Flying used be kind of fun. Today, it's an enterprise on the order of Teddy Roosevelt organizing his expedition to the Amazon. I now have all the shoe rules memorized for all major US airports, airport friendly shoes, plastic jewelry, jackets with non-metallic zippers and buttons, and am working on the gels, aerosols, and sprays. But these are least of an air traveler's problems and vexations. Let's take airport and aircraft announcements. These are way, way out of hand.
On a recent flight from Detroit to Dulles, a flight of 56 minutes, there were fourteen announcements. That's roughly one announcement every three minutes. First, there was the obligatory announcement that the flight is a non-smoking flight. Right. Unless you have been living under a rock for the past 25 years, you know this. (I believe there are some flights in Russia that still permit smoking; placing chickens in the overhead bins is also permitted.) Second, there was the announcement that there is no smoking in the restrooms. Again, if you have not been under a rock, this rule has been in force for the past 20 years. Third, there is the announcement about the price of drinks and necessity for correct change. What is new about this? On and on. It's virtually impossible to read, listen to an iPod, look out the window—do anything but listen to inane chatter. (Yes, I'm well aware that the FAA does mandate certain announcements, but I don't think that annoucing the price of drinks or the incipient beverage service is mandated.)
Airports are worse than airplanes as far as noise goes. Again, there is the smoking announcement: "Blah International Airport is a non-smoking facility. Smoking is permitted in designated areas only." Again, the federal non-smoking policy has been in force for over two decades. Then there is the terrorism threat reminder. Last week it was orange. What does this mean? Bazookas in the valet parking lots? What if the terrorism threat level were red? No flight departures? The airport is under seige? No one knows what these colors mean. Homeland Security doesn't even know what they mean. And tow those people who are illegally parked in front of Door 2 and be quiet about it. As for those unattended bags, it is only common sense to keep your eye on your luggage and notify someone if bags are lying around. Zipper the lips on this one. For those people who have failed to master the rudiments of organization and, in consequence, failed to meet their parties, provide a "lost souls" corral where they can gather. No need to broadcast the names. Besides, no one can ever find the "white courtesy phones" anyway.
Here's what we want to hear over the PA system in the airport and in the air: information about our flight, information from the pilot relevant to the flight, and information about safety. That's it. The rest can be put on a card in several different languages with a series of tick boxes for the terrorism threat level. While I wait for this to happen, I'm getting noise-cancelling earphones.