ldquoSo I waste a day sitting in an airport wondering how much later than the estimated time of departure the plane will actually take offhelliprdquo mdashPhoto Joe Raedle Getty Images

“So, I waste a day sitting in an airport, wondering how much later than the estimated time of departure the plane will actually take off…” —Photo: Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Flying is less fun than it used to be — a lot less!

I sometimes wonder why airlines even publish their expected times of departure (ETDs). They could just as well release a YGIAGAO — Your Guess Is As Good As Ours. It’s a lead pipe cinch that the plane is not taking off when the ETD says it will.

They rarely offer reasons. The latest excuse I heard was that the plane was late coming in from Miami. Why was it late? I wondered. Could they have taken an inordinate amount of time dragging the flight crew out of the bar? Did mechanics have to replace rusted screws on that up-and-down thingy underneath the wing? Did bad weather somewhere in the Western Hemisphere back planes up over Atlanta (it’s always Atlanta’s fault.), creating a disturbance in the planetary forces across the Eastern Seaboard and extending westward to Hawaii?

I never found out. I only knew that the possibility of getting to my hotel before dark was diminishing rapidly. I eventually made it just before 1 a.m.  

Admittedly, a few other missteps of my own added about an hour to the delay, but had the initial ETD been accurate (I fantasize), even with my inability to follow directions I’d have arrived in time to catch the last episode of The Whispers. So, where has Drill gotten to since last Monday?

Over the last 37 years I’ve climbed onto an airplane on more occasions than I can count to cover meetings, conduct interviews and to meet with colleagues to discuss how to do our jobs better. During that time, air travel has not kept pace with the efficiencies of other industries. Seats are more cramped. Boarding and unboarding take more time, since one now must pay someone to stick one’s luggage in the baggage compartment, which results in everyone dragging suitcases onto the plane, then seeming surprised that the bulky totes don’t fit into the overhead bins.

And I rarely get peanuts. I miss the peanuts.

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I no longer schedule interviews or expect to actually arrive at a meeting on the same day that I fly. It’s a given I will not arrive in time to do the interview, and if I did — which I won’t, because it just isn’t going to happen — I would be too tired, too grumpy and probably too amazed to conduct a respectable interview or pay attention to an ag economist describing how the weather in West Texas actually does affect the price of cotton in China.

So, I waste a day sitting in an airport, wondering how much later than the ETD the plane will actually take off, then trying to compute how long I will spend collecting baggage (I pay the airline’s extortionate fee and check my bag), how much longer to get a rental car and find my way out of the lot, and then how many wrong turns I will make (I typically count on at least two) before I am finally headed in the right direction to my destination.

And of course, this bedlam scenario is repeated on the return trip.

Laptop computers, smart phones, and wi-fi access make it easier to get some work done in cramped airport seating, but one resents the delay and the inconvenience. All things considered, I’d rather take my truck.

Whatever happened to the Friendly Skies?

And what, indeed, happened to “We’re ready when you are?”

I was ready hours ago. Where were you?

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