as long shopping... then I'll have to mail them home or throw them out a day or two later. And I've got it easy--I've got no hair products to worry about.
The terrorists have already won. If every business traveler on a one- or two-night stay now has to check their luggage, then we're talking another 45 minutes of lost productivity for every business trip in the country, every day. Checked luggage will get lost more frequently when there's more of it to move. Claiming bags will take longer when the number of people waiting and the number of bags to be claimed increase 50%. This is going to be a huge economic drain.
But I'm certain it won't stop there. Some clever terrorist will find a way to make an explosive stick of chewing gum like James Bond used. Squish the two colors of gum together, and kablooey. At that point, all food will be banned on flights, and we'll be stuck with cross-country cheese nips or $10 cafeteria sandwiches on tasteless bread with squeeze packets of mayonnaise.
Then it won't be long before someone comes up with explosive or poison-gas-generating fabrics. Imagine a pair of socks that, when rubbed together vigorously, create a fatal poison gas. Shortly thereafter, we'll be forced into holding areas at check-in where we take off all our clothes and put on those disposable one-piece coveralls used in hospital surgery rooms, neatly printed with the logo of the airline we're flying that day. We'll stuff our regular clothes into our checked luggage and get on the plane. We'll get off the plane and wait 40 minutes to find out our luggage never got on the plane with us, and we'll stand another 40 minutes in line to file the lost-luggage claim. Then we'll rush off to our business meeting in our disposable one-piece outfit with only our IDs and cell phones and boarding pass stubs and lost luggage claim checks, and we'll sit around the table with our colleagues dressed in other airline-branded disposable outfits and our messy hair and bad breath and talk about how we should really invest more in videoconferencing, or maybe teleportation research.
The terrorists have already won. It's only a matter of time before air travel becomes more of an inconvenience than a benefit.
August 11, 2006
It can't be far away.