Thanks for Modern Travel

Thanks for Modern Travel

As Thanksgiving approaches, we’re grateful that travel has improved so much since the days of the Mayflower.


Thanksgiving is this month, but I think gratitude is a discipline that requires daily practice, with the goal being to live in an ongoing state of thankfulness instead of limiting our expression of gratitude to one day a year. I’ve been keeping a mental list of things that I’m thankful for, even if they’re not on the scale of a winning lottery ticket. Acknowledging the little things is just as important.

(Cue the bluebird to light on my extended finger, please.)

Nowhere is this Hallmark commercial of a theory put to the test more brazenly than at the airport, where all the raised-by-wolves children of the world and their what-me-worry parents convene during the busiest travel season of the year to push every. last. one. of. my. buttons. And with great success, I might add.

It’s all I can do to get through my pre-flight ritual of sizing up, scoffing, judging and seething at the unwashed and unattended masses in the security line and boarding gate, compelled as I am to deliver a menacing stink-eye as a warning (to anyone who will look up from their phone) that I’m on the edge.

Here’s where a little gratitude exercise is needed most. I remind myself, albeit with clenched teeth, that I’m lucky to be flying and not driving, and that I don’t have to live with the food-smacking, aisle-jumping, line-clogging Philistines and their broods – I only have to get through a flight with them, which will be over soon enough, thanks to the magical, modern era in which we live.

After all, we’re flying, not crossing on the Mayflower – the very thought of which reminds me how clever I was not to be a Pilgrim in the first place. I can barely steel myself for 3.5 irritating hours inside a climate-controlled flying vessel. I wouldn’t have lasted 10 minutes on the 66-day crossing that the Mayflower endured over rough seas with nary a barf bag.

If they could see us today, the Pilgrims would probably call us out on every point of our soft-hands existence, including our propensity to whine about how “exhausting” travel has become. The Pilgrims didn’t give their drink orders to an attendant while complaining about those damn kids behind them kicking their seats.

I read about the “Mayflower Diet” online. It sounds about as inviting as the 66-day retch-fest on a boat where hygiene was probably priority #10,000. On the upside, it also sounds like an excellent, post-holidays weight loss plan that I’d be willing to look at more closely in January.

The Pilgrims were badasses who subsisted on stale biscuits and cow’s tongue for two months before half of them died. (Starvation was a nasty side effect of the otherwise efficient Mayflower Diet.)
The in-flight diet of the modern Pilgrim is a bag of peanuts, something that no one voluntarily eats in real life. We don’t even care about peanuts … that is, until the flight attendant announces that a passenger has a peanut allergy. Then we’re indignant little Pilgrims, put upon and cheated out of our rightful eight peanuts. What next? Christmas is canceled?

If the Pilgrims were half the sissies we are today, the Mayflower attendant would have incited a mutiny by announcing, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a passenger on board who has a cow’s tongue allergy, so we’re going to have to suspend our cow’s tongue service for this crossing, but we will be serving other sustenance, including salt pork, assorted fish, pickled foods of unknown origin and oatmeal.”

“That beith the excrement from the bovine!” the Pilgrims would have shouted. “Yea, I demand the restitution of mine expenditure for this passage!”

So yes, it’s Thanksgiving and I’m grateful that I’m not a Pilgrim. I’m grateful that I’m not traveling by boat on an ocean that serves the dual purpose of being both my barf bag and the source of my onboard meal. I’m thankful that all it takes to rid myself of the ill-mannered Pilgrims around me is a good set of headphones. And I’m thankful that it’s just eight peanuts in that bag and not cow’s tongue.