Much to my horror, I recently read that an American airline was going to experiment with putting a TV into each seat back on its planes. Cable and network programming would be shown.
Airplanes are horrifying enough as anyone knows who ever tried to squeeze a size 16 body into a size 4 seat while accommodating 20 inches of leg in 2 3/4 inches of space. I thought we’d hit rock bottom when they started serving burritos that were as light as an anvil falling from a forty-story building. Now they are installing TV.
The disintegration really started with the advent of computers, phones and video games – especially video games held by little children whose parents do not insist that they turn off the sounds. It is very hard to read Jane Austen while the sound of people being blown apart, with all the accompanying screams and screeches, is coming from your seatmate’s hands. Even worse is when they are playing a game that has some insipid music backing it that plays over and over and over. I have to fight the urge to rip the thing out of the child’s hand and fling it out the window – a move generally frowned upon by the airlines who have a fairly negative attitude about opening windows during flight.
Computer aren’t bad but cell phones and those airline phones now found at seemingly every seat are noxious. You are stuck in an untenably small space with a perfect stranger who is having a conversation that is none of your business and you have no choice but to overhear it no matter how hard you stick your head into your book. I actually once sat next to someone who was talking to his doctor about test results that I would have been hard pressed to share with a spouse, let alone discuss on a plane.
One of the only saving graces left of air travel was that it was one place where I could read uninterrupted and without guilt. They started chipping away at this perk with movies. But since the sound was usually horrible, I was able to ignore the movie and concentrate on my book. Video games just hurt my hands, which already suffer from too much time on a keyboard. And I thankfully do not have the wherewithal to actually own a portable computer. So my reading habit was safe till now. Now I face that horrible moment of truth where I must decide if I can resist Fraser or the 400th rerun of my favorite Designing Women episode in favor of my book.
I fear I will be weak. I fear I will surreptitiously glance up at the screen of my seatmate despite the best of intentions and get once again caught up in whether Opie and Sheriff Taylor will weather the vicissitudes of raising a child in mythical America. Or whether this time Ricky will recognize Lucy despite the wig or mustache. Will my beloved authors from the past be able to compete with the instant gratification of scriptwriters of the present?
I don’t know the answer but it scares me. My little fortress of solitude is being breached again. Maybe the airlines could create a distraction free zone out of the old smokers’ section for those of us who want to read undisturbed by the advances of 20th century technology. I don’t know about you, but I’d be willing to pay extra for the privilege.