Monday, September 09, 2019

Some Things Were Better in the Olden Days. Like Airplane Seats And US Presidents.

1.  Take commercial airplane seats.  They weren't always stacked against each other like crates for some cumbersome product in a warehouse.   The seats were wider and offered more legroom.

You have probably guessed that I whine about this because of a recent personal experience and you are correct.  I sat in the seventeen-inch-wide middle seat in a three-seat row a few days ago, for six long hours, while contemplating the strong shoulders and arms and the sturdy hips of the passengers on my immediate right and left.

I could contemplate them because the hips shared some of my seat, and because the arms completely possessed the (theoretically shared) armrests*.  Those armrests, by the way, could not be raised in that particular area of that particular plane.

So mild agony ensued.  I'm slim (snakes are) and have never much thought about airline seat comfort.  But there's something about sitting for hours, as if wrapped in invisible duct tape to create a narrow vertical bundle, that concentrates the mind on personal discomfort.  Trying to scratch my nose required elaborate squirming and apologies, and then I developed a terrible desire to spring up and do jumping jacks in the aisle.

Which I resisted.  But the experience made me read about airline seats once safely back at the Snakepit Inc., and I found this hilarious explanation why the shrunk seat space doesn't matter at all:

Boeing concedes that seat pitch has been reduced (by three inches, on average, for long-haul flights, it says). But it added: “Today’s seat pitch and seat design with composite materials provide similar, if not improved, comfort from the bulky metallic structure and foam-dense designs used in the past. In general, the new seat designs and materials provide two to three inches of ‘equivalent pitch’ over older seat designs.” 
That's about the legroom, not about the seat width.  What it really means is that now the seats are as thinly padded as church pews.  So we haven't really lost as much legroom as it seems, because we have also lost the padding in the seats**!

2.  Presidents were also better in the olden days (even when they were terrible presidents and carried out horrible policies), because their mental age wasn't somewhere around two-and-a-half years, and because if they were malignant narcissists they covered it up much better. 

We are now used to a president who spends most of his time golfing, watching Fox News and fighting personal and nasty Twitter wars with people who have little political power, such as popular entertainers, just because they have insulted his ego and so caused one of his narcissistic rages. 

But even in that context Trump's so-called Sharpie-gate should have shocked us:

Here, in case you missed it, is the original claim Trump made on Sunday and continues to defend: “In addition to Florida—South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.” The Alabama part of this was untrue, and the Birmingham National Weather Service immediately corrected the record on Sunday, operating under the understandable assumption that Alabamians receiving accurate information about a looming natural disaster mattered more than the president’s pride. Trump, unaccustomed to correction, disagreed. Since then, it didn’t hit but it could have has become his mantra, as he tweeted about it for days before the Wednesday Sharpie incident that will live in infamy, when he presented an official NOAA map doctored with black ink to make the hurricane appear to be headed toward Alabama.

The sentence I have bolded in that quote is the important one, because for Trump nothing matters more than his pride and ego.  That is dangerous in the president of a country, not only because he is willing to cause harm to his own people should his pride require that, but because it's a characteristic foreign powers can easily exploit.

3.   There's one more thing which was better in the olden days, and that thing nicely connects the previous two segments having to do with overseas flights and US presidents:  It is discussing American politics while in Europe. 

That used to be quite fun.  Now it consists of people demanding to know how we (I) could ever have let Trump happen*** and what we (I) are going to do to get rid of him, because they themselves can't affect that, even though Trump affects their lives, too. 

* I hasten to add that it wasn't their fault.  They had nowhere else to stow their arms.

**  I know, of course, why airlines do all of the above. Passengers are, on the whole, price sensitive, so cutting quality works better than price increases in the search for maximum airline profits.  Still, all the in-flight information videos about safety depict people happily relaxing in much more spacious seats.  That's false advertizing.

*** Of course only after they have carefully probed the possibility that I might be a Trump-weirdo myself.  When I assure them that I am not, the relief is always visible.