Thursday, November 10, 2011

Knowing who you are...

Travel is inherently a self-centered activity.  Surrounded by strangers, each of whom is intent on their own plans and destinations, loaded into and unloaded from metal tubes with the same courtesy  afforded cows on their way to slaughter - and less personal space, it is hard to avoid devoting your full attention to getting yourself and your baggage to your destination with as little discomfort and inconvenience as possible.

If you travel enough on a given airline, you'll invariably find yourself elevated to one "elite" status or another.  This is, of course, a sham as the benefits in most of these programs are inconsequential and do little to make travel any more civilized.  However, given the generally dehumanizing nature of travel these days, it is hard of avoid a slight feeling of self-importance when an airline lets you board slightly earlier than the mass of hoi polloi.

With these observations, I present the following vignette recorded by Paul Theroux in Dark Star Safari:
The best story about the Cairo Railway Station, told to me by a man who witnessed it unfold, does not concern a luminary but rather a person delayed in the third-class ticket line.  When this fussed and furious man at last got to the window he expressed his exasperation to the clerk, saying, "Do you know who I am?"  The clerk looked him up and down and, without missing a beat, said, "In that shabby suit, with a watermelon under your arm, and a third-class ticket to El Minya, who could you possibly be?"
...and aren't we all holding third-class tickets to El Minya these days?


  1. Whenever I get pissed off with travel stuff I recall a passage written by a woman in diary recording her ordeal travelling west in a wagon train in the 1800's. The only thing that kept her going was knowing that each step kept bringing her closer to the final destination. Then they found out they were on the wrong trail and had to backtrack a hundred miles. The despair was heartbreaking. In comparison...

  2. The only thing that has improved in air travel lately is they will now keep the crowd better informed when there is a delay. Having spent much of my travel time delayed at airports, I guess they finally decided that telling us " it will be a while" is not sufficient. Heh.

    The sad part is. I really love flying - actual flight - but the airlines have nearly snuffed out this feeling. *sigh*

  3. I always feel like I'm witnessing the worst of humanity while in airports. But maybe I exaggerate and the worst of humanity is more severe than an endless parade of tight pants and tall boots.